I can hardly believe that it’s already been just over a month since I made my cross-country drive from Nashville, TN to my hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a six-day, 2,600+ mile road trip in my packed-to-the-brim Prius that included staying with friends (or friends of friends), a stop at the Grand Canyon, and a day at Harry Potter World in Hollywood. It was quite the adventure, and there were some key things I learned along the way about how to make the most of a long road trip, so I figured I'd share a few of those tips with you!
- Here is the most practical tip I’ve got: definitely get your car checked out before you head out to drive long distances, especially your tires. Get the oil changed, replace wiper blades (if necessary), and make sure that there are no critical issues with your vehicle before you take off. Also, be sure you have your insurance information ready to go in case of an emergency, whether that means printing it or downloading it to your phone for offline use. I did alllll of the things, and am glad I did because my trip was so smooth as a result of being prepared.
- Having a bag full of snacks was and is the best idea, and for a few reasons: 1. If you are supposed to avoid certain foods (hello dairy and gluten), having snacks ready to go can help you stick to your dietary restrictions; 2. You will stop less and spend less money on the road, and 3. If you get sleepy, chewing on something can help you to stay alert. Trust me.
- Load up your phone with playlists, podcasts, and/or audiobooks. I had over 40 hours of drive time and find it easy to get sleepy driving for long distances during the day, so I made sure to get all of the recommendations for things to listen to that would keep me engaged on the road, and I downloaded them in case I lost service at any point (which I totally did). My favorite listens were “S-Town,” “FunTherapy,” and “My Favorite Murder.” The latter was the podcast I listened to most (it’s amazing, but if you’re not a fan of consistent f-bombs I would find another true crime podcast), which was awesome minus the fact that it made me a little paranoid since it’s about murder. But Karen and Georgia quickly became my best friends on the road. #SSDGM
- Personal safety starts with awareness, so remember to be aware. As a woman, I believe there are so many reasons we need to pay attention to our surroundings and think a few steps ahead (just in case). Fortunately, I'm a pretty self-aware person who typically tends to have a grasp on what is happening around me — I even prefer to stick to the outskirts of any social gathering so that I can see everything and everyone — but I still made it a point to be even more intentional in my awareness on this trip. For example, I always parked my car somewhere I could see it when I stopped to eat, get gas, etc, I flipped my visors down and to the side windows so that any potential creepers couldn’t stare at me while driving, I always had my keys in my hands ready to go when walking around (a.k.a. I wasn't distracted by my phone or searching for my keys), and I walked confidently with my head up high. Maybe some of that sounds silly, but hey, I'd rather we all be safe than sorry.
- Never be ashamed of asking friends if you can stay with them or if any friends have connections in certain places. In Dallas, I stayed with a friend of a family I’m close with back in Nashville, and it turned out we were kindred spirits and had the sweetest night drinking wine and sharing stories. In Albuquerque, I stayed with my grandmother’s friend Darlene, who made me a homemade dinner and then watched This Is Us with me (I got her hooked). And in southern California, I stayed with a few friends from college, which meant we got to catch up on all of the things and it was so good for my soul. Not only did it make the drive more fun knowing I was going to be seeing people, but it also helped me feel a lot safer knowing they were waiting for me to show up.
- Make sure to plan some fun things along the way... I sure did! I made a detour to the south rim of the Grand Canyon to spend a few hours marveling at its beauty and taking a hiking trail or two, and it was absolutely worth it. And a big part of my plan while in southern California was to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Hollywood, because of course I would. It's only about half the size of the one in Orlando, but I still had the best time walking around Hogsmeade, drinking butterbeer, and riding the Forbidden Journey ride 15 times (the single rider line is where it's at).
My road trip was an absolute whirlwind, full of car snacks and tumbleweeds and sweet hospitable friends, and I'm honestly just so proud of myself for going through with it because, if I'm honest, I was a little scared... and not just of the drive. Taking to the road meant that this whole new season was really beginning. It meant putting so much unknown into God's hands and ultimately trusting Him with the outcome. It has been and continues to be scary and exciting and full of lessons in humility and embracing hard things. And yet I'm so glad it kicked off exactly how it did, because I can reflect now on that trip totally convinced that if I can drive across the country by myself, I can probably do anything — maybe even solo-travel across Europe next year.
So here's to the big adventures and God-sized dreams. May we refuse to settle for anything less.