It’s the time of year when many people take stock of their lives, their goals and dreams, and make plans to change. We purchase new gym memberships, vow to be better parents, resolve to do more in our communities, and even make new career plans.
But what if your life could be changed with a road trip—by yourself? A weekend solo road trip to clear your head will help you tune in to yourself; it could be just as effective as a visit to a spa.
I turned life around with a road trip in 2010, and here’s what I’ve learned: the more time I can carve out for myself—and the more variety I experience compared to everyday life—the better I feel when I get home. Maybe this year you’ll set aside some of your vacation days for some time alone.
Eight ways to re-imagine your life while enjoying history, nature and roadside attractions
1. Go somewhere new. We all have habits, including where we go for recreation and reflection. Going to a new destination sharpens your senses and helps break up mental clutter. A new experience can also be good for your brain, helping it establish new neural pathways. You might even venture out without an ultimate destination in mind.
If you can’t go somewhere new, go to a well-loved destination by a different route.
2. Avoid the Interstates. Stoplights force you to really see what’s going on around you, and reflect. And that’s the point!
Traveling the highways and byways will take you through towns, hamlets and farmland. The pace is slower and the views less homogenous than the monotony on the Interstates.
Weather permitting, roll the windows down for the full sensory experience (or learn to ride a motorcycle!). You’ll feel alive and connected with the world and it will help you reconnect with your own life.
3. Talk to strangers. You can learn a great deal about the people and local history of the place you’re visiting if you keep an open mind and practice small talk. Don’t sit by yourself and watch TV when you eat. The bar or counter is the perfect place to talk to other unattached travelers, the locals, and your waitress.
You’ll benefit from the wisdom and perspective you’ll gain from your new-found friends and might even get a tip on where to visit next.
4. Promise not to eat at a chain restaurant. The idea of your solo road trip is to break from old habits, so instead of going through a drive-through or eating at the same chains as usual, opt for independent restaurants and even farmers markets. There, you can look into the eyes of the person who prepared your meal and say “thank you” or ask how the food was prepared.
You’ll eat a healthier diet, too.
6. Don’t over-plan. When you break free of the gravity of your everyday life, things will call to you that you hadn’t anticipated. It might be a roadside stand with local produce and handicrafts, a historical site, a festival or the county cemetery.
Listen to your intuition and enjoy the experience!
7. Tell a new story. For the period of your road trip when someone asks “What do you do” don’t reply with your occupation. Instead, tell them about the “real you.” You might say, “Back home I’m run a coffee shop, but on this trip I’m getting in touch with the part of me who wished he’d studied archeology.”
This is a great way to get in touch with your true self.
8. Take inspiration from others. What are your doubts about your new calling? Do you fear that you’re too old? That you don’t have enough money? That others may think you’re crazy?
Find inspiration in someone else who conquered obstacles en route to their dream, including Shirly, who learned to ride a motorcycle in her 70’s and toured Alaska by motorcycle in her 80’s.
Tell me your about your solo road trip
I’d love to hear your before-and-after story of taking a solo road trip.
Where did you go?
What was your biggest takeaway?
Would you do anything differently?