What I Learned From My Solo Road Trips

April 30, 2021

Welcome to our last Friday Food for Thought.  I hope you have enjoyed some of my ramblings and that they have maybe sparked some interest in looking deeper within your organizations and within yourself.  I wanted to share some thoughts that I jotted down while on a couple of summer-long road trips I took a couple of years ago.  I think it is timely during this time of isolation and tremendous change and uncertainty. 

  • Sometimes backtracking an hour and a half for a hug from your daughter is worth it
  • I am looking forward to the next road trip after my cataract surgery next month because I’m pretty sure there are words on all the green signs I passed on the highway. 
  • There is a peaceful calm that descends upon me when I get out on the open road.  And I understand why our species always wandered; I believe we’re hard wired for a nomadic way of life. 
  • I feel like I’m journeying outward to discover life and at the same time I’m journeying inward to discover myself.
  • In the solitude of the road it’s interesting what your mind wanders to…. and who it wanders to….
  • I realize that some people love you so deeply they touch your soul. And sometimes when your heart is broken it allows your soul to be awakened to shine through the cracks of your brokenness 
  • I used to think I was excited to go to Six Flags, or going to the Grand Canyon or going to the beach. While those and other destinations have all been amazing, what I have found is I really love the “going” part 
  • I was continually frustrated because no one could tell me who’s house the house blend coffee at all the truck stops was made at….
  • My intention for this road trip – to cultivate intuition and embrace uncertainty and not knowing:  I am holding space for uncertainty
  • From one of my audible books: Brené Brown’s definition of faith from Ann Lamont, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.”  This really hit me.
  • I hit a yellow breasted bird in New Mexico.  It made me sad….
  • I hit a sparrow in South Dakota…It made me sad too…even though sparrows are much more common, I am sure he/she was just as uncommon to those in it’s flock….
  • The bad news is anxiety is contagious; the good news is, so is calm 
  • There is an actual Carefree highway north of Phoenix. 
  • Wild burros in the desert may be the cutest animal you will ever see. 
  • Driving through California wine country in the early morning is beautiful. I didn’t think it could it get any better until I saw a Palomino colt running and frolicking in the field beside the Vineyard. 
  •  There is something mystical about standing before and touching 1000-year-old tree. And certainly standing in the shadow of a 2700-year-old tree is inspiring and is like a getting a glimpse into the past of all our history. 
  • And whoever programmed the GPS in my car didn’t have their priorities straight because coffee should come up as the first thing under points of interest. 

“A curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I am able to change”

~ Carl Rogers

  • I don’t know if it’s from my nomadic spirit or getting older and be more comfortable in my own skin but I find that I don’t get homesick when I travel abroad or on a long road trip; I do find I miss my kids and my friends. 
  • It’s interesting that one day the solitude is relaxing and very meditative and another day I can experience the real sense of loneliness from the same solitude and I’m trying to more fully understand what’s going on differently in those two moments. 
  • Guessing from the caution signs along the highway deer are much happier animals then elk or moose.  The deer are dancing on their hind legs while the sad elk and moose are just standing there. 
  • While walking a labyrinth in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico, I realized I need to go inward to find peace and go outward to share love.
  • I ate really healthy the entire road trip, with the one exception of a late night stop at In-and-Out Burger in California.  I didn’t feel so bad a couple days later when a vegan friend said that In-and-Out Burgers didn’t count as unhealthy because of how delicious they are!
  • I have some cool tips on how to make a tent for sleeping in your car; just ask me!
  • There is something very liberating driving without any GPS or even a map. 
  • I am in love with bridges! I’m sure there must be some deep symbolism there.
  • I think our tear ducts must be connected to our ears because sometimes when I hear someone’s voice over the phone I cry a little afterward… 
  • The border guard raised his eyebrows as he looked through my passport and said wow you travel a lot. And then he said you drove all the way to Whistler, British Columbia for a yoga festival??


  • From my summer of road trips, I have determined that I can live on $2.15 a day.  From visiting dozens and dozens of coffee shops from the gulf up to Nova Scotia across to San Diego and up to British Columbia, I have calculated the average cup of coffee is $2.15. These two facts are not unrelated.
  • I’ve got my two grocery bags of snacks in the front passenger seat. Every time I reach inside one to find something to eat, the airbag warning goes off and I think my car does not want me to be snacking too much. 
  • It’s nostalgic visiting some of the national parks.  I see young families and parents with kids on their shoulders or pushing a stroller and it takes me back to all the trips and vacations from when my four kids were little and some of the memories leak out of my eyes. 
  • Oh, and I wonder if our stroller is still at the Grand Canyon that we left there accidentally.  I do have to admit it was easier to replace the stroller than Michael’s retainer that we lost at the Hoover dam. 

I made Siri crash when I was driving through Seattle. I asked if there were any Starbucks nearby.

