“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Of course, there is no need to have read On the Road to be a mad, passionate traveler. There is no need to have taken a road trip either. But you clearly will, because it gives you the reality pulse that everyone wants to experience where the things happen – where there is no home and, usually, no place to go to. Any traveler has to see the raw, wild humanity on the road, with its ups and downs, meet mad people, ask yourself what is that happened the night before or where to head to. There is no such thing a bad road trip and this is why most of the people get excited whenever it comes to there. What you should, though, be taking into consideration before getting in the car are some reality checks. You’re going to experience them anyway, and it’s best to know what to expect so that your trip won’t get messed up.
1. Know that in America this kind of traveling is very close to an institution. It’s pretty hard not to want to make road trips all year long when your country has so much to offer. No matter how much time you spend traveling, there will always be something more of your mother homeland worth exploring. Therefore, if you’re an American tourist in your own state, remember this: you will be treated as a complete stranger, not as a fellow citizen.
2. No matter where you’re from, you’ll certainly agree upon the fact that everything is far more expensive than you’ve expected when you planned the trip. Of course, it’s going to cross your mind to get wasted one night and then go back home broke – but a little happier. And yes, it’s quite hard to resist that thought because all the sacrifices on the road are totally worth it. Again, if you want to try and avoid this kind of situation, you can always add an extra 20 % to your revised expenses (initially calculated expenses are almost always just ideal).
3. Happiness lies where you least expect it to be. In other words, most of the must-sees are crap – barely worth taking 30 minutes to visit, while asking yourself how can something be so overrated. But you’ll experience amazing things as well, usually in terms of people and situations that spontaneously occur and seem to make your day better. Or your trip. Or your life. Of course, after such a long time on the road there will be lots of things to digest and rethink of, the kind of food for thought that’s not only real, but also very personal and full of perspective.
4. Sleeping is luxury. Only the life on the road is capable of showing you the great richness and comfort of a car seat in the parking lot, after hours of driving south without stopping anywhere. Your perspective on food’s going to change as well – and if you don’t want to only eat sandwiches for two weeks or so, you can try some traditional food in B&Bs – or something other, anything other than sandwiches. You’ll hate fast food and when you’re back home all you’ll want is a proper bed and a bowl of soup.
5. Advertisements. Billboards are everywhere, it’s true. If you’re happy about not having to watch TV advertisements, that’s not going to last a lot – you’ll be updated with all the possible advertisements. For everything. From soda, to pampers and from bacon to abortion. There’s not one thing that’s missing from the billboards, especially if you live in a developed country.
6. Being a tourist. You’ll spend far too much money on museums and things that normally you wouldn’t go to, you’ll get to know your trip partners overly well. Not only because you’re sharing food and water, the car and the toilet paper, but because it’s impossible not to get in touch with every single habit. Including yours – it will one day strike you that you’re being nothing else but a tourist, that you’re making the choises that you’re advising everybody on the road not to. That you’ll trying hard to save some money by dropping not the boring things that are to be done on a trip, but the ones that actually bring some satisfaction. You’ll let go the truly beautiful memories and you’ll have regrets on your way back home without doubt.
You’ll need to feel like you’re in vacation from time to time. You’ll want a bed, a shower, a proper breakfast and some nice people to meet who are not hippies nor wasted. But it’s fine, because you’ll get this and many more. But the weird thing is that when you’re back home, it’s the unusual things that will remain. Not the luxury of the hostel, not the fancy dinner you had on your first night on the road – the canned food that smelled weird, the beds that kept squeaking from the softest touch, the rude receptionist who acted as if he would be making you the greatest of favors.
7. The romantic vision is barely real. Of course you wouldn’t miss the sunny fields of poppies for the world, but the truth is it’s going to rain a lot! You’re more likely to have pictures with lightnings than vivid landscapes of the summer heaven – unless you’re using Instagram. Holding hands and walking towards nowhere is soon going to be replaced with desperately trying to find a decent place to sleep, and spending quality time with your close ones would magically turn into discovering you don’t really like them in the mornings. Or the mornings.
8. Notice the differences between the travel styles. It’s never occurred to you before that your significant other doesn’t only like to make a detailed scheme of the itinerary, but he’s also kind of obsessive-compulsive about it. As a woman, you’ll probably love to take pictures every once in a while (and it’s totally worth it – again, especially with Instagram, but your husband/lover will most likely want to find a place to go fishing. As for the kids, they’re mostly into lakes and amusement parks and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to convince them to step into a museum. These differences are not something to make you cancel your plans, but you’ll have to take into consideration the amount of time that it takes to please everyone. And it’s not very different if you’re just road tripping with your friends either – we choose our close ones depending on what makes us alike and we often seem to forget that it’s what makes us so contrasting.
9. The small things are not that small after all. Just when you think your argument is about who stands on the front seat next to the driver, you may actually be debating who’s the funnies and most awesome of the group to deserve such a privilege. Going to a museum is almost never about going to a museum – if you want to visit a cultural monument and your friend prefers to have a picnic, the discussion’s not about what to do next, but about how your passions are boring and he’s actually pretty fun and worth following. Again, I’m sure it is not going to be the first time when some conversations are going to be a bigger substrate than you think at the moment, but you’re going to handle it well, particularly if you know your friends very well.