Episode 3

FOUR TIPS FOR REWARDING AND EXCITING DESTINATION-FREE ROAD TRIPS

By Kit Whistler

For the past seven years, I’ve traveled coast-to-coast in my 1976 VW bus named Sunshine. I am on fire to see, taste, and touch all of North America, so much so that I made road travel my full-time way of life. I drive in nomadic circles around this beautiful continent I know and love so well, exploring new corners of each and every state. I slowly zigzag my way east and west, north and south, flitting across state lines with no real destination in mind, observing the gorgeous details of America with wide eyes.

Which is why when people ask me to give them a list of my favorite places, the most majestic spots I’ve been, I don’t respond with a single locale or an epic destination. Instead, I say: “not here, not there.” It might sound strange, but I’ve fallen in love with the humble states that are rarely visited by tourists seeking a thrill.

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Every year, in my coast-to-coast journeying, I find some of my favorite moments in America’s heartland—the Plains. North Dakota, Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma. I love these humble places. They have brought me some of my most expansive and unexpected moments.

So, I bid any potential road-tripper, if you want to travel and travel well, head into your next adventure with these simple tips in mind, to find the pure joy of the in-betweens.

Skip the Highway
Let’s face it. When you take the freeway, the most you can hope to get in the way of adventure is a quirky truck stop (I love a good truck stop, but we’re talking about stepping outside of the norm here!). Think of the freeway as a portal to an end goal—and here we have no end goal. So take the back roads, the windy mountains, because that’s where the true adventure lies.

Visit “Boring” States
Yes—I am suggesting you go to Kansas. Not drive through Kansas, but take your time there. Cruise down the pin-straight roads, watch the sunset through cornfields, go to that small farming town and strike up conversations. When you visit the “big destinations,” you meet other tourists. When you visit real-life places, you gain a window into a piece of America. You open your mind to a new way of living as you travel over space and time.

Say Yes!
Road trips are an opportunity for expansion, for growth. Give new experiences the chance they deserve, even if they scare you—especially if they scare you! It’s amazing how many adventures will come your way when you are receptive. You may end up eating dinner at a stranger-turned-friend’s home, or dancing to polka in Minnesota. Possibilities are endless when your perspective is too.

Retain a Sense of Comfort
Feel free to create rituals or space for comfort in your travels. Whether that’s carrying a familiar scent, a photo of a loved one, or talking on the phone with friends—honor your need for familiarity. This makes it easier to say yes to those new possibilities!

The adventure of the unknown—finding paths without footsteps—I seek the corners of the US I haven’t read about in magazines or on blogs, but places stumbled upon by chance. What you learn on the road is that destinations are illusions. Any place can be a journey’s end.

Throughout the year, I’ll savor the center of this country of ours, letting the roads take me where they may. Another year, another freewheelin' cross-country excursion across America, without a destination.

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