Why road trips are better than flying

Say it ain't so. Say the concept of the road trip isn't dying. Say we're all still getting out there on four wheels, tackling the highways and the dirt tracks, the secret shortcuts and the long ways round, to get to where we're going in cars.

It seems that maybe this fine art form is losing its popularity. You can understand it, I guess, with air travel being so cheap, with budget trips to Bali going for the same amount as a few tanks of fuel. Many of us live in apartments now too, places where owning a car isn't a necessity, where having a vehicle large enough to make a road trip comfortable and enjoyable just isn't feasible.

Cars slow you down ... They make you take more notice of your surroundings as you navigate cities and cruise through countryside.

Car hire is expensive. Driving can be stressful. And you don't get to travel as far when you choose to take a road trip, you often don't get to visit anywhere exotic, you keep your circle small and your destinations local.

It's probably for all of these reasons that people don't take so many road trips any more. My friends don't. My colleagues don't. This was once the classic style of travel, the thing everyone did, the thing I'm sure everyone can connect to their childhood, and yet these days it just doesn't seem to be as much of a thing.

But, it should be. Because there's nothing quite like a good car trip: the freedom to go wherever you please, to travel as fast or slow as you like, to take in the scenery outside and conversation inside, to sing along to bad music, to eat chips and sweets, to stop for servo sausage rolls, to make your car your home, to just drive, and drive, and drive.

Yes, your circle is kept small when you travel in a car, but that's the glory of it. Cars slow you down, compared to planes or even trains. They make you take more notice of your surroundings as you navigate cities and cruise through countryside. They force you to stop in places you might normally have skipped, the setting of the sun acting as a roadblock, the dying light making you consider where you'll sleep for the night.

Road trips let you see how places connect, too. You can watch as the scenery gradually changes, as plains become mountains, as forests appear and then peter out, as coastline morphs into a country's interior. You can see the way the human world changes too, particularly if you're driving in Europe, as architecture seems to change with the flick of a switch as you cross borders and enter new lands and the homes and buildings suddenly look completely different.

These car journeys encourage a certain camaraderie too, a social nature that you rarely get with other forms of travel. Drivers all get together at campsites and caravan parks and motels the world over to chat at the end of the day, to swap notes, to trade anecdotes, to find out where you're going next, and how you're going to get there.

They also force a camaraderie inside the car with your fellow road trippers. It takes a fair amount of planning and execution to make a good road trip happen: someone has to navigate, someone has to choose the music, someone has to buy the snacks, someone has to entertain the people who need it. You band together for a shared experience. You laugh, you argue, you roll your eyes.


Sometimes even the car itself becomes the adventure. I'm no revhead, but I've formed a real connection with the vehicles I've driven certain places. The sight of a Toyota Hilux will always remind me of a road trip I took through the wilds of southern Africa. A Mustang convertible will always mean a drive down Highway 1 in California. A VW Polo will mean a race through the narrow laneways of northern Spain.

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I love these journeys. They're adventures, they're thrills. They're the chance to see a destination at my own pace, to take the road less travelled, to pause at every fork and decide where I want to go. They're bonding experiences too, both with people and with country.

There are only a few elements necessary for a successful road trip. You need a GPS to stop everyone arguing. You need a reliable car to prevent accidents or breakdowns. You need a plan that's solid but not too rigid. You need a good crew of people, those who like to move at the same pace, see the same things, listen to the same sort of music.

Get all those things together, and you have the recipe for the journey of a lifetime. I hope its popularity never dies off.

Do you like road trips? What are the best destinations for hitting the road? Anywhere you'd choose to avoid?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: Instagram.com/bengroundwater

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