During my EPIC 2 year travel adventure from 2014 – 2016 I was lucky enough to experience ‘life on the road’ in several very interesting, different and exciting ways. In South America, overland buses was our main mode of transport which ranged from comfortable leather reclining seats in commercial Argentinian buses right through to rickety old chicken buses where sitting next to a Bolivian local and their goat was not uncommon. Central America was much the same but the time between destinations was much quicker and the buses were much smaller, in fact they were actually mini vans known as ‘colectivos’. Getting from place to place in a colectivo was definitely the cheapest but often the not so efficient way of getting around, but hey, if it keeps those extra pesos in my wallet then who am I to argue with transport efficiency… or inefficiency. But it was our mode of transport through Canada and the United States however that really made for the most unreal and memorable adventures… can anybody say ROADTRIP!
Before leaving Canada after the winter, 4 Aussies (I’m one of those four) bought a 40 year old motorhome, called her Big Girl and took off to the United States in search of the open road and the ultimate freedom – and did we get all that and more!
In awe of the Redwoods National Park in California, USA
I’d have to say there really isn’t much out there that compares to the feeling of venturing off on a road trip. I could waffle on for the next hour about how incredibly amazing a road trip would be for your soul and how you should get out and experience it for yourself but instead I decided to break it down and simply give you this:
3 WORDS THAT WILL INSPIRE YOU TO TAKE A ROAD TRIP
The beautiful thing about road trips is that the journey IS the destination, or at least becomes the destination. There’s no itinerary and no time schedule. You’re in control, not being controlled. You’re in the drivers seat baby! During our 3 months in the western United States, we crossed through 7 very different states and covered over 8000 km’s. The destination for us, wasn’t the getting back up to Vancouver at the end of our 3 months. The destination for us was the 3 days we spent at Coachella Festival making friends with Californian locals and other Minnesota visitors, it was the hikes we did in Yosemite National Park where we saw a mama bear and her two cubs. It was the baseball game we went to in San Diego for which we are now life long fans of the Padres (Go Padres!).
The view from the top of Angel’s Landing Hike – Zion National Park, Utah
6 Aussies exploring the Santa Monica Pier
It was meeting two other Aussies in a Walmart who later travelled with us in Big Girl for the last 6 weeks of our trip. It was skateboarding up and down Venice Beach in LA. It was enjoying night after night under the stars next to a campfire and the many, many times we wondered if Google Maps really had us heading in the right direction. It’s these stories and more that shaped our trip and truly made it an adventure. We learnt a lot about ourselves and each other, that’s for sure and we also got to understand the American people in a way that we never would have if we simply darted from city to city and stuck to the standard tourist trail.
You know how these days it seems like time is moving wayyyy to fast for our liking. We blink and 6 months has floated by. We blink again and Christmas is just around the corner. We’re in a constant battle against time to get things done and still try and squeeze in some fun and ‘me time’. Guess what? When you’re road tripping, the whole concept of time changes. It’s as if the ridiculously fast rollercoaster you’re riding at a theme park slows right down to a snails pace and takes the scenic route past all the attractions and the sights – allowing you to actually take it all in. So why is this? Well, life hasn’t always been a race against the clock. If I recall, and I’m sure you will too, life as a kid went pretty darn slowly right? “Mum, when will it be Christmas?” – “In 4 weeks darling”. “But that is sooooo far away”. And it was, really. 4 weeks feels like 4 months to a 5 year old and that’s because when you’re young, you are constantly experiencing new things; the mind is in a constant state of expansion and so is time. Yet as we get older and the novelty of daily life starts to wear off and become repetitive, our memory starts collapsing and so to does time. Routine and mundane tasks contract time, while excitement and intrigue expands it. So getting out and experiencing ‘life on the road’ is one of the single best things you can do (along with travelling in general of course) to ensure you don’t get caught in the trap and the illusion of time slipping away.
This can only be explained with a story. It was about 10 degrees on an early April afternoon in the teeny tiny town of Virginia City, Montana – an old wild wild west town we decided to check out on our way to Yellowstone National Park. We arrived into the main street of town, jumped out of the van and were greeted by…absolutely nothing. Yep, being the tail end of winter, this thriving summer town was packed down like a deflated jumping castle after a kids birthday party. Nevertheless, we went for a walk up the street, checked out some of the old historical buildings and took a few cool snaps on the camera.
The main street of Virginia City, Montana. Check out the old school bank which still operates today.
