Road Trips: Finding New Ways Vs. Taking Known Routes

So often we think of the quintessential American road trip as a metaphor for freedom. With the holiday season on the horizon, many Americans will be hitting the highways, which might open their minds to new ideas and experiences, even if they are taking known routes to see family.

I’ve heard my mother say sometimes she just wanted to get in the car and drive somewhere, as if the road would take us to a new realization or understanding. I had a high school gym teacher who would joke with a colleague on a bad day that their escape valve would be to drive down “Parkway South,” shorthand for taking the Garden State Parkway down the shore, as New Jerseyans say.  I’ve certainly felt that geography effects my mindset. I remember working in lower Manhattan and looking southward across New York Harbor thinking it was time for me to head south again. First stop, Washington, D.C., but after some time there, I wanted to be further out and ended up in Texas. Now, Texas has amazing landscapes for road trips. You can drive for hundreds and hundreds of miles and still be in the Lone Star state.

My next trip won’t be to a dreamscape destination though (Big Bend). It is to a favorite place: Georgia. North Georgia, specifically. Now, we could choose a variety of routes to get there over the course of the two-day drive. Or, we could detour for part of it, such as the times we have taken stretches of Natchez Trace Parkway, which I highly recommend.

We entered late afternoon and dusk seemed to chase us along the winding path through woods and fields. As twilight approached, we came upon a herd of deer, which was unnerving as darkness fell and their running bodies undulated like waves under the moonlight. However stunning the landscape and fauna, at that point I was relieved to get back to a superhighway and brighter lights. The next time we took NTP, we were sure to plan a daylight drive.

Typically, don’t we end up on the usual roads, even at the same times, ending up at the same fast food exits and the same hotels? This time, I want to be adamant about leaving earlier so that we don’t end up on the same stretch in a certain state where there really isn’t much for about 150-200 miles and we get stuck at the same old motel. It’s not bad. But, we’re not finding Enlightenment reliving the experience of that McDonalds or that Waffle House.

Analogously, we humans are creatures of habits and can find ourselves moving along on the same mental pathways day after day. Just as we need to force ourselves to change how we think sometimes, we should plan to take different routes. Some people even plan on getting lost. I don’t have that luxury, but would like to plan to take different routes for our next trip to Georgia, at least part of the way. We do know one thing for certain: when we get to Atlanta, all the roads will be jammed and some people will still drive like crazy. The good news is we know which roads will take us to the peaceful places and the good people.

Safe travels to you and yours this holiday season.

The Sage Leopard, thesageleopard@gmail.com