The Unexpected Beauty of Road Trips

By: Haley Littleton

I am currently in a Subaru Forrester traveling somewhere in the middle of Kansas with sprawling farmlands as far my sunglasses shielded eyes can see, interrupted every now and then by a cluster of trees and rusted silo. Most people hate this drive: the 560 mile stretch of flatland across the state of Kansas to Denver. And, rightfully so. There are almost no turns and no need to merge onto connecting highways, only shifting lanes accompanied with shifting thoughts and whatever is playing on the radio. But every time I have driven the 24 hour trek from my home in South Carolina to school in Colorado, and back, Kansas is surprisingly one of my favorite legs, a part from the winding mountain roads of Tennessee/North Carolina.

For most, this trip seems like an unnecessary nuisance. Why not just take a four hour plane to your destination? It saves time, money, and wear and tear on your car. It also saves the boring task of wiling away time as endless mile markers stretch before you. It’s so inefficient.

But I think that’s why I like it.

I think long road trips show us that sometimes the point isn’t efficiency nor constant entertainment. Road trips allow us at times to sit in our boredom, showing us how hard it is to simply be. To be in a car headed to a destination that you must wait patiently for, reveals just how busy we have become. There is something nostalgic and romantic in the way that we have come to view “road trips” as we see countless movie montages of people happily driving across the country, windows down, and  sleeping on top of the car under the stars. But the movies never show the less glamorous side of these trips: the bathroom stops, wrong directions, the sleepy eyes of a tired driver, and the frustrations of “are we there yet.”

My father told me once that you could test a relationship by sending a couple on a long road trip, preferably one through large cities accompanied by restless children. While I have yet to test that theory, the concept still stands that road trips for us to reclaim a little bit of patience that we have lost, accepting that at times we will sit in utter boredom  and realizing that is okay (perhaps even beneficial).

But the beauty of road tripping is not all boredom. In fact, road trips show us the little things we would have never known or found. They force us to pay attention to the little joys along the way, if we are willing. If I flew to Colorado and opted out of driving, I would have never stumbled upon an amazing five generations bakery in the middle of Paducah, Kentucky. I would have never seen the 40 foot Superman statue in Metropolis, IL. I would have never visited the world’s largest prairie dog and I would never have seen a random life size mural of Jesus walking through wheat in the middle of the highway in Kansas. Road trips brings us to places we never would have thought we’d enjoy and people who we never would have seen before, reminding us that our country is much bigger and quirky than our neighborhoods and destinations.

Finally, road trips require us to get to know ourselves and the people we are with. We’ve all had that melodramatic “stare out the window on a rainy day listening to music” moment but, as funny as that is, there’s something to that. Road trips give us a lot of time to think and that is something to embrace. Trips have a way of pulling us out of our context to allow us to really evaluate ourselves and our lives in a way we wouldn’t tend to do at home. Hours upon hours in a car gives you opportunities to think through things that you might not have even know were there. It gives us all a chance to search our hearts and listen to what the Lord is trying to tell us. It also forced us to pay attention to the people we are with. Communication skills must be used and the opportunity for serving and meaningful conversation abounds. Even if that means giving up shot gun.

I like long road trips because they make me slow down, observe my surroundings, and practice a little patience. As I head back for another year of tests, stress, and endless pages of reading, this road trip reminds me that there is a country/world much larger than my campus or the classroom.

And, as you head off to a new year of school, appreciate the journey there and the unexpected beauty of traveling to unknown destinations. Even if that requires sighing of boredom on a straight road across a flat state.


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