In Rochester, New York our odometer passed the 2,000-mile mark. We’ve been on the road for just over 2 weeks. Essentially we have been speeding through the Midwest (no offense, Midwest) to get to the east coast and southeast where the majority of our “serious” home research work is going to take place.
But, oh how we have been charmed already by many of the places we have visited and the extraordinary hosts we have stayed with. As we reflect on the 2,000 miles we have traveled we wanted to share a few road trip lessons and observations.
Corn for days, not a maze
America is expansive, full of rural communities, and has many monoculture farms. We have seen a lot of corn and soybeans. Also: red barns. Also: barns that are falling over in disrepair. The latter fills my imagination with the possible people who lived there and the stories those old barns could tell. But I digress…
Be the cliché and take the road less traveled
When it hasn’t added too much time to our drives, we have opted for the “avoid highway” option on google maps, and in doing so have found ourselves in beautiful parts of the country, no matter what part of the country we are in. This way of travel is so much better for the soul than endless billboards, other drivers’ road rage, and stressful traffic as found on the major interstates.
Learn how to use a map
We are slowly re-learning how to use a traditional map – partially to save on phone data and partially because we think this is probably a valuable life skill. Yes, as millennials we don’t typically use paper maps. Right now our genius method is looking up our route on our phones when we have WiFi, taking screenshots of the directions, and using those plus our road atlas to try to get us between places. We're doing ok thus far.
Listen and adjust
These first few weeks we have been traveling at a swift pace and it has required us to make some adjustments to our route. We quickly realized we need more time to rest between long drives and more time to make art and write in addition to our exploration. For the record, we have found that anything over 3.5 hours feels like a more significant drive, and anything under is less depleting.
For a trip of this type, we think at least three nights in a place is ideal, so we removed a few stops and extended a few visits to make this possible. Which brings me too…
Relationship growth opportunities
If you are taking a road trip with your partner, get ready for some opportunities to grow and evolve as a couple! We were already good communicators and I believe at the end of this journey will be even stronger in this regard. There is just no time for passiveness or indirect communication. Being direct about our needs and desires has been key. Our route adjustment only come about after we were real with each other about how the pace was effecting our bodies and our enjoyment of the trip.
The impact of the road
Speaking of our bodies: sitting for long periods of time takes a toll. Joel took it upon himself to look up exercises we can do in the car and between long periods of driving (here’s one example), which makes us feel simultaneously smart and really dorky.
We also are looking into how we can utilize free gym classes or introductory (low-cost or free) passes to area fitness centers in the places we visit. Though we are walking quite a bit, we recently had an opportunity to work out in a gym. Afterwards we realized that exercise that breaks a sweat feels amazing on our road trip bodies & we need more of it.
Your Gut (2 types)
Type 1: Body Guts (Digestion)
Food on a road trip is important and we are still sorting out our best dietary choices going forward. We’ve had a few instances of going too long without a meal and having limited options once we were overwhelmingly hungry. Hence, a few less than ideal meals including a small town Burger King disaster that my body paid for for at least 48 hours. My gluten-free preference is struggling on this trip.
We typically make ourselves a hearty breakfast wherever we are staying, pack a lunch or get a budget one out, and make or eat dinner out (sharing an entrée and appetizer if we do the latter). Yet, on top of all the other work and exploration we are doing, mindfulness around eating feels harder than it did before, and cooking for ourselves feels like more of a chore.
I knew starting this roadtrip that being without “my” kitchen to cook in would be a big adjustment, and while that has proven to be true, I now realize that being without my routine has also impacted how I approach cooking for myself and food in general. We will continue to navigate this aspect of the trip and hope for less food disasters and reduced episodes of stomach distress.
Type 2: Feeling Guts
And now, another type of guts: gut feelings.
One of our hosts recently asked us what methods we were using to determine if we could see ourselves living in a place. Another host giggled when I talked in detail about how we were debating the places we visit and said, "Well, it's not like you are using the scientific method on this journey!" True, good point.
Already we are realizing that more of our decision will be about a gut feeling. We have had gut feelings in a few places of “we could see ourselves here” – places that were not on our radar as well as places we went to with a sense of possibility.
Our very first stop of Spring Grove, MN in the Driftless Region - just three hours from our former home - filled us with joy, wonder, and excitement. It remains on our list of possibilities. Our phenomenal Detroit hosts, Marc & Jean, treated us to an eye-opening tour of all the city has to offer, and we walked away thinking this last minute addition (based on the advice of our friends Hans and Amy) was a definite possibility.
We have found ourselves in other places that swiftly leave our list because something told us "not quite right." The architecture and brick streets in German Village in Columbus, Ohio charmed me to my core and I started rallying hard for this city, but as we explored more I started noticing what a sport-centric town it was. Probably not for us (though we would happily visit again when it's not a game day).
In these ways the gut is a companion on this trip is ways that surprise us, enlighten us, and entertain us. Unless fast food is involved.
Two-thousand miles and we can't believe how fast and full those miles have been. This trip is packed with so much new at a time in our lives when we were feeling stuck. How lucky we feel for the days full of experiences including gasp-inducing landscapes (yes, I occasionally gasp for corn), podcasts, too many local treats (my dang sweet tooth), totally-worth-it-blisters, gorgeous cloud formations (every one of which I point out to Joel), lots of dogs and cats (and allergy flair ups because of the latter), and the rare opportunity to see the way so many other humans live and organize their lives. We marvel knowing that wherever we land, we will have a huge new community of potential house guests to share our home with.
What are your roadtrip tips and brilliant discoveries? We want to hear your ideas or things you have learned on the road!