8 Lessons I Learned After Road-Tripping 10,000 Miles Across the US
With 22 states under my belt, I think I'm pretty lucky to have had the experience of driving through almost half of the United States. While I've visited additional states by plane or train, I do believe taking road trips is one of the best ways to travel and see our beautiful country. From deserts to farmland to oceans to mountains, the picturesque views are worth the long hours on the road.
One of the best decisions I made was going to a college about 1,800 miles away from home, which means I got to travel by car to and from school every Summer. I was able to cross a lot of cities and national parks off my bucket list, and had so much fun doing it. And throughout all of my cross country road trips, I've learned many lessons that I'm eternally grateful for. Keep reading for eight tips I've picked up during my travels that'll make you want to hit the road, too. Happy driving!
You Can’t Always Rely on Your Phone For GPS
While driving across the country, you'll run into plenty of dead zones, meaning you'll have absolutely no cell service (sometimes for very long stretches of time). The first skill my dad taught me when I was about to embark on my first road trip was how to read a map. I can't tell you how many times it saved me from what could have been a disastrous detour! Don't underestimate the basics.
Small Towns Have Big Personalities
One of the most common assumptions while traveling is that you should stay in bigger cities because that's where the tourist attractions are. While that's true for a lot of places, I highly recommend taking this opportunity to discover quaint little towns like Jackson, WY, or Camden, ME. Big cities can't compete with mom-and-pop cafes and shops and that old-town charm.
A Killer Playlist Is Key
It can be fun flipping through stations trying to find a song that's familiar, but after hour six on the road you might think differently. Try making different playlists, burning CDs, or downloading podcasts to listen to. Personally, I think country music sounds best in rural landscapes while alternative is the perfect backdrop for nature-like scenery (like Colorado). And honestly, driving in silence sometimes isn't so bad either.
Food and Living Expenses Are Pretty Affordable
The more inland you drive, the cheaper living accommodations will be. If you're planning to explore a city for a few days, look into booking an Airbnb with a kitchen to help save on food costs. Fast food chains are plentiful on the open roads, but eating healthy isn't impossible. Make a grocery store pit stop for fresh sandwiches or salads and load up on fruit or dry goods like granola bars.
The Country Is Not as Urban as You Might Think
Before my first road trip, I was under the impression that the US was extremely urban and populated, but that's far from the truth. You might be thinking, Isn't it boring driving through the middle of nowhere with nothing buy cornfields and overgrown trees for hours? No, it's amazing! I would much rather drive on the backroads and actually see the country than on a five-lane highway and see nothing but other cars. Doing that has made me appreciate our country's beauty even more.
Keep an Eye Out For Unique Stops
Pulling over to take pictures of the scenery on your road trip is expected, but keep an eye out for more unique stops like the Seven Magic Mountains in Nevada (pictured above) or the Four Corners in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Even if they're slightly out of your way, they're usually worth it.
Take the Opportunity to Visit National Parks
On my last road trip home from college, I made it a point to hit as many national parks as I could. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience was that you can't limit yourself to a particular number of hours at these breathtaking parks. My favorite was the Badlands in South Dakota, and although I only had a few hours there, I can't wait to go back and see more.
The US Is Basically Five Countries Glued Together
The US is known for being a melting pot of different cultures, and part of that is due to it essentially being five "countries" or regions glued together. Each region has its own dialect, type of people, traditions, and food specialities. While you might get Southern hospitality in Louisiana, you'll find more scenic drives along the coast of California. Every place is so different and unique, and it will truly make you feel like you traveled to another country.