Well howdy partner, welcome to the Wild Wild West in Nevada City, Montana
It wasn’t until we were on our way back to the van that we could hear music. In a town where every other shop was shut at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, what do you think was open? The pub of course! It was a unanimous decision to head inside and grab a beer. The next part of this story is my favourite…
You know that scene out of a western flick where the outsider (or non-local) walks into a saloon and everyone inside, including the bar tender stops and looks at them. The music even cuts out mid song. Yep that was us, the non-locals of course, with about 8 faces looking straight at us. It probably didn’t help that we were wearing our casual travelling get up of shorts and thongs (flip flops for you non Aussies) and it was about 10 degrees (celcius) outside. After what felt like an awkward and long 5 seconds, we made our way to the bar, ordered 4 budweiser’s and started racking up a game of pool. It wasn’t long before a couple, in their late 40’s swung around in our direction. I’ll never forget the both of them who looked straight at us and said, almost in unisen, “Well y’all don’t look like you’re from around here”. That one sentence ignited a conversation that lasted about 2 or 3 hours and involved several beers, all of which were shouted by our new friends. We were incredibly appreciative and grateful. They just couldn’t believe that we would up and quit our jobs to go travelling long term and that we were driving all over the western United States with no real concrete plan. The fact that we had been travelling for about 12 months already blew them away too. I think because they had kids around our age, it really resonated with them. We discussed just about every topic under the sun, making comparisons between the States and Australia with them not quite understanding our Aussie lingo sometimes. I was so stoked we got to meet these two!
Without even realising, the sun had disappeared outside and it was nearing on dinner time. Butch, the husband, then said something that went a little like “now I know we only just met y’all but Robin is an amazing cook and you are more than welcome to come on back to our place for dinner if you like”. With absolutely no hesitation, it was a resounding yes from all of us. So we headed outside, gave them the tour of ‘Big Girl’ and followed them back to their place, which was pretty similar to how I imagined it would be after listening to Butch’s hunting stories. The walls were lined with deer and elk plaques and the liquor cabinet was stocked full. As the day turned into night, the stories and questions continued between the two cultures and Robin absolutely spoilt us rotten with a delicious chicken dinner, which she continually assured us was nothing special, but I would beg to differ. After dessert (yep, I don’t know how we managed to fit it all in either), Butch then gave us the next proposition which went a little like this… “So again, I know we only just met y’all but we have two spare bedrooms upstairs and you are more than welcome to stay the night if you like”. To backtrack a little here, earlier at the pub, we had explained to them that the heating in our van was broken but it wasn’t worth the money to fix it as we would be in California in a couple days where we wouldn’t be needing it anyway. That however didn’t help the fact that it was supposed to drop below freezing in Montana that night and our only plan of attack was to rug up in several layers and get our snuggle on.
Two of the most amazing people we met on our travels.
So again, without hesitation, we all responded with a “Yes please, thank you so much! We would love to stay”. And I am so, so glad we did! The next morning I woke to the smell of fresh blueberry muffins straight out of the oven. The spoiling just didn’t seem to end. Robin made us all bacon and eggs for breakfast while Butch showed us pictures of the wildlife they get around the area; a big bull moose who would roam through their backyard almost daily, a bear perched right outside their back door one afternoon and several big cats who come and go. For an Aussie who never had any experience with animals like this, it was unreal to see! By mid morning, it was time for us to get back on the road and make out way to Yellowstone. We exchanged contact details with our new American friends and agreed that if our paths ever crossed again, we will definitely have to catch up. And you know what, our paths did cross again but that’s a story for another day. We were sent on our way with a loaf of home made banana bread, a big hug and a wave. We didn’t know it at the time, but these two amazing people would soon become more than just a story from our travels, they would later become a part of our family. Montana will always have a place in my heart as a result of this experience and it just goes to show what can happen when you get out of your comfort bubble and experience life like a local, or better yet, with a local. It’s the people you meet on your travels that truly make for an unforgettable adventure or in our case, an unforgettable road trip.
So have I convinced you that a road trip definitely deserves a spot on your must-do list yet? So now that you’re busting to swap the work desk for the open road, where’s your dream road trip? Don’t worry if nothing jumps to mind straight away because no matter what the vehicle and no matter what the road trip, good times and good vibes are guaranteed along with a sense of freedom that you will not find anywhere else. And incase you need a bit of inspiration to get you started, here are some top rated road trips from around the world that are sure to give you the travel bug:
1) Pacific Coast Highway – California, USA
2) The Great Ocean Road – Victoria, Australia
3) Route 66 – USA
4) The Atlantic Road – Norway
5) Amalfi Coast Road – Italy