Road trips have taken the travel scene by storm this summer as COVID has altered the way we–especially Americans–travel. According to a survey conducted by U.S. Travel Association in partnership with MMGY Travel Intelligence, “Respondents’ likelihood to travel by personal car during the next six months was the highest it’s been since the pandemic started, with three-quarters (75%) indicating they plan to do so. Almost 2 in 5 (39%) are willing to drive 300 miles or more (each way) for a leisure trip.” Though airlines are doing everything they can to protect the health and safety of their passengers (including their crew), many are opting to to hop in their cars to adhere to social distancing and limit contact with others. Growing up, my only experience with road tripping was the scenic yet boring seven-hour drive to and from Memphis, TN to visit my mom’s side of the family. During my brother’s high school years, we would drive down to San Antonio for the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) All State Convention, but that was the extent of it. The final road trips would be for tours on college campuses. The idea of the family road trip, or family trips in general, didn’t become a staple in my house, but honestly, I’d always felt indifferent about viewing the nation on wheels.
When I moved to LA, I took two road trips by car: Big Bear Lake, CA (2014) and Las Vegas, NV (2015). If it counts, I also took two journeys by train, San Francisco and San Diego (2015), but even as a college student who craved adventures, I never envisioned creating travel memories from the driver’s or passenger seat. Now, it’s all I can think about.
In the last three years of avid traveling, I have road tripped here in Texas to Fredericksburg and LaRue…and these both happened in the last 12 months. I have had failed plans of girls trips to Austin, of visiting friends that live in Houston, and of overnight trips to San Antonio. But I think a huge part of why these plans never happen is I tell myself I can always go to those places. Going abroad or flying to a new city here in the U.S.? That’s where I want to spend my money while I can. However, the disruption with COVID has completely shifted how I see myself traveling in the future.
While now more than ever I absolutely plan to take advantage of flying once I feel safe to do so, I also see myself exploring more places in the Americas. For the last two years, for example, my friend Cynthia and I have been casually discussing driving up the Northwest side of the nation from California to Canada. I could now easily see myself trading in PTO for a two-week road trip because I get to see parts of the U.S. I haven’t visited, I can minimize contact with multitudes of people, and I will end up in a new country in the end. I could also do this going south in California and ending up in Mexico–another country I haven’t explored nearly as much as I would like. This is even something incredibly feasible to do in the Northeast side of the U.S. which is yet another portion of the country I have neglected. Now that I think about it, I haven’t touched a majority of my own country. While my connection to and interest in my country’s culture and history is extremely fractured, I also know that the components of a good trip for me are: traveling with someone fun and open-minded, good eats, and getting to experience/learn something totally new or out of my comfort zone–coincidentally things I can achieve from anywhere.
Though I have absolutely no idea if another road trip is in my future this year, there is a sense of relief in knowing that I can hop in my car and go at will. I don’t need to plan in advance or shell out money on a last minute flight. The open road is simply just waiting for me. How many of you have been roadtripping this year? Where’s your favorite place you’ve seen by car? Let me know in the comments!! 🙂