If you want maximum travel experience in minimum time, a classic road trip is the way to go. The freedom of roaming with a car is simply unparalleled.
You are free to choose between the packed freeways or the lonely dirt roads. Wherever you end up, it cannot be stated enough that the journey is the goal in itself more than the actual destination, as TS Eliot almost put it. Unlike airplane travel, you will actually see the scenic side and get immersed in the unique culture of the country.
There is probably no country better suited for road trips than USA. Even though Route 66, the most classic of road trips, is mostly gone there are still a lot of options.
One of my favorite road trips ever was in California where we crossed the Golden Gate bridge, roamed Highway One along the Pacific ocean, battled the endless highways of Los Angeles, rolled through the Mojave desert and more. Every day was an adventure filled with fun and excitement.
There are of course endless other options outside of USA as well. A friend gave me the idea of traveling from Gibraltar to South Africa by land, but it has already been done by none other than actor Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi). He went on a 24 000 kilometer motorcycle adventure across Africa in 2007, driving all the way from Scotland down to Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of South Africa. This was documented in Long Way Down and adapted into a TV series. You might also want to check out their first journey in Long Way Round.
If you’re into motorcycles, why not do a Che Guevara and travel across South America while writing your own version of The Motorcycle Diaries.
Closer to home, Tim Bogdanov went by bike from Gothenburg to Beijing. Even though he got mugged in Bisjkek, it seems he had a blast on the year-long journey. If that is not extreme enough for you, consider Matthias Jeschke who built floating jeeps for going Paris to New York by the icy Bering Strait.
However, there is a flip-side to the coin. Road trips are not for the faint of heart. Even though you most likely won’t be an unwilling guest star in Texas Chainsaw Massacre or hang with the youngsters in Eurotrip who end up stranded in Bratislava, things can go sideways pretty fast. Flat tires, invalid maps and bad weather can happen to everyone.
But the most important part is the company. Traveling for a prolonged period is a great test of friendships and relationships. The important difference to home is that while on a road trip, neither of you are really aware of what lies ahead around the next corner. How will you and your travel company deal with that uncertainty, or react to stress and hunger while tired and lost?
Soon I’m off to Denmark, where I will be driving around for a few days with friends. The closest thing I’ve come to a Danish road trip during the last ten years was probably passing through the Danish village Solvang in California five years ago, so this will be fun.
Fasten your seatbelts and see you on the roads! Or in the words of Bobby Troup:
“If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, take the highway that is best
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six
— Bobby Troup, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 (1946)