I think it was Thailand where I first really, truly fell in love with road tripping. Unsatisfied with what Chiang Rai had to offer, we set off on a rickety scooter to explore some of the more remote towns and villages in Northern Thailand. We may have only been gone for 3 days, but that short road trip has stuck with me more than any other part of my time in Thailand. Not because it had the most beautiful landscapes or because there were tons of exciting things to do. Because compared to other places I had visited, this region of Thailand was a little lacking in that department. But it was something about the freedom, the lack of a plan and the unexpected places we stumbled upon that made that time so incredibly special.
Since then I hit the road whenever I could, exploring New Zealand by campervan and taking a road trip around the Sabah state in Borneo. And so in honour of that, here are 5 reasons to make your next trip a road trip.
Getting Off the Beaten Track
Of course we all want to see the tourist hotspots – Angkor Wat, Bangkok’s Grand Palace, Milford Sound. But whilst I have visited those places and been blown away by all of them, they weren’t the moments that stuck with me. Those moments happened somewhere inbetween.
They happened in the tiny Chinese noodle shop in Mae Salong, at the tea plantation high in the mountains of Borneo and whilst I was marvelling at the Clay Cliffs in Omarama. All places that weren’t my intended destination, that I stumbled across somewhere along the way to wherever I was headed, and all places that turned out to be highlights of the trip.
This is the very best part of a road trip – the ability to stop and explore unexpected places. An opportunity to see people, places and cultures that you would not otherwise have even known existed.
There is nothing on Earth that brings me more happiness than the feeling of absolute freedom. Waking up in the morning without a plan, picking up a map and heading in whichever direction I fancy. Unlike public transport where you are bound to strict schedules and certain routes, when you are on the road you are your own boss, free to devise your own schedule and explore at leisure.
For me that means travelling slowly, spending a few days or even weeks in a place before deciding to move on when I’ve had enough. Or changing my plans at the last moment because I’ve just met someone who told me about an amazing place I absolutely have to see.
The Getting Lost is the Best Part
With all that flexibility, its hardly surprising that you find yourself lost more often than not (or is that just me?) But I mean it when I say it’s the best part. Whether on purpose or accidental, there is nothing quite like the excitement of heading into the unknown.
Back on our Thai road trip, we found ourselves driving down a side street in a strange city with absolutely no idea of where we were headed. And what resulted from that was a drive along one of my favourite roads of all time. Yes there were stressful moments – getting pulled over by armed guards with machine guns, driving on a poorly maintained road along the top of a cliff and having no idea of where we would end up and when we would be getting there – but that drive is also stored away as one of my absolute fondest memories.
“Its About the Journey, Not the Destination”
Yes I know it’s such a cliché. But when it comes to road tripping its sooo true!
When you are travelling you have to get from A to B somehow. That journey can either be something you dread, something to be endured (I’m looking at you long haul flights and night buses) OR you can make it into something enjoyable. By doing it yourself of course.
Instead of climbing into a seat, pulling out headphones and an eye mask and trying your best to block the whole thing out, a road trip makes the journey itself the enjoyable part. You’re free to admire the scenery, sing at the top of your lungs to whatever cheesy music as you like, eat lunch somewhere spectacular and stop every few metres for yet another photo.
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
I could never get bored of travel no matter how easy it was. But I don’t think it should be easy. For me, travel should be about putting yourself out there, getting out of your comfort zone and dealing with whatever challenges are thrown your way. And nowhere is that more true than on the road.
I’ve certainly had my fair share of ‘uncomfortable’ experiences. Dealing with petrol scares on deserted roads in Borneo, those terrifying armed guards in Thailand and a night in a van being rocked violently by the wind after getting stranded at the top of Arthurs Pass. To name just a few.
And it was even more true when I was road tripping New Zealand in a campervan where our vehicle became much more than just a method of transportation – it was our home, the place we cooked, ate and slept. We had to cope with sparse campsite facilities or no facilities at all. And yet it was these journeys that I remember more than the times I have flown between places and stayed in fancy hotels for the sheer fact they were rougher and more exciting than anything else I had done.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this post then please share with your friends or pin for later 🙂 And stay tuned for more road trip adventures including a detailed series on my two weeks road trip around New Zealand’s South Island.