  • It’s amazing what deep insights come to you in life’s quiet moments, such as sitting in a meditation class in British Columbia, or driving across the plains of Montana; Or settling into sleep at a rest stop at 3 AM. Clarity will come to us if we pause and let stillness enter our mind and heart
  • It is interesting who you think about and miss when you are driving on a Highway 2,500 miles from home.  And crying alone in your car can be healthy. 
  • International travel tip #17 – when border patrol asks to see your passport, “don’t say which one?”
  • I would often find myself recalling memories of fun road trip’s as a kid or with my kids and I realized right now I am making tomorrow’s memories. So, I try to make each moment count and make each day special because I want to have more great memories when I look back at this time in my life.
  • I came upon this genius strategy for avoiding speeding tickets, it is kind of complicated so you might want to take notes. First you watch for the black and white sign on the side of the road that have large numbers on them and says ‘speed limit’. Now that’s the easy step; The second step is much more difficult but is essential, you apply this high- tech device in your car called ‘cruise control’ and you match the numbers on it with the numbers on the sign. (I developed this strategy after spending several hundred dollars not using this strategy).
  • Freedom is a full tank of gas and an empty bladder.
  • Shifting gears in my VW GTI through mountain passes with the sunroof open and the windows down and listening to Tom Petty cranked up loud is one of the best feelings in the world and is a great type of therapy. 
  • It’s interesting how as a child you would get homesick on a couple hour play date. then as you get older you would get homesick on an overnight slumber party. Then as a young adult you’d get homesick on a three or four-day business trip. As a parent with kids you get homesick on your two-week’s vacation. And I find myself now on long extended road trip’s not really getting homesick anymore.  maybe that’s the journey we are all on.  We eventually no longer get homesick.  We realize that home is not a place outside of us but rather a place within us.
  • Driving alone on a long road trip, eventually the audiobooks end and the radio station reception fades and you find yourself face to face with your own thoughts. All the bullshit fades away. Dark recesses find their way to the surface and you can’t avoid them.  Road trips are great at helping me to grow and be honest with myself.
  • There are kind and helpful people everywhere
  • You can get a good night sleep in the backseat of a VW GTI especially when you’re extremely tired
  • Some people in New York City will smile back
  • There are amazing bike trails everywhere waiting to be discovered
  • Even an extrovert can enjoy long stretches of solitude
  • Tornadoes aren’t just for the Midwest; I was in one in up State New York
  • Vermont may be one of the prettiest places I’ve run
  • Both the bed and the breakfast at a bed-and-breakfast are awesome (see earlier note about sleeping in my VW)
  • The state capital of Vermont is the only state capital without a McDonald’s I think that is awesome!! 
  • Seeing and hugging aunts you haven’t seen in 25 years is like hugging a part of your mom. And it’s okay for you both to cry.
  • Fellow travelers have amazing stories
  • Time can heal all wounds (I helped reconnect relatives who hadn’t spoken in 35 years) 
  • I really love biking around Manhattan (and just a note of caution it’s not just the yellow ones that don’t stop…)
  • A hot cup of truck-stop coffee at 5 AM can be a godsend (see previous note about sleeping in my VW)

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost…”

– JRR Tolkien, “The Hobbit”

  • When traveling alone my best friends are my running shoes, my backpack, my bike, and my journal
  • It can be very peaceful and fulfilling to wake up in the morning with no plans but knowing you are going to find some adventure 
  • You can miss those you love and still like being by yourself
  • Setting up your tent is a better way to make it rain than washing your car
  • Sleeping in my tent can be amazing (see previous note about my VW)
  • Sitting on the shore gazing out on the ocean and walking through a mountain forest trail may be the best kinds of church
  • I experienced seeing my youngest child for the first time in six months and reconnecting and laughing and holding space for each other. The wounds have not gone away but they are less raw and are turning to scars. It was a connection that has been dormant since the divorce almost 7 years ago.
  • Driving in Canada is fun. I like setting the digital display to kilometers in my car because I feel like I’m driving super-fast!
  • Canadians as a whole are very friendly. But not everybody is as talkative as me.
  • Satellite radio station 32 ‘The Bridge’ may be the perfect station for driving late at night or on an overcast rainy day – surpassed only by the silence of my own thoughts.
  • Standing by myself at Niagara Falls amidst the majesty and romance and surrounded by so many couples you realize it’s a perfect place to fall in love with yourself.
  • Standing at the falls, I wondered if fish lose their stomach or throw up when they go over the falls, kind of like a kid on a roller coaster.
  • What appears like an amazingly soft spot to put your tent can seem a lot harder in the middle of the night.
  • I’m not sure which is more rhythmically relaxing, sleeping to the sound of the ocean right outside your tent or the sound of a soft rain hitting the tent…. or maybe it’s both which I experienced together one night.
  • I visited an older man camping alone next to me. He and his wife had planned to travel across Canada for 4 months when she was retired this summer. Instead, she died of cancer a couple of months ago. He was still doing the trip to grieve and honor her wishes. My tent didn’t seem such a lonely place after that. I did cry though that night.
  • I was camped near a young family that shared a meal with me and we watched the sunset together. The previous day I was touched watching the mom and daughter doing yoga in the morning and then the mother and her son meditating that evening.  When I departed the campground, I gave my kite to the young brother and sister. I gave some prayer flags from Nepal to the mom. As I drove away, I could see the kite starting to rise and the parents were attaching the prayer flags to the front of their tent.
  • I did a two-hour whale watching boat trip guaranteed to see whales or your money back. An hour into the trip we saw a group of Pilot Whales. Everyone started cheering except me; I said “dammit there goes my free boat ride.”
  • I learned that you can drive all day with just coffee and popcorn to sustain you.
  • I wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions when I arrived in Nova Scotia and visited the town my grandfather was born and raised in, before he immigrated to Boston when he was 18. And I felt a special connection to my mom as I walked the rocky beaches where she spent her summers as a kid visiting her cousins. I know she was there beside me.
  • I’m learning that you can’t drive or bike or run away from your troubles because you carry them inside you. But I am learning that you can set them down once in a while.
  • I learned while spontaneous road trips are amazing, you have to really make sure your schedule is clear so you don’t end up driving 3,000 miles in 3 days to get back home.  “Adulting” can be hard. Trust me on this.

Have a great weekend and please let me know if you have any questions as we head into the last few days of the semester.




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