How to Make the Most of Your Impulsive Road Trip
Jon Krakauer wrote in Into the Wild, “The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our impulsive encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
As we wound around the cascading valley of Sequoia National Park and Death Valley – albeit with the soundtrack of Into the Wild playing – I never felt this quotation more truly. I had always craved that sense of spontaneity that I had hoped would come from an impulsive road trip. The narrative of the grand open road, particularly romanticised by the USA’s Route 66 had always promised a transformative journey of self-discovery and adventure. Yet, even with the underlying expectation that this nirvana could be achieved, I wasn’t quite ready for how much I would fall in love with the experience and Sequoia itself.
I had always craved that sense of spontaneity that I had hoped would come from an impulsive road trip.
Our plan for the trip had gone little beyond booking a rental car in San Francisco and expecting to reach Las Vegas three days later. Even our tentative plans to visit Yosemite National Park were diverted on our day of departure due to icy road conditions.
It was Google Maps that first led us to the discovery of Sequoia, and Death Valley and subsequently to the small towns of Bakersfield and Lone Pine where we stopped along the way. Admittedly, neither town topped my bucket list of places to visit in the US. The pit stops were chosen for a brief recollection of their name mentioned in some pop culture reference; or enough favourable Yelp reviews of their motels.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to describe the true grandeur that erupted before us on the road. Each turn opened up to a different scene of huge, cascading quarries or endless flat deserts. We would stop off along the road to bask in the majesty of the valley or sit by a reservoir with crackers and cheese, mesmerised by the stillness and silence of being and feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere.
I’m tempted to just leave it here and say, hop on the road and just discover the beauty of Sequoia yourself. Nevertheless, there are some important things to be prepared for, even when embracing the spontaneous.
How to Make the Most of Your Impulsive Road Trip
1. Have a general idea of what to expect along the way
Despite our lack of detailed plan, we had consulted Google Maps to ensure we had a few options of towns to stop along the way in case of any emergencies. We made sure that travel time always accounted for the early sunset and our desire not to be stranded in the middle of the desert at night. Yelp was also a fantastic way to find good restaurants and motels along the way.
2. Pack food and water
Snacks, however healthy or not and bottled water were musts along our journey. It was never clear when we’d find the next general store or even if we would have time to detour through a town. A constant supply of chips and crackers kept us going.
3. Be prepared to pee in obscure places
The problem with travelling with guys was that they often forgot that it wasn’t as easy for a lady to pee in the middle of the desert. Finding crevices behind fallen tree stumps, and always having tissues on hand was a must along the way.
4. Put away the camera
This was a travel tip passed on to me a while ago – that whenever you reach a destination, put the phone and the camera away for at least five minutes to just soak it all in. As tempting as it is to capture every moment and every corner of the scenery, there are some things that must be left to your mind’s eye. Besides, the camera rarely does Sequoia justice no matter how many #filters you apply.
5. Prepare a good but diverse playlist
Personally, music is always a travel essential. It encapsulates a memory; a feeling of that moment in time. Reminiscing about this road trip always conjures up Eddie Vedder’s croons of ‘Society’ in my mind. Keep it interesting though – throw a little Taylor Swift in with the Bon Iver to keep it interesting and to potentially annoy the boys.
There are some places in the world that are forever on your bucket list like New York or Paris or London. And then there are the places you’ve probably never heard of, but, through sheer incredulity and spontaneity, become some of your favourite places in the world. This trip encompassed everything I love in travel – the lack of expectation, the complete openness to whatever may happen and the thrill of the spontaneous finds that can tingle your senses and awaken a spirit inside of you that is unmatched by any other experience.
On this trip, I discovered the joy of life; that passion for adventure; the core of man’s living spirit.
How to Make the Most of Your Impulsive Road Trip photo by Unsplash.