Your Guide To: Solo Road Trips

road trip
I mentioned in my cemetery photography post that I visited Cleveland, Ohio a few weekends ago, which is a little misleading because I was actually only there for 7 hours; I drove there (from Fort Wayne) and back in one day, which adds up to ~7 hours of driving, round trip. I managed this trip alone, largely unfazed (except for a serious case of letdown when I showed up for work on Sunday) because a year’s worth of long distance relationship travel has made me a pro in POWERING THROUGH HIGHWAYS LIKE A DEMON. (If you’re waiting for my guide to long distance relationships: don’t bother, dump his ass.)

here are my secrets

  • PREPARATION: The two primary qualities you need to be concerned with when you get ready for your drive are ENERGY and NAVIGATION. While I have reached a point commonly referred to as “winging it,” I do always make sure to do a few things before I even leave my house.
    -get a real freakin’ good night’s sleep. Get a solid 8! even if you “only need 6” or whatever bullshit you tell yourself to justify staying up late. Get 8! Get 8!
    -familiarize myself with the route This includes: total travel time, major roads, any tolls in the route.
    -get excited! This is exhausting sh!t but it’s supposed to be fun, and if you don’t get in the right headspace it is all too easy to grouch the whole trip away. It’s cheesy, but I try to tell myself that I can choose whether or not it’s a good trip by not letting little things get to me, even if they would normally piss me off.
  • KEEPING IT TOGETHER DURING THE DRIVE: Do you remember in point one where I was like “get 8 fucking hours of sleep just this once in your damn life”? WELL HERE’S WHY: the most important part of your trip is BEING SAFE. Full stop. It’s more important than doing that thing you’re driving an uncomfortably long distance to do. Be well rested. If the weather’s bad, stop until it clears up. Don’t dick around with the radio when traffic is giving you a tough time. If you really really gotta pee and it’s preventing you from focusing, just stop and pee already. Basically: use your head and pretend like a well-meaning relative is in the car with you.
    Now, that being said, I don’t really expect you to drive like you’re taking your driving exam either. Realistically, some of you are going to speed because that’s kind of a thing that happens a lot on highways, but be aware that local law enforcement might have a tiny tiny clue that these shenanigans occur.
    If you want to avoid getting pulled over and ticketed, keep in mind that you should be suspicious of roads that have a lot of places where a car could “hide.” Are there lots of bends/mid-road barriers where somebody could park and not be seen until right before passing? Guess what! Might be a trap! On the same note, if you see someone who has been pulled over by an officer, it’s worth evaluating your surroundings and slowing down for a bit!
    While I don’t really recommend speeding, period, I would really recommend avoiding going more than 5-10 mph over. If you’re driving with the flow of traffic (or a teensy bit slower) and going 5 mph over the limit, you’re probably relatively safe, but as you get faster the likelihood that you’ll be stopped/ticketed increases, as well as the penalty for doing so.
  • WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK: This is highly variable, and it’s really easy to waffle on whether or not it’s okay to rest (or not rest). Some factors to consider:
    -how long is the drive? If your drive is less than 4 hours, you might be able to power through in one sitting, depending on how you feel. If it’s 5 or more, I would definitely go for the break — extended periods of sitting are really really terrible for you, and you are a human being with bodily functions that need to be tended to, alright.
    -how is my energy? Are you alert? Are you distracted? Do you stare a little bit too long at every billboard with a sandwich on it? Are you starting to dwell on rude shit people said to you a few years ago? Basically, if you can’t focus, it’s time for a break. (Refer back to my point on safety being fucking crucial here.)
    -am I making good time? Think about if you’re running ahead of/behind schedule and weigh this against other factors to make your decision.
  • PRO TIPS: CREATING AN ENJOYABLE SOLO ROAD TRIP EXPERIENCE: Honestly my favorite thing about road tripping alone is that it feels very American, which is a feeling I usually scoff at but somehow feels comfortable here. It feels almost transformative – I become my Movie Montage Self, reflect on the people and places in my life, and think about how amazing it’s going to be when I arrive.
    Turn the radio up – I prefer radio to playlists because of the feeling of randomness that comes with not being in control of the music and also I enjoy being upset at radio personalities – and sing along.
    Don’t forget to snack!! (As if you could.)
    As far as snacks are concerned, you really have to go with your craving, but keep in mind that you’ll need to plan your snack wisely to avoid it backfiring. Do you know your maximum bladder capacity?? I basically plan my snack around that, because while I love those $1 for 24 oz cans of tea, I do not love my poor little 12 oz bladder slowing me down and wrecking my momentum. (A “typical” adult bladder is supposed to be able to hold ~16 oz comfortably, in case you need that point of reference.)   Also: the best driving snacks are one handed and don’t require eye contact — if for some reason you need to look at the snack to eat it, that’s not a driving snack. I really like bagged candy, chips, and other foods that come in pieces for this purpose. My fav’s: swedish fish, potato chips, m&m’s, and french fries.
    A final point: while you can get directions from your phone, I recommend bringing physical directions / a map just in case.  Also, if you’re getting directions from your phone and will be spending an extended period of time on the same road, it really doesn’t need to track your position on the route the whole way — GPS functions are a major battery drain and there’s really no point in wasting the energy if you’re just going straight for 70 miles. Turn the navigation app off and then turn it back on when you’re getting to close to your exit.

Disclaimer: I have never made a multi-day road trip by myself. Most of my solo tips come from driving 4-7 hours in a single day and then crashing on somebody’s couch for the weekend before heading home, so keep this in mind when adapting them for your purposes. Happy travelling!

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