Sometimes, it is not the destinations we remember, but how we arrived. As travelers, we are always so preoccupied with destinations. I want to go here. I have to see this and that. However, I didn’t fall in love with destinations at a young age. I feel in love with traveling to them.
My first memories of traveling are in the back of a blue suburban. Sometimes under the cover of night, my four other brothers and sisters and I would pile into this monster of a vehicle and head out where our parents had planned for us to go. From exploring the U.S. north, east, south and west, road trips were the standard for Guese vacations.
In a little over a week, I will be making a road trip out to my sister’s wedding in California. As I discussed with my mom where I had been as a kid out west on road trips, she asked me a number of questions similar to, “Do you remember the cabins at ____?” and, “You have been there! Don’t you remember?”. The sad thing is I don’t remember the destinations of my traveling youth as much as I remember getting there.
I am told I would count endlessly in the car, perhaps just to annoy everyone. I am also told I enjoyed pinching my brothers and sisters on long car rides, thus acquiring the nickname “the red ant”. I think I became my traveling self on these road trips, throwing my whole personality and passion into the process of travel.
Early on I became focused on packing. I loved it so much I started hosting “shows” before a road trip to pretend audiences. I loaded up my walkman with all of the latest Linda Ronstadt hits. Yes, belting out songs of being wronged by love at four years old is incredibly wrong, but I didn’t know what I was singing. The road was ahead. The car window provided hours of activity. Getting up early to hit the road, the cooler in the back, stopping for picnics, those are the moments I remember. I don’t recall the destinations. I recall traveling and how much I loved it. I have found the benefits of travel are not just to see places and meet people at destinations, but rather the joys of travel also come through actually getting to those places and people.
Traveling breaks up routine
Everyday, I wake up and head for the computer to begin my work for the day. The simple act of traveling, not just getting to destinations, allows you to break up that routine. Perhaps the mind can remember these breaks in routine almost better than the destinations themselves. A simple road trip, train ride or plane ticket can give you this act of doing something different as the day goes on.
Challenges are plentiful
If you haven’t flown in some time, the whole process can seem like a challenge. Going through the airport once, I watched as an older woman couldn’t understand the whole metal detector process and liquid limits. She clearly hadn’t traveled in awhile, as her granddaughter apologized to me for the delay. Travel, from packing to booking tickets makes you do things you might not be prepared for or know fully how to do. However, once you have figured out driving on the left in Ireland or the mysteries behind airport security, there is a great sense of accomplishment of the self.
You can run, but you can’t hide
Traveling truly brings out the things I like and don’t like about myself. I am forced to face them, whether I want to or not when I travel. My upcoming road trip will no doubt bring out my love for wacky roadside attractions and the like, but it will also bring out my lack of patience for endless hours of driving. Not to say a destination can’t bring out your true self, but the act of moving from one place to another presents scenarios, problems and paths where you can’t hide your personality. You can let loose on the open road.
Stranger observations prove insightful
While I always secretly hope the seat next to me on an airplane will be empty, when there is a passenger next to me, I am also enlightened on people as a whole. As you travel, you aren’t just opening yourself up to meeting people from one destination, but from all over. A simple act of kindness from one stranger giving up a seat for another occurs daily throughout traveling means. Conversations with strangers as you wait for connections are often the most memorable. Sure, you can people-watch at a destination, but while waiting to get to that destination, there is much to see.
What is one of your most memorable traveling experiences that has nothing to do with a destination? Have any tips for my upcoming road trip to California? Share your thoughts below.