It's no surprise that we love road trips; we started out as wanderers.
From the day we climbed down from the trees to see what was going on in the grasslands to the development of agriculture around 10,000 years ago, we lived a journey. That journey fed us, marked the rhythms of our lives and developed into an integral part of what we are. Moreover, it never left. To this day, travel recharges us; experiencing new places stirs something primal and vivifying within our souls. It takes a broom to our mental cobwebs and forces us to grow. Is it any wonder that the journey motif dominates our stories, songs and poems?
We began as wanderers; we are wanderers still.
Granted, our primal wanderings were more about grubbing on grains and game than seeking Stuckey's and Starbucks, but even before the 1950s, when the proliferation of highway systems, gas stations, motels and motor lodges made automobile travel faster and more convenient, our wanderlust compelled us to set off on whatever paths existed, in whatever conveyance would carry us.
Road trips answer a deep human yearning to be free. For a time at least, they allow us to escape our quotidian cares and simply be. At the same time, they indulge our love affair with automobiles and our craving for novelty -- or for revisiting the past.
These journeys perfectly combine solitude and companionship, planning and improvisation. Road trips unite the freedom of the outdoors with the security of bringing our stuff with us. A car becomes, at turns, a means of transport, a restaurant and, in a pinch, a place to sleep. There's no waiting for trains to arrive, no going through airport security and -- best of all -- no requirement to plan everything out ahead of time.
As authors such as Jack Kerouac remind us, the road is where we discover our country, our fellow human beings and ourselves. It's also where we often encounter the unexpected, for good or ill, but never fear: Our wits, friends or family, and trusty automobile usually see us through. In the end, the worst travails frequently make for the best stories.
That's enough talk for now. Let's come up with a plan for putting some miles on that odometer.