Life has a special way of exhausting women.
When I took my first roadtrip in 2014, I was totally burnt out. Despite living two and a half decades as an overachieving do-gooder, my confidence was shot. The love I had for my work—gone. The love I had for myself—also gone. I'd always wanted to solo drive across the country. Despite a constant desire to be face down on the couch with my hand knuckle deep in popcorn, I needed to prove to myself that I was still a little wild. That I had even a bit of courage.
So I drove across the United States with my little dog Nuri. I watched the colors fade into dusk on empty freeways. I turned off my A/C to keep my car from overheating in the desert. I saw the depleted resevoirs, cobalt and ruby. My ears popped with elevation changes. I got stuck behind scraggly half wild sheep. I backed out of one lane streets to let other adventurers through. I dodged through lanes in LA and New York. I drove on asphalt and gravel and dirt.
Since then I've driven another cross country trip. I've driven coast to coast in Ireland on the other side of the road. I've driven up to Canada and back.
I went far. You can, too.
What follows is my gear set up and some tips that made my adventure fun and fruitful. Enjoy!
I grew up wind-whipped by the bottle green Atlantic, enjoying its bath warm summer water. Like many things on the East Coast, the Atlantic is on a schedule. The Pacific near San Francisco is rocky and cloying, full of cold riptides and blueness. It is a toothy smile of an ocean. Further down the coast, palm trees spring up and the water goes warm. This is an outsiders' picture of the Pacific, before one realizes it is a long and complicated body of water.
Depending on what you plan to do on your trip, you'll want to document in different ways. In case a grainy Android photo doesn't feel quite good enough, these are the cameras I've used or looked at using on the road. Check out some of the scenes Lee and I have collectively shot.
I'm low maintenence with my camera equipment. Because I like taking landscapes, I bought this lens. It's wide, light, and sharp, and it doesn't bow horizons like other wide lenses do. Way smaller than the lens that comes with the Oly and worth the investment.
There's a special intimacy here, a closeness to nature and a love of craft. Even in the summer I find myself hungry for rain, understanding that the lushness of this place comes from months and months of water. I want to approach life this way: as an ecosystem of drizzle, rivers and bays. I want to understand that trees only grow rings from all of this complexity.
Outfitting the chariot is sort of fun. Besides tasty snacks (don't rely on goldfish for everything, maybe throw in a dried mango or fresh berry once in a while) here are the things that made my ride classy as heck. PS. Keep emergency water in your car, I'd say a gallon or two. You never know...
Long hours in the car also means lots of podcasts and audiobooks. Here's a spread of books that kept me awake and not weeping as I passed the 36th mile of cornfield and/or stripmall. I bought on Amazon and used Audible to play them. Definitely buy a few in advance; you can laugh maniacally along to lol essays when you have no cell service.
This is super useful when you need to charge more than your phone. Great for laptops, camera batteries and anything else you've squeezed all the battery outta. And, it fits neatly in your cupholder! Just a word of warning, do NOT leave this plugged in when your car isn't running. It will drain your car battery and then you'll definitely have to use that AAA membership.
I like vent mounts because they're pleasantly at eye level. There are some cheaper knockoffs floating around, but this one has sturdy materials, which I'll gladly pay the extra 5 bucks for. If you don't live in a break-in city (lololol SF) there's a nice option to leave a lightning cable attached in the back as well. I believe this works for both vertical and horizontal vents. There are also magnetic options, but I like my phone naked so I didn't want to stick a metal disk to the back. I have enough issues with the number of materials on the iPhone6 as it is! (design snob, over and out)
Perhaps you've already read it. Gone Girl makes a great car book if you haven't, because it's instantly entertaining and full of suspense. This one definitely kept me from drowsing with its eerie psychological thrills. May or may not have been screaming the whole time.
"On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River."
Lel. David Sedaris is essay-bae. I've listened to his first essay about owls a hundred times. I've read his essays, too, but his voice gives his stories an extra charm.
"From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new collection of essays taking his listeners on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler's experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist's shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten."
This boook was horrifying. Before listening to it, I didn't know much about North Korea save the few snippets I heard in the news. After that debacle of a 'movie' The Interview, I wanted to learn a bit more about what's actually true. This is a deeply intimate account of life inside North Korea's borders.
