With a raised eyebrow, my mother use to say, “You really get to know people on a road trip.” She’d utter that phase whenever she packed up her car, and drove the family from Washington DC to southern Florida to visit my grandparents. On every trip, my older brother use to complain about needing to stretch out as he read Encyclopedia Brown, while I played the license plate game or guessed a whodunit on CBS Radio Mystery Theater.
What great childhood memories. I learned some valuable things about my family in that car. So if you’re still contemplating traveling with your best friend or a person you’ve been dating during this last month of summer, I think a road trip may be a good way to get to know more about them. Now a typical road trip has a drive time over three hours one way, requires a recent vehicle service before you attempt it, and cannot be done on a spur of the moment decision.
Now the two of you need to be in a good place at the beginning of the trip. No unresolved grudges or petty jealousies should be troubling either participant because the close quarters will bring out every evil thought you’ve ever had about the other person. Here's some advice to keep in mind before you attempt to travel together by car:
Whatever you were before the trip will be amplified during the trip
If one of you has a habit of making snarky comments, using a certain catch phase, or laughing too loud it will feel like they’re purposely doing it every five minutes in a car. So if you can barely live with some idiosyncrasies now, this trip will let you know if you can live with them for the rest of the relationship. It's a great litmus test for couples.
Plan the route and stops together before you’re in the vehicle
This will limit the feeling that the other person has taken command of the trip. Decide if making good driving time towards the destination is more or less important than relaxing and enjoying the drive. Nothing causes a mutiny faster than feeling oppressed and invalidated. One person shouldn’t dictate how many gas station stops or bathroom breaks, and when they occur. Discuss driving habits, quirks, expectations ahead of time. Decide together if you want to visit a sight along the way and take a few pictures or if you want to make good travel time on the road instead.
Be yourself but more flexible
Make up your mind that this person will see the real you. Don’t forgo good hygiene or anything crazy, just relax, have an open mind, and decide you’re going to enjoy yourself. When you’re on a long journey, things can happen - there may be an occasional flat tire or a long traffic jam. Or you could get lost. But it’s all part of the adventure of a road trip. Don’t sweat the annoying stuff, besides losing your cool is so unattractive.
Make it a Quality, Reconnection Time
You have hours to spend with each other, and you can catch up on things that you couldn’t speak about for a long time. Talk about the days when you first met, or how the both of you planned this trip. Or talk about your dreams… or just about anything else. It’s not every day that you can actually have a conversation for hours without the annoying buzz of the cell phone or a sudden meeting.
Process the Road Trip a Few Days After You Get Home
While you’re on a road trip you’re in an altered emotional state, which is completely colored by your comfort level during your travels. Let’s face it some of us travel better than others. A cramped car space will teach you a lot about each other, it’s inevitable. Remember Oprah and Gayle’s road trip from California to New York. They’ve been friends for years and yet they learned some things they didn’t know before the trip. So before you decide if the overall vacation was a bust or strengthened your bond, give yourself a couple days back in the “real” world to sort through your thoughts before defriending anyone on Facebook.
Now if you’re still excited to conquer the road with your full tank of gas and GPS, call your driving partner, and start planning today. There are some great tourist sites not too far from your front door and you can still squeeze in another memorable summer adventure before Labor Day.
***NOTE*** The NORTH STAR - Back to School contest is underway. Enter for a chance to win a $100 Visa Gift card towards your 'Back to School' shopping or buy something nice for yourself. Contest ends on August 25th
This blog covers novel completion, fellow authors and pop culture