Two years ago on this date, my dad and I set off on a trip across the country. I was moving from the west to the east as I had accepted a job at Coastal Carolina University and would now be living in Myrtle Beach. The trek across the nation was an incredible experience, one that I made sure to document well.
When I hear of other people making the same type of journey, I get a little excited for them. While feelings of anxiety and fear are only natural when traveling thousands of miles to a new beginning, my hope is that those concerns won’t overwhelm them. Rather, I hope they focus much more on the feelings of happiness and optimism that are also associated with such a significant event.
In order to limit some of the stress of a cross country move and thus optimize the positive feelings I just explained, I want to offer my best five tips (in no particular order) for managing such a trip.
Set Goals: It is important to set a minimum destination point for each day on your trip. When my dad and I embarked on our trek, we either set a targeted city or a targeted state to reach before calling it a day. Not only will this organize your daily travel and keep you on track, it is just something that will also keep you hungry throughout the day. When you can put a destination point in your GPS at the start of the day and follow it on mileage signs, it gives you purpose and motivation. Some people will opt to simply drive a long time and see where they end up at the end of the day but I recommend trying to be a little more organized than that.
Start Early in the Morning: Begin each travel day as early as possible. Two years ago, my dad and I departed the hotel early enough each morning so we could arrive at the next one with a full evening to relax and enjoy our surroundings. It was nice to arrive in a town before 5 p.m., hang out in the hotel, find a place to eat, and then watch some TV. before going to bed. If you start late, you end late. Just from a safety standpoint, you don’t want to find yourself driving in the dark. From a psychological standpoint, it will be taxing on your mind/body if you roll into town at 10 p.m. only to go right to sleep and then wake up later the next morning with the sense of urgency to get right back into the U-Haul. Embrace the open road during the early morning hours. There is nothing more peaceful than passing through beautiful country at 7 a.m.
Document the Experience: More likely than not, you won’t go on too many cross country driving trips in your life. Make sure you never forget about your adventure by doing all you can to document it. Take plenty of photos, save receipts, and jot down notes. My dad kept track of our mileage and stops each day. This information helped me write my daily blog posts from the road. Keeping tabs on your travels via social media will also help to paint a comprehensive portrait of your trip. Two years later, because of our thorough documentation, I can go back and feel almost like I am back in that U-Haul truck with my dad in the middle of nowhere.
Take in the Culture: When driving two or three thousand miles, you can bet that you will drive by and pass through countless communities, cities, and towns. You owe it to yourself to enjoy a small slice of culture from each stop. It goes without saying that you should pass on the Taco Bell. Instead, eat at a local establishment or enjoy a cold beer at a neighborhood dive. Engage locals in conversation and take each moment in as you realize that there is a good possibility you might never set foot in that area again. One way my dad and I experienced the attitude of each town we passed through was by listening to the local sports radio station. It was a great way to sense the attitude of the community while enjoying a pastime (sports) that we both love.
Safety First: Know there are risks with making such a long trip but know that as long as you put yourself in a safe position, you will be fine. My mom gave my dad and I a medal with Our Lady of the Highway and St. Christopher on it so we were good from the start. However, we still made sure to never let our gas tank get too low, we inspected the U-Haul each morning, and we even stopped by one of the U-Haul outlets about halfway through the trip so they could re-tighten the car trailer to the truck.
If you are setting out soon for a point in a different part of the country, I wish you well. Feel free to reach out to me for more specific tips and advice. Again, remember to look forward to the adventure as opposed to dreading it. Don’t Blink.