Saturday, July 27, 2013

Roads Less Traveled

In the New York Times last Sunday, the travel section featured an article ‘To See America, Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist’, which focused on the pleasures to be gained from leaving the interstates and taking the back roads.

Woodstock Middle Bridge, Vermont - you wouldn't see this on the interstate!
As someone who often takes back roads rather than major highways even while doing daily chores, this article resonated with me.
Get on a major road and there is a tendency to think only of the destination rather than the journey, the latter being something that has to be suffered through rather than enjoyed. The scenery, spectacular as it may be, whizzes by and there is little opportunity to discover anything about the area you are passing through.

I enjoy long car journeys. If I need to get somewhere, say ten hours away, I’d much rather drive than fly, but whereas for most people the journey would be treated as a one day endurance event to be completed as quickly as feasible via the interstate, I’d be looking at alternative routes and ways to break up the journey.

Wilmington, Vermont (a lunch stop)
I might take two days, which reduces the daily driving to a much more reasonable proposition. Start early on day one and drive for two to three hours and stop to explore a small town en route. Maybe the stop will just be for a quick walk and lunch, but perhaps there might be a historic site to visit or a museum. Then back in the car for another two or three hours and a stop for the night – not in a generic highway motel but in a town or village where local inns offer charming and friendly accommodations often at a price far less than their roadside counterparts. The next day the remainder of the leisurely journey is broken up with another midday stop.  

I can hear the cries of "but it takes so long” and “I only have a week’s vacation” but when you consider that instead of spending a whole day stuck inside a car with the tension mounting as you strive to reach your destination, you could have discovered three places you would have otherwise missed, passed small scale beauty invisible from the highway, and had a chance to meet people whose daily lives and concerns may be so different from your own, to me the ten hour dash sounds like madness. Yes, you may lose a day of time at the ultimate destination (two if you repeat the process at both ends of the trip) but the journey will be part of the vacation rather than a necessary evil before you can enjoy it.

What do you think? Are you a leisurely traveler, do you like to get to your destination as fast as possible, or would you never travel long distances by road?

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