Why You Should Road Trip

I'd like to say that the urge hits me the minute that school lets out for the summer, but the truth is that it starts coming on much earlier than that. Possibly January. 

You know what urge I mean: the urge to ROAD TRIP. 

Some of you need no convincing. You get it.  You already understand the sudden compulsion to throw a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and a stick of deodorant into a backpack, sling it into the back seat, put the top down, and head out for parts unknown, with only you, the road, the radio, and your map for company.

Sadly, if statistics are to be believed, some of you may not get it.  The idea of driving for days to a destination reached easily in a few hours by air is as ridiculous and time-wasting to you as the thought of crawling on your hands and knees to work.

If this describes you, keep reading. You're my target audience.

Why You Should Road Trip:

1. Road trips combat ignorance. We've all seen the videos and read the articles featuring Americans who think that Europe is a country, who can't find their own home state on a map of the U.S., who don't know the difference between Australia and Austria, and who think that North America is the northern part of the United Sates. And for all of the so-called emphasis on multicultural education in public schools, you have the the ones who still believe that the language of Latin America is Latin, that Yasser Arafat is a rapper, that the Dalai Lama is the newest addition to the San Diego Zoo, and that Chile is a dish best served with corn bread. 

Perhaps part of the problem (and we're truly talking tip of the iceberg here) is that fewer than one in five American children claim to have access to a world map.1 Don't allow yourself (or your children) to be on the lean side of that statistic. 

A good place to start is to get acquainted with a map, and the best way to be acquainted with a map is to be totally dependent on it.  

No one has provided a better example of this spirit than Herman and Candelaria Zapp, the Argentinian parents who have built their family during the course of an eleven-year globetrotting road trip of staggering proportions.

"'What better way is there for my children to be educated than to see the world?' said Herman."2 

Well said, Herman.  Well said.

I'd bet my travel-sized pack of moist towelettes that each of the Zapp children can locate the various countries of their birth on a world map.

2. Road trips teach delayed gratification. As society moves more toward an era of instantaneous fulfillment, delayed gratification is becoming a lost art.  And it may be a more important skill than we think: some studies have shown that the ability to delay gratification can be linked to higher SAT scores, better relationships, a lower body-mass index, and more successful careers.3 

What better way to practice delayed gratification techniques than in whiling away the tedium of a cross-country drive?

3. Road trips are for dreamers. Ever get in trouble for daydreaming during school? Well, dreamers, have no fear: road trips seem to be custom made for you.  Each day offers hours of prime daydream time. Each bend in the road offers new vistas of daydreaming possibilities. While driving through the American West, it's hard not to imagine yourself as an early pioneer hoping to beat the odds and make it to California without dying of cholera first.4 

4. Road trips encourage good bladder control. Self-explanatory. 

5. Road trips provide unparalleled memories. Wrong turns. Dark alleys. Burnt-down rest stops.5 That time you coughed a Skittle into your sinus cavity and had to wait for it to dissolve. A flat tire changed alongside a highway that other motorists must have mistaken for the Daytona Speedway. Driver-navigator communication errors that result in time-consuming unplanned side trips. That time Laura wasn't paying attention and backed the car directly into a stone wall. Accidentally getting locked in the truck stop bathroom. Running out of gas. Seeing George Clooney's doppelganger wearing a camouflage baseball cap at an Alabama Hardee's. Spilling 32oz. of sweet tea in the back seat.  Driving for a half an hour before realizing that it's a little too quiet and that you're missing one of the children.

These are the stories that will be told for years to come.

6. One word: SCENERY. 

Cabrillo National Monument



Explorer Ruth

Painted Desert at Sunset

Hello from the Desert

Reflections of AKB

On the road in Utah

Bonneville Salt Flats


Feeling Small

Tourist Ruth Discovers the Pacific

Big Sur

Through the clouds

The truth is that like any form of traveling, road trips include both positive and negative aspects. It is my assertion, however, that since the positives far outweigh the negatives, you should stop putting it off. 

Grab your keys, brew a cup of sweet tea, and hit the road.


4.  While driving through the American West, it's also hard to keep yourself from imagining how you will handle your rental breaking down in the middle of one of those vast stretches of desert. But maybe that's just me.


  1. Alas, road trips are also for those without toddlers or preschoolers... Glad I made a lot of them before I had one!
    Have you read any of Peter Jenkin's books? He walked across America and then, later, China.

    1. That's true, although I've taken a few trips with little ones along.

      Thanks for the tip on Peter Jenkin's books. Will see if I can get my hands on them: they sound awesome.


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