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January 5th, 2009

How to take a road trip with no predetermined destination

"Every time I do this, something personal and special happens."

How I did it: One of my favorite things to do is ride around by myself with no set destination in mind - I often find new ways of getting places or discover spots I never would have found in my normal travels.  These have included an old, abandoned school built in 1907, a hauntingly beautiful cemetery from the mid-1850s, to what was left of a long-gone plantation I'd been studying for many years; that's just to name a few!

Personally, these are day trips for me - I've never done an overnighter by myself; though I'd like to one day.  Planning a quick one- or two-night trip with friends, family, or a special someone is fun, too, as long as your companion(s) don't mind driving aimlessly (my fiancĂ©, for example, abhors it so he's out as a ride-a-long).

When you have a totally free day pack a lite lunch, some fresh water, your cell phone, camera, notepad/pen, and a full tank of gas.  That's all you really need for a day-time mini-adventure on the open road.

Choose the general vicinity you'd like to drive around in.  Sometimes I choose a certain parish (county) to go to, a specific site/attraction to start at, or just a general road to begin on (i.e. the River Road that follows the levees in southern Louisiana is ripe with scenery and old attractions).  There are times, too, I just take off with no set place in mind.  Do what feels right for you, just make sure there is no set plan; the excitement comes when you are in an unfamiliar place and find something new, exciting, and/or intriguing.  Sometimes you just find a new way back to where you started - it's never a bad idea to know of new shortcuts or drive-arounds!

Even without all of the planning, just "getting away" can be a good idea to blow off some steam and have some time to think.

It may sound silly, but driving around by yourself with no set destination is extremely calming and centering.  Try to find out-of-the-way roads where you won't be hampered by traffic.  You don't have to stop at all - just drive and drive while listening to your favorite music; it can be just what you need to get your head back on straight and your thoughts in order.

Remember to always drive safely; if you are upset or extremely angry, it might not be the best idea to be on the road.  Wait until you calm down some before getting in the car to drive around and calm the rest of the way down.

The key is to remember that you don't have to be or go anywhere. The freedom comes in being behind the wheel without a set destination for once; that alone can be a very freeing feeling. 

Lessons & tips: For my personal, little day trips here are a few suggestions:

1) Have no set plans/idea of where you want to go or end up.

2) Have maps in your car, but don't look at them unless absolutely necessary.

3) It helps to have a general idea of where you are but no solid knowledge of the area "around" what you know - that way you're not *too* lost!

4) If you find yourself in an unsafe area, turn around and don't stop or get out.

5) Be friendly but cautious.  I've met some great folks in my travels and heard some cool stories - but never talk to people you don't feel comfortable around.  Listen to your gut; it'll never steer you wrong.

6) If you're a rigid, scheduled, or "by the rules" person, try to let all of that go for just one day and let the freedom of the road - and the excitement of surprise - take you.  You'll enjoy your trip so much more if you do.

7) Take your time!  Make sure you don't need to be back home at a certain time and that no one is waiting on you.  Enjoy your day without any pressure or stress to end it too early or "not go so far out".

8) Look for scenic highways or old roads; these are usually treasure troves of old places, beautiful scenery, and history.

9) Don't be afraid to stop, get out of the car, and look around.  If the area you are in is safe, take time to get a better look at the scenery, place, attraction, etc.

Resources: 1) A cell phone is a must in case of emergency; though I do suggest turning it off or silencing calls so your time is just for you!  If you need to talk on the phone, pull over on the side of the road to do so - talking and driving simply is not safe, especially on roads or in areas you are not familiar with.

2) Full tank of gas, at least $20 in cash, and/or a credit or gas card - sometimes you find a neat little souvenir shop, antique store, or cafe you'd like to buy something at

3) You could bring a camera, a notepad and pen, and/or a camcorder if you like.  Document your day and take notes when you feel appropriate.  I often jot notes of things I come across so that I can look them up when I get home.  However, don't feel obligated to do any of these things; just let the day take you.

4) If you're female and traveling alone, it's always a good idea to

have a fresh, working can of Mace with you at all times - not just


5) Bring some water and a lite snack in case you get hungry and can't find a suitable place to eat.

It took me 1 day.

It made me Feel free.

One Response to “How to take a road trip with no predetermined destination”

  1. Tom Hudson
    Tom Hudson says:

    I've done this and been so thankful for the experience each and every time I've done it.

    My last one, though did have a destination in mind, but it was really random, and it was a joy to do it on my own, on my own time: Texas Monthly did an article on the best roadside cafes in Texas: most of them were in far-out rural areas, and I wanted to see some of them. Three were within driving distance for a full-day day trip. I started out early, then made my way to the first and had an early lunch; the second one was about two hours later, and I had a piece of cherry pie. Had dinner at the third one and ended up home pretty darn late. I didn't really have any agenda other than seeing these three places somewhere I'd never been before. Along the way, I saw/encountered more things than I have time or inclination to recount.

    but I love wandering. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and allowing me to share mine.

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