Health

Road tripping: Why I find happiness on the highway

What is it that we love about road trips? Theoretically, they shouldn’t be as much fun as they are: you’re in close quarters for lengthy chunks of time, you’re away from the comforts of home and you’re touring unfamiliar terrain.

road trip image

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What is it that we love about road trips? Theoretically, they shouldn’t be as much fun as they are: you’re in close quarters for lengthy chunks of time, you’re away from the comforts of home and you’re touring unfamiliar terrain.

But we love them, don’t we? I’m just coming off a week of road tripping through southwestern Ontario, visiting family after family. And next to, say, jaunts to the Caribbean or jetting off to Europe, road trips are my vacation of choice. It’s how I spent my honeymoon 11 years ago — my new husband and I packed a tiny blue Hyundai full with suitcases, Matt Good and Beastie Boys CDs, granola bars and more, then hit the road for a two-week tour to Canada’s beautiful east coast. The following year, we headed out in the Hyundai again, this time for a three-week road trip the other way, west to Victoria and back across the country on the TransCanada Highway.

I can’t figure out what it is about these trips that’s so appealing. Is it the multiple pit stops to Tim Hortons for large regular coffees? Is it the freedom that the road offers? Is it the chance to zone out and stare through the window, watching new scenes fly by? Is it the strange motels and curious little restaurants that could be local gems? Or maybe it’s the unique sites you uncover along the way — such as the Ben & Jerry’s factory that we found on our honeymoon, or the stretches and stretches of prairie on our west-coast drive. 

It’s all of that.  And it’s also the conversation involved. Sometimes the car is silent — everyone just stares out as you putter along. But at other times, conversations run deeper — like the download about what a marriage meant to us that my husband and I had on our honeymoon trip, or our talk about what we were looking for in a house and how we figured out where to live, which happened on the highway north of Lake Superior. 

These days, our road trips look different. We now have two small children in tow and we work overtime to convince them about the wonders of the road trip. We’ve bypassed the in-car DVD in hopes that they too will come to stare out the window and ask questions, take in the scenery, talk to us about…well, whatever is on their minds. We’re not totally crazy — we do come armed with bags of toys, a convenience store’s worth of snacks and an iPod full of Sesame Street songs and chapter books for when things in our Toyota Matrix get a little nutty. And of course we stop more now for potty trips, playground run-arounds and more. 

But the charm of these car rides continues for my family and me. Only now we make up trip playlists, pack the snacks together and make maps of the drives. That’s what makes for a happy road trip in our car when we head out in those closed quarters, away from our comforts of home and heading, excitedly, through unfamiliar terrain.   

Want more happiness news? Follow me on Twitter @AstridVanDenB

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