Family road trips are a common occurrence, but setting out on one as a teenager is a must. It’s a chance to chat, sing, and explore the world in a way like no other. A trip I took between my sophomore and junior year of college still provides great memories of freedom more than 30 years later!
Plan?! We Don’t Need No Stinking Plan!
That’s right. Our sophomore year had ended and my friend Kelly and I were driving to Rockford, IL. We packed the car with all our worldly belongings and headed out. No plans for route, no hotel reservations made, and no real idea of what we were doing. We also didn’t tell parents where we’d be going. It’s amazing the amount of freedom this provides. Everyone knew our final destination, but how we were getting there and exactly when, were two things we left to fortune! We found the following to be key on our trip (and I still pack them now):
- Twizzlers (strawberry and cherry flavored)
- A stuffed co-pilot.
- A camera
- Chips or some other salty snack
A Taste of Adventure
On our way out, we drove til well after dark and found ourselves in Erie, PA with no place to spend the night. We knew we couldn’t be choosy. Our guidebook indicated a Best Western just off the highway (remember this was years before GPS and smart phones) and we took a chance. After checking in, we headed to the restaurant decorated with plastic fencing and hundreds of bunches of plastic grapes covered in dust. We still laugh about the sole other diner, a priest sitting behind a very large glass of wine. We chattered on about our plans under his watchful eye, then spent the rest of the night wondering what in the world had brought him there. We were awakened the next morning by what sounded like explosions and the room shaking around us. A quick look out the window revealed that the entire north half of the motel was being demolished! Funny how we didn’t notice that when we pulled in. No wonder they had available rooms.
Freedom Is Amazing!
We made it to IL and enjoyed our brief visit, then headed back to Boston. This time we knew to avoid the Best Western in Erie. A Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge was our stop… it had a pool, and Joey’s International Pizza across the street. Jackpot! Again, there were very few guests, but neither of us had ever been in a pool that big. We called Joey’s and ordered delivery, then discovered a juke box and filled it with coins and all our favorite songs. We spent a good 2 hours or more singing along to our favorites, swimming, eating pizza, and enjoying the fact that no one we knew actually knew where we were! It just felt so grown up and adventurous. Kelly and I still chat about that trip so long ago. A great memory and a great time with someone who would eventually become a lifelong friend.
These days the open road, and big cities are a bit more treacherous, and with GPS and smart phones everywhere, it’s tough to get lost and truly explore. But heading out without plans and allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy life as you find it on the road is still a huge attraction. I recommend it. Just use an app to make certain you’re safe!
Two Great Trip Planning Apps So You Can Plan “a little“
Tourist Eye – Helps you find cool destinations where you’re going
Other Travel Articles by Madeline Anderson-Balmer
Tips for Renting a Car in England
Three Forts to Hike Near Portsmouth, NH
Safety Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Your Dog