“Think if you and I had a car like this what we could do. Do you know there’s a road that goes down Mexico and all the way to Panama? – and maybe all the way to the bottom of South America where the Indians are seven feet tall and eat cocaine on the mountainside? Yes! You and I, Sal, we’d dig the whole world with a car like this because, man, the road must eventually lead to the whole world. Ain’t nowhere else it can go – right? ”
I already wrote many times about how beautiful traveling on-the-road is (especially after our journey on Route 66).
The freedom of not being bound to anything or anyone and of being able to satisfy every momentary whim, feeling like citizens of the world, discovering life.
So amazing to take your breath away and able to create the best memories: these are on-the-road travels.
Doing them, however, is not easy. They are not for everyone.
In the real on-the-road journey you have to know how to adapt, be ready for the unexpected, learn to take what comes, sometimes be satisfied and not be overwhelmed by those difficulties that, on a road trip, are certainly greater than those of more “comfortable” ones. You get tired earlier, the hours follow the pace of the road, the traffic is often stressful (on Barcelona’s Gran Via, after driving for 100 miles to arrive, I felt a great desire to turn the car off and just leave it in the middle of the road. Not to mention Aix-en-Provence, where we went around 35 minutes just to look for parking).
If you are able to overcome all of this, however, the rewards are way higher.
It is THE trip, because you choose to travel and not just to visit a destination.
How to organize a road trip?
I’ll try to give you my suggestions, but keep in my mind that there aren’t clear rules. These rules are based on my personal experiences and my way of thinking and seeing things.
1. There are two ways to see a road trip: take it as a getaway or as any other travel.
In the first case, get lost. Bring with you some food, a map and go. Choose the road on the rolling of a dice. Take with you some money and just go back when they finish. Escape from life, let the imagination go.
In the second case instead, mark a final destination and some stops in the middle. Decide how many days to stay in every place, buy a travel guide and set the things you just don’t want to miss.
2. The best road is the one you don’t know yet. Take a map, your itinerary and a good gps with you, but always choose secondary roads. The highways are pretty much all the same… why go from a place to another without enjoying all the road and all the travel in the middle?
Doing that, obviously, takes more time… just ask yourself if you prefer to see less but better or just have a taste of everything.
3. Travel light. When you travel on-the-road you need to load and unload your lugagge almost daily, so don’t bring with you more than a suitcase with wheels or a backpack. There are many laundromat almost everywhere (except in Italy…), use them!
Here the pragmatic advice.
4. Choose your final destination, then set up the path to reach it with the stops you already decided. Kilometers (miles) per day depend on many factors: tiredness, driving comfort, road conditions. As a rule of thumb, try not to drive for more than 400 km (250 miles). Write everything down, take notes on your guide and always bring it along: by reading it while you’re going you could discover places or attractions that you feel like visiting (a peculiar museum on a little side road, a restaurant in the middle of the farm…) and modify your route as you go.
5. if you rent a car, double check that insurance is valid in the country you’re going to. This is important if you decide to drive through states, especially in Europe. Some nations’ insurance won’t cover you in others (e.g. if you rent a car in Italy, the insurance isn’t valid in Albania and Montenegro) and you need permits or supplementary fees.
6. Remember that on-the-road doesn’t mean only “car”. Our mind, for example, immediately goes to a motorcycle. Also consider the comfort of a motor home. The price of the rent is high, but you’ll save a lot on food and accomodations. You should cut out the trip on your needs.
7. If you leave with your own vehicle, do a thorough check a few days before the departure. Check your documents, wash your vehicle, check tires’ pressure, oil, water, coolant, brake pads, battery: if something needs to be fixed you’ll have time enough to do it.
8. Don’t forget an emergency kit. Better safe than sorry…
9. Book your accomodation in advance, so you won’t have to settle on what you find at the last moment, but you’ll be able to choose the accomodation you like the most.
10. Enjoy your journey and the road!