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An Ode to Wanderlust: The American Road Trip. Nothing beats the exhilaration and freedom of hopping in the car and chasing a strip of asphalt past the horizon. The only goal? The promise of some distant place. That’s the allure of the road trip. And few things prove more distinctly American.
Whether it’s the 19th century imperative to “Go West, young man!” or Chuck Berry’s “Route 66,” the power of the open road has captivated the popular imagination for centuries. Americans remain fascinated with the concept of the journey.
Here’s our ode to the American road trip, and how it can transform travelers for the better.
America’s Love Affair with the Journey
America’s history is inextricably linked to the concept of the journey, from the first European ships that dropped anchor along the Eastern seaboard to the pioneers who trudged from one ocean to another in the dust kicked up by oxen hooves. As the burgeoning nation grew, the turning of wagon wheels gave way to the chugging of great steam locomotives. Americans could now access the country like never before.
The advent of the interstate highway network and the popularization of affordable automobiles further cemented the zeal for travel. As cars replaced trains, Americans welcomed the newfound freedom of traveling beyond the railroad tracks. They expanded their journeys to include every nook and cranny accessible on a full tank of gas. The great American road trip was born.
As Douglas Adams writes, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” For centuries, the open road has signified many things: escape, possibility, freedom. Today, it remains a way to confront both the extraordinary and mundane moments that form the American fabric.
Time Traveling Across the Country
In his book The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, David Campany notes, “American culture still finds it difficult to shake the idea that its big cities embody the present and its small towns the past. Consequently, one of the major attractions of the road trip has become the fantasy of time travel. The open road leads back to what was, or at least to some place where time passes more slowly.”
Road trips, however, do more than reconnect us with the past and slower ways of being and living. They demystify regions of the country we’ve never been to. From the towering majesty of the Sierra Nevada to the geological marvels of the Southwest and the infinite expanse of the Pacific Coast, the road connects us to what it is to be American.
It shows us the environments, plants, and creatures that we need to fiercely and passionately protect. It also permits us to see how people live in both large cities and small towns. As a result, we gain new awareness and insight into other people and the lives they lead.
The Patchwork of Our Lives
You’ll never enjoy this intimate connection with the country from an airplane. That’s not to say that travel by plane isn’t both necessary and convenient. But it leads to different thoughts and feelings. As you stare at the vast expanse of patchwork countryside, it makes you feel immensely disconnected from the people and places below.
While the hours you spend in a plane belie the vastness of the world through which you are traveling, you’ll never truly grasp its expansiveness until you get much closer.
On the open road, you watch the terrain change from your window. You notice small towns that would have otherwise never caught your eye. And you gain an awareness and appreciation for how other people live in different parts of the nation.
Travel and Prejudice
These are not unlike the experiences people have while traveling internationally. Sometimes, however, it’s eye-opening to take a domestic trip to the places you think you know but still have plenty to learn about.
After all, as Mark Twain sagely observed, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow- mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
And he was onto something. As one psychology study demonstrates, the more we travel, the more charitable and trusting we become. These are two traits the world could use more of about now.
The American Road Trip
As Jack Kerouac declared in his 1957 book On the Road, “All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.” The American road trip remains the ultimate expression of wanderlust.
But, like other forms of travel, it also represents a gateway to understanding. With this knowledge, you become both a better traveler and citizen. There are so many ways to see the United States this summer. Let us help you find the perfect getaway for your unique family needs. Our domestic itineraries to the National Parks, California and New Mexico will satisfy your wanderlust and thirst for adventure while ensuring you and your family are in safe and healthy environments. Are you ready to hit the open road with us?
At Global CommUnity, we offer luxury family vacations to over 25 global destinations. Each customized itinerary comes in both 4- and 5-star price points. Your family will enjoy opportunities to interact with a destination’s culture and people in profound ways. Explore Global CommUnity’s itineraries now and open the door to an exciting world of luxury family travel possibilities.