"As North Korea's State Poet Laureate, Jang Jin-sung led a charmed life. With food provisions (even as the country suffered through its great famine), a travel pass, access to strictly censored information, and audiences with Kim Jong-il himself, his life in Pyongyang seemed safe and secure. But this privileged existence was about to be shattered. When a strictly forbidden magazine he lent to a friend goes missing, Jang Jin-sung must flee for his life."
Mindy Kaling is one of my favorites. She's bold, honest and a bit silly when the occasion calls for it. Her essays are refreshing and very funny, and she's great at reading.
"Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck-impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence "Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I'll shut up about it?""
Our new young America is obsessed with permanence. We want fame that lasts more than 15 minutes and legacies permanently burned to disk. It's an obsession peculiar to the young, this idea that anything can last forever. Preservation is a wish for long memory. Even as we succeed to keep walls standing, I look at our current political climate and think we are so forgetful. A wish unfulfilled.
If you're travelling with your fur kid(s), there's lots of gear to make your life infinitely easier. Especially if you have a harbinger of the hairpocalypse like I do. He's cute, though. So furry and so cute. Better to mop up the tears with when I'm vacuuming late into the night.
I packed Nuri's food in a few ziplocs so I wouldn't have to tote a giant bag of food every night. Don't forget some old towels to wipe off adventures and a blanket for your bebe to cuddle with.
This thing is magic. Through barf, mud, salt water and 30 tons of snowdog hair, this trusty car hammock has protected my poor backseat. If you need to get fancy and entertain human passengers, you can fold these easily to the side or unhook the front seat buckles. There's even little velcro slots where you can slip seatbelts through, which is an important safety plus. The quality and stitching are plenty durable.
Nuri wears a harness and doesn't move around much, but this keeps him from bashing into the front seats if I have to brake suddenly. Pretty simple. Great if you have a dog who wants to leap outta the car every time you open the door. Comes two to a pack if you want to extend it super long or have two furbeasts.
When we're in cities, I'll get a bit lax with Nuri's tick and flea protection, but in the country it's mandatory. Last time Nuri was in Connecticut he picked up 3 ticks in a week. :X. Frontline. It works and lasts for a month. Make sure you get the right size for your pooch.
Nuri is really bad at picking up his crumbs, so Dentastix make a great clean car treat...if you can bear looking at the creepy human toothed dog. They last for more than one millisecond, cause a pup has to chew. Plus, they make his breath a little less kickin' when he picks up a little unintentional trail mix, if you know what I mean.
Especially on the streets of Savannah, untouched by Civil War gunfire, I find it's much the same. There are gravestones so old they're blank, plaques with names of old white men duelling with pistols, and houses registered with historical societies. Traditions go back to the 1700s and we marvel as if this is ancient. We can't help but read only the salt from recent tides. There haven't been enough waves to understand that our tide is one of a hundred. We are by far not the first to inhabit this land, and we certainly won't be the last.
The best part of a solo roadtrip is the space. The space to feel like a human being in context of rumbling clouds, big mountains and tall pines. Besides caring for your equipment needs and filling your belly, there is some spirit work to be done. These are some of the things that help me zone into myself.
Burning herbs is a cleansing practice found all over the world. Sage is traditional to Native American and Celtic cultures. Be warned that this is the biggest pack of sage you'll ever buy. I gave half to a friend and still have tons. Even if you don't believe in the purifying aspects of it, scent is powerful. Scent can bring back focus in an instant.
This book changes everything. Even if you're not into the woo-spirit land, Clarissa Pinkola Estés is poetic and tells lots of rich fables. My underlined copy is one of my most treasured possessions. Reading it on the road helped me gain so much clarity into my past and step into a more at peace future. Helps release the wolf in you.
I remember living by the calendar and dressing for the seasons. I remember the smell before it snows and the first daffodils of Spring. There is something to be said for weather as a universal experience, the old 'why, isn't it hot today!' that gives two people an immediate common ground. This is something I miss dearly in mercurial San Francisco.
These are the services I used to plan my trip. As of my last update of this site, there isn't one good tool to do so.
Pinterest's map boards are quite buggy and hard to use on the road. However, it's a powerful tool in the early stages of planning. I found a few cute boutique hotels and restaurants this way. Lots of people have roadtrip boards you can peruse. Nuri and I have one for our cross country trip and our PNW trip.