"Do you have the camera?" my husband asks me.
"Yep," I say.
"And the map?"
"What about an extra roll of toilet paper?"
"I've got that too."
With that, we climb into the car and back down the driveway, a couple week's worth of food, supplies and clothes packed into the backseat and trunk. It is the start of yet another road trip, something that we work into our schedule at least a couple times each year.
My history of road trips began when I was only three years old. My dad would pack our car and take off from our home in Wisconsin for my grandparents' farm on the Iowa-Nebraska border. For 16 hours down and back, twice a year until I left for college, we would make this familiar drive past the cornfields and through a countryside where one of the best oldie radio stations could be found.
The road trip to and from my grandparents' farm was not the only road-worthy memory I have as a kid. In fact, my family rarely traveled by plane, and we were more often found crammed into a four-person car for weeks at a time in the summer. From our home base in the Midwest, we traveled down the East Coast to North Carolina and made it as far south as Oklahoma. We drove through the flat plains of Kansas and the Badlands of South Dakota to reach Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
My road tripping enthusiasm didn't end with childhood. In college, my husband (then boyfriend) and I often just hit the road for the day when we needed to escape the campus. We crossed the state several times and ventured down unmarked roads just to see where they led. When it was time to find an internship, I did what any logical person would do: I chose a place to work across the country then drove from Washington State to Washington, D.C.
Now, as an adult with a travel bug that refuses to die, I continue to make it a point to road trip several times a year. Sometimes I drive, sometimes I'm a passenger, sometimes I'm with other people and sometimes I'm alone, but never have I regretted taking the road.
A lot of people find driving to be tedious and boring. There's a reason why "Are we there yet?" is a common catchphrase. But I believe the opposite to be true. To me, road trips are the epitome of freedom when it comes to travel. If something catches my eye, I can pull over to take a picture instead of letting the train I'm on rumble by. If I need to stretch my legs, I can stop to take a hike in the woods or down the main street of a small town without feeling stuck by a pre-defined bus schedule. If I'm hungry, I am only confined by my surroundings, not the menu items in an airport café.
Sometimes, the road trip is simply a way to reach a destination, and sometimes the journey itself is the primary trip. Either way, I never hesitate to deviate from pre-determined plans. In fact, the best road trips are those that can be flexible and melded as they go along. Along with extra water, sunglasses and a couple good books, I always take a sense of humor and open mind because, even if I've driven a road a hundred times, each trip is different than the last.
We've driven about 200 miles, and we've already established some common road trip habits. My husband has a bag of sunflower seeds in hand, and I've slipped off my shoes to prop my feet on the dashboard. Twenty-five years ago I was buckled into the backseat, my eyes taking in the fast-moving landscape as my dad drove. I look out the window, and the land still speeds by. My love for the perpetual road trip is still intact.