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6 Benefits of Road Trips

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

A photo I took on the way to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.

A photo I took on the way to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.

Why Everyone Should Take a Road Trip

The Dalai Lama once said, "Once a year, go some place you've never been before."

There is true and deep wisdom in these words.

After taking a recent road trip, I understand why. I've been on road trips before, but none where I actually set out and scouted a path different than any other I have taken.

I traveled from North Carolina (with my significant other) to our first destination: South Dakota. From there we went to Wyoming and Colorado.

The purpose? To see family, sacred places, potentially haunted houses, and locations that were just all-around awesome to see, as recommended by our trusty National Geographic Road Atlas. We've used that thing over and over.

I want to share with you the reasons you should plan your next road trip now.

Entering the Badlands after a rainstorm. It was late in the day and I had to stop the car to snap this breathtaking view.

Entering the Badlands after a rainstorm. It was late in the day and I had to stop the car to snap this breathtaking view.

1. Road Trips Break Up the Routine

Sometimes life becomes one humdrum routine: we get up, get ready, go to work, come home, sleep, and do it all over again.

Sure, there are differences in that routine: some of us have children, others have extended families to help care for, some of us work at home, others have unusual jobs.

Still, the day to day routine is all too easy to maintain. It's part of living in our comfort zone and getting out of it can be difficult.

It just so happens that when you break up your routine with a road trip, it invites the opportunity for new events to develop. Who knows? They could be better than your habits from before!

Our "remote" campground. Notice the thriving metropolis of tents in the background.

Our "remote" campground. Notice the thriving metropolis of tents in the background.

2. Road Trips Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

I get it. Changing things up and doing something different can be hard.

It takes money. It takes effort. It takes planning.

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And there's no guarantee of how it'll all really turn out.

But then again, are there really any guarantees in life?

Getting out of your comfort zone forces you to experience new things.

On my recent road trip, we decided to camp at a free campground. We had no clue that one hundred other people would have the same idea when we headed for the "remote" campground at the Badlands.

But I embraced it. We found a spot, enjoyed the clear skies, and heard and joined in on interesting conversations from fellow travelers.

I found out that we were all in the same boat. We all wanted to find a remote, secluded spot, yet here we all were, experiencing buffaloes, prairie dogs, beautiful sunsets and sunrises together.

There's something to be said for that community spirit when lots of strangers come together and sit under the same sky at the same time and experience nature's majesty.

Our Trajectory

3. See Places You've Never Seen Before

On our trip, even though we didn't necessarily go to "exotic" places like the Florida Keys or Hollywood, exploring the states we did allowed us to experience sections of the United States that we'd never seen before. We also appreciated the beautiful structures and formations we might not otherwise have seen.

When we went to South Dakota, we explored the Badlands. From there, we went to Deadwood (yes, the same as in the TV show), we camped and biked in Spearfish Canyon, and drove into Wyoming to see the Devil's Tower. We also explored the Bighorn Mountains, Bighorn Medicine Wheel and Thermopolis, Wyoming among other places.

I hadn't heard of most of these places before planning our road trip. Pictures and stories do not adequately describe the wonders of these experiences. From mysterious caves to ancient inland seas to discovering dinosaur remains, every moment of the trip was a new adventure.

Devil's Tower from afar. The rock almost seems to appear out of nowhere.

Devil's Tower from afar. The rock almost seems to appear out of nowhere.

4. Discover Things About Yourself

Road trips seem to turn on the "introspective" part of your brain. You learn about yourself: how you can improvise, how you react in different situations, how you appreciate beauty, how you adjust to changing altitude, how you relate to people when you're not stressed and much more.

I remember one moment when I was watching rock climbers at the Devil's Tower. They were enjoying themselves. But, for me, a feeling of peace came knowing that I never wanted to climb the rock.

I have Native American Indian roots, and the Lakota Indians had petitioned the American Government to not allow climbers on the rock. They compromised and now, during the month of June each year, no climbers are allowed on the rock.

The Lakota felt like it was a sacred place and that people climbing the rock was akin to having them desecrate a church.

Incidentally, we were there on July 1st, the first day for climbers in a month. In watching them ascend the towering rock, I understood the Lakota point of view while acknowledging the sense of adventure that the climbers had.

The pull of wanting to respect the Lakota people's wishes won out and I thought that if I ever rock climbed again, I would want to make sure it wasn't anywhere that someone considered sacred ground.

There was that and the columns on the rock tend to slide off every so often. I definitely wouldn't want to be up there when that happened.

Even so, we took a hike along a path that traced around the rock. I understood the peace someone would feel living in a place like this: the wind through the trees, the beautiful scenery, and experiencing the impossible rock jutting out from the landscape.

The town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There's such a rich history here and characters like Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock and Wild Bill once lived here.

The town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There's such a rich history here and characters like Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock and Wild Bill once lived here.

5. Rediscover What's Important

In the busy chaos of daily life, we can get distracted and lose sight of what's really important. It's not about money or possessions, but about family, friends and experiences.

Sure, it does take some money to travel, but it doesn't have to be much and you can get quite inventive.

However, as my husband and I traveled on the open road, driving through rainstorms, seeing rainbows, wild animals, and getting out into the "plein air," we re-grouped and realized that yes, these are the kinds of things that we'll be talking about when we're older. To experience it together⁠—with a loved one⁠—and have that to look back on is a priceless gift.

Budget Options for the Road Tripper

This chart can give you an idea of how expensive or budget-friendly you can make your road trip.

Idea Options for Your Next Road TripLow BudgetMid-BudgetHigh End

Food

Pack food using a cooler and containers

Buy restaurant food, get some groceries

Eat at fine restaurants

Accommodations

Tent camping

Stay in motels or campers

Stay in hotels

Tours

Low-cost or no-cost tours

Participate in some tours and attractions

Participate in lots of tours and attractions

6. Road Trips Can Be Budget-Friendly

With some careful planning, a road trip doesn't have to be expensive. You can stay in motels, hotels, or you can stay at campgrounds while driving a camper, or even do tent camping.

We chose the tent camping route on our most recent trip. We knew that it would be friendly to the wallet, but that we'd have maximum flexibility as to where we'd want to stay.

You can eat out, but you can also plan your meals and bring your food with you. Honestly, I recommend that, anyways. You tend to eat much more healthfully and you don't get that sick feeling after eating fatty food from a restaurant (not that restaurants are a bad thing!).

Still, you can pay to take a tour or do more walking on your own.

We went to the cemetery in Deadwood, SD to see the gravesites of Calamity Jane, Wild Bill and Seth Bullock. We chose to walk because the bus tour didn't take you to Seth Bullock's grave and you were at the mercy of the bus schedule.

To be sure, if you have a hard time walking or dealing with altitude, for example, then a bus tour would be the best choice.

However, since we walked, we had time to stop and read about many other interesting people at the cemetery and hike up to Seth Bullock's grave. In addition, we could linger in an area for quite awhile if we wanted to, looking around at names or contemplating someone's history and life.

Where to Next?

So where do you want to go on your next road trip? Will it be sooner rather than later?

As for us, our next road trip is next week...to the beach!

© 2016 Cynthia Calhoun

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