For many of us there is a constant and familiar itch to hit the road. Whether it’s to visit loved ones that we don’t get to see enough, or fleeing home and heading to the beach or mountains or somewhere in between.
A popular travel writer whose blog I frequent recently wrote that his favourite part of travelling was the period in-between destinations. That may seem strange for someone with the enviable job of writing extensively about different settings, but his reason was intriguing.
He said that despite the excitement of experiencing a new destination, nothing beat the anticipation of what is to come – before expectations are not met, like the disappointing weather or finding out that your accommodation is facing a popular (and very loud) local nightspot.
I would have to agree. Apart from seeing loved one’s faces and sharing new experiences together, some of the best moments of a road trip, after the planning, scheduling and the counting down to D-day, is the journey getting there, and the intoxicating nostalgia that this invokes.
Who doesn’t have fond memories of early morning call times, food laden cooler boxes being packed into car boots, the travel pillow which will soon be fought over, and the wonderful excuse to eat greasy burgers (or anything really) at 10am in the morning.
While every family has their travel rituals, there are always common pleasures that all good journeys share.
The more the merrier
Travel provides time for family, and nothing says family- time like successfully packing multiple children, a teen or two, and grandparents into one car. The best part of all is that you actually get to spend time with the family.
Being confined in the car forces you to be present, which doesn’t happen too often in our everyday lives with never ending to-do lists. On the road you only need to focus on keeping fed and entertained.
When else are you going get an opportunity to share travel titbits like: there are exactly 10 overpasses on the N5 between the little town of Kestell and Bloemfontein, or that South Africa has the longest wine route in the world, the R62 wine route.
You can also use the opportunity to teach little ones how to play a game of I-spy, or make up your own, such as trying to guess the destination of fellow travellers from clues like motorboats and mountain bikes perched on the roof, or beach umbrellas poking through the back window.
Rest and relaxation
Successful pit stops achieve two very important tasks: first, to revive the body – stretch the legs, breathe in some fresh air, and if you are lucky, sink your toes into the tiny patch of grass in the kids play area.
Pit stops are also a culinary adventure. Whether you bring your own padkos tucked away tightly in steaming containers, or choose to sample the limited but plentiful offerings that the fuel stops along the way have to offer, what’s standard is that all diet restrictions, and sometimes good sense, is happily abandoned. Suddenly coffee can be consumed at all hours of the day, slap chips become a food group, and snacks like fruit and nuts make way for ice-cream, biscuits and gummy sweets.
Leaving space unexpected
Spontaneity thrives in the absence of deadlines and everyday pressures. Most of the travelling we do is pretty straightforward simply because there isn’t enough time to explore and let loose.
But weekend breaks and mid-year getaways afford us the luxury of taking the longer but more scenic route, to accept that invitation to share a meal with the family on the next table, or to finally make that stop in Bloemfontein you have been meaning to make for years. And it has never been easier to explore the unfamiliar. The beauty of smartphones and a GPS is that it is almost impossible to get lost and you are able to research as you go. Who knows what treasures are waiting for you when you take that sho’t left?
Happy travels, keep safe and remember, you are only a few hours from an adventure.