Road Trips are a commitment, there’s no way around that. And once you’ve started, there’s absolutely no getting out of it. Well, I guess you could always hop out halfway and call for a cab, but that’s for quitters and it’s also slightly dangerous. Stay in the car.
Going on a road trip Through Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way with my friend Amy sounded like the best thing ever! It was only once our trip had started that I realised we would have very limited space for most of our trip. My travel companion was literally twelve inches away from me for most of the day. I also quickly learned that the driver needs to be fully focused so there was no talking while she was trying to navigate the treacherous back roads along the Irish coast.
I think the big thing about Road Trips are that everyone, at some point along the journey, finds themselves wondering why on earth they decided that this was the best way to travel? And yet, despite this moment, you will get back in the car, and continue the adventure. And then – maybe not immediately, maybe not in a week, but eventually you will realise that there were also lessons learnt along this journey.
#1 There is no such thing as too many snacks.
We were both travelling on a very tight budget so before heading out, we thought that skimping on the number of snacks we purchased was one of the best ways to save a little money. This was a very big mistake. We realised this half way through our journey and this time round, properly stocked up on snacks. Snacks were an important component to keeping the both of us sane on this trip.
#2 There is no such thing as too many stops.
Sure, it was important to reach our destination eventually, but it was the stops along the way that I remember most clearly about our time on the road.
Being able to stop whenever we wanted was one of the greatest benefits of a road trip so we tried to take advantage of it! Whenever you saw some beautiful landscape or a great look out point we took the time to pull over to the side of the road to enjoy it!
#3 Just be present.
Like a lot of people I am guilty of taking a lot of photos, more than needed. And in doing so I often miss out of the moment. Just by taking in the scenery and not looking through my camera lens constantly I felt more present.
I realised that I had to stop rushing through the sights and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the scenery. I tried to slow down and take in my surroundings with all five of my senses. While on this road trip I was forced to relax and do one thing at a time. When we weren’t driving somewhere we focused on what we were doing right at that moment, whether it was hiking or having a cup of coffee or walking along the beach.
Even though we were busy almost constantly, I felt more present, and time seemed to last longer.
#4 Silence is okay.
I don’t always deal very well with silence. While travelling I am usually either talking or listening to music. But I quickly learned that my travel partner needed to be fully focused so there was no talking while she was trying to navigate the treacherous back roads along the Irish coast. At first I found it quite frustrating to drive in silence, but it did give me the chance to think and to take in my surroundings. There were a number of wonderful, peaceful silences that I experienced with my fellow traveller while driving through scenery that looked like it could be from a documentary.
#5 Patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s a necessity
If ever patience were required, it is on a road trip. Things go wrong. You get lost. Sometimes things go wrong and there is nothing you can do except breathe, take a step back, and find another way. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do except wait and be patient.
There is traffic. You’re have to deal with other drivers. There are 20km/ph towns and 80km/ph highways. Your GPS is wrong or does not know where you are. We knew we were in Ireland the moment our GPS couldn’t pronounce the names and settled for spelling it. Your sandwiches will get soaked, cheese will spoil and milk will go bad. You and your road trip partner will probably get on each others nerves at some point.
It happen. We had to deal with it. I had to embrace the chaos.
#6 It’s the Company You Keep
At the end of the day, what matters most is who you are with. This holds true in any circumstance, but especially on a road trip. Choose someone you can get lost in conversation with for hours. Someone you can be yourself around. I’ve learned that you truly know someone only after you’ve ridden with them in a cramped vehicle for days on end and witnessed their driving, and what they really look like when they wake up in the morning.
#7 Go With the Flow and be Spontaneous
I love lists and checking things off and knowing what’s supposed to happen before it does. In our day-to-day life, it’s natural to try hard to maintain strict control over things. We plan and budget, set up meetings, and schedule activities. Our lives are often ruled by our calendars.
On our road trip however, all of that went out the car window. It was quite a challenge for me to go on a road trip where I didn’t have every minute planned. Not knowing where we were going to stop next or even spend the night was quite stressful for me. It took me some time to feel comfortable with having no plan and to just go with the flow. By not having a set itinerary we had time to stop at amazing scenic spots we would have missed otherwise. We got to lingering at deserted beaches and ended being so busy enjoying the moment that I even forgot to look at my watch.
I learnt that the main key to enjoying every aspect of a road trip is to relax and go with the flow.
#8 Choose experiences over things
We lived out of a car (actually, a crossover van – thank you, Amy!) for 3 weeks while driving along the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland. I tried to pack light but after 3 weeks there were still things I brought that I hadn’t used, and clothes I packed that I didn’t wear. Truth be told, I didn’t miss them one single bit. There wasn’t one time that I thought “I wish I’d brought…”
I also didn’t miss any of my stuff from home while we were gone. I was too busy living to worry about stuff. I have decided to travel lighted, to acquire less and to do more in the future!!
#9 It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
A real Road Trip is all about the journey and not the destination. Even though at times the experience seemed endless I was never quite truly ready for it to end. The sore butts and the cramped feeling of being so close to someone else 24/7 are just some of the memories I’ll be taking with me forever. It’s the stops along the way, both expected and unexpected, that really make a road trip. The quaint small towns, weird roadside attractions, and even getting lost that add to the excitement.
When the trip was finally over, there was a sense of loss. So relish the journey—every part of it.
#10 Following your dreams isn’t easy – nor should it be.
Following mine has taught me so much more than these lessons. Many of them aren’t clear, yet, but they will be. And when they are, I’ll share them.
These are just some of the lessons I learned from our epic road trip. What have you learned from your own experiences?