Solo travel is a huge trend these days, and for good reason: Exploring the world on your own is empowering, inspiring, confidence-building, eye-opening, and FUN.
I think any kind of solo travel is a great idea, but my personal favorite form by far is the solo road trip.
I’m actually writing this at a coffee shop in a little beach town in Florida. I drove eight hours to get here.
I prefer a road trip over an hour-long flight whenever possible. Here’s why:
1. You’re truly autonomous.
I swear the fact that this sounds like a terrible “auto” pun is purely coincidental!
The most straightforward definition of “autonomous”: free, self-directed, and answering to no one.
Driving by yourself allows you to be completely independent in a way that other forms of travel don’t.
No one has to pick you up or drop you off at the airport. You don’t have to abide by flight times or bus schedules or rail routes. You don’t have to portion out your shampoo and hope the TSA is in a good mood today. You don’t have to worry about getting stuck next to a flatulent seatmate for 12 hours.
You don’t have to compromise on music or air conditioning temperature or snack break times.
It’s just you, your car, and the open road. Ah, freedom!
2. You can make your own schedule.
Perhaps the best part of the autonomy of a solo road trip is the freedom to choose your own itinerary.
If you’re a planner, you can map out every mile and stick to a schedule without worrying about other people getting hungry 10 minutes into the trip.
If you’re the spontaneous type, you can toss a phone charger, a toothbrush, and a few granola bars in the backseat and just GO.
And if you want to take a 40-mile detour to go to that Cabbage Patch Kid museum in the middle of nowhere, well, you take that exit and go for it!
3. You get to be alone.
Like, truly alone. For long periods of time. How often in life does this happen?
Being alone can be uncomfortable at first, and then it’s fucking awesome.
It’s an opportunity to prioritize your wants and needs and reconnect with yourself. It’s also a priceless reminder of what a self-reliant badass you are.
4. You see your progress up close.
Flying is a pretty awesome and convenient way to get to far-flung places, but I think you lose something when you step on a plane and step off in a couple hours somewhere totally different.
You lose the journey.
On the road, you’re face-to-face with every mile.
I love watching the landscape change as I drive through different climates, observing new cultures through political bumper stickers and religious billboards, stopping for lunch at a diner and making small talk with the servers.
It’s a great way to really be present for the journey itself.
5. It’s inexpensive.
Gas prices are still ridiculously low (thanks, Obama), which means hitting the road is an extremely affordable way to travel.
When you’re not splitting the cost of your trip with anyone, this becomes even more important.
I was able to budget out a four-day road trip to the Gulf Coast — lodging, gas, and food included — for about as much as a single plane ticket would have cost me.
6. It’s a great opportunity to deal with your shit.
Sitting alone in your car, for hours and hours, you tend to get lost in your own thoughts.
With distractions at a minimum, you’re kind of forced to delve into those thoughts, especially the not-so-pleasant ones that have been nagging you for a long time.
Can this be scary? Yes.
But why not see your temporary solitary confinement as a chance to deal with some shit and arrive at your destination emotionally healthier than you were when you started?
It’s dorky, but I often end up saying affirmations out loud while I’m driving. Because hey, why not?
If a lingering resentment has been bothering me, for example, I’ll say, “Let it go, let it go, let it go,” aloud and imagine my stubborn thoughts flying out the window, left in the dust behind my tires. It helps.
7. You’ll feel like Thelma & Louise.
There’s something glamorous and badass about hitting the open road on your own. It feels a little defiant.
No matter how tame your actual circumstances, it’s hard not to feel a little like Thelma & Louise, on the run with the wind in your hair (especially if you wear cat eye sunglasses and a headscarf, which I highly recommend).
Maybe skip the driving your car off a cliff part, though.
Hit the Cabbage Patch Kid Museum instead.