An ode to the road trip: ‘Be spontaneous, impulsive. Turn left instead of right’ | Safe is the new bold

August 17, 2020

“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road,” wrote Jack Kerouac in his 1957 novel On the Road.

I may have missed the Beat Generation, but my 1970s childhood did prepare me for a life of road trips. We used to drive everywhere. Sightseeing in central London, day trips to the countryside, in Britain or abroad – we’d drive it all.

I would often be bundled into the boot of our family estate car with the luggage, and my father would drive one-handed as he lit cigarette after cigarette and we covered mile after mile. It was a different time of course and today we, rightly, take our health and our safety rather more seriously. Our roads and our cars are safer than ever, with high tech features to feed us valuable information and make driving easier and more relaxing.

But what hasn’t changed is the romance of the road trip. The freedom that Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise craved, the dream of the open road, the escape from the everyday that, even in the 21st century, only independent car travel can truly offer.

Now, more than ever, with international travel restrictions and insurance tangles, embracing the road trip and staying closer to home is the safer bet, and possibly the wiser choice.

And don’t think of it as second best. Years of cheap foreign travel mean many Britons have never explored their native land and its natural and cultural wonders. Did you know that Merthyr Mawr in south Wales is home to Europe’s second largest sand dune? That the North Coast 500 is Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66? That a stunning drive across the North York Moors can lead you to possibly the UK’s best fish and chips at The Magpie Cafe in Whitby?

When you take a road trip, your route is your own. Go from A to B via C and D if you wish. Your destination isn’t determined by landing fees or passenger demand.

Your time is your own. No two hours for check-in, no need to plan around a train timetable. Go when it suits you. Stop when it suits you. You can be spontaneous, impulsive. Turn left instead of right. Break for coffee. Climb Helvellyn.

Eat where and when you wish – a village tearoom or a Michelin-starred restaurant. After all, it was Michelin that invented the original guidebook in 1900, with the rationale that if people drove more, they’d need tyres more often.

Pack what you like, not what fits in an overhead locker or can be manhandled along a station platform.

Avoid the crowds. No more standing in line at security with hundreds of others breathing down your neck. And only take your shoes off if you want to. Your car is your isolation bubble, where you and your family are protected.

Enjoy your own personal space. Spread out and adjust your seat with no armrest animosity. Set the temperature to your liking, or open the sunroof and take in the air.

And if you seek entertainment, what a choice you have. With a smartphone paired to your car’s infotainment system the options for music, audiobooks, games and videos (for passengers only of course) are limitless. The ever-changing view from the window was all I had as a child, and hours would pass as I daydreamed about when I would be the one behind the wheel.

Ever since that day arrived, I have never found myself bored when I’m driving. Even on the longest of motorway hauls I find it easy to maintain focus, by making every manoeuvre a challenge, every lane-change so smooth the passengers won’t notice and keeping a keen eye on other road users to anticipate any issues.

Modern cars have plenty of advanced technology to help here, keeping you and your passengers well-protected. For manufacturers such as Subaru, which has always put safety at the heart of its business, clever systems to stop you drifting out of your lane or getting too close to the car in front are the culmination of decades of development. You’re still in control, but with a helping hand. Safety gives you the confidence to be adventurous, and creates a haven to return to when the adventure ends.

I have driven vast distances alone in all manner of cars. But the best road trips are those shared with friends and family. The time spent in conversations that take as many turns as the road. The podcasts that become talking points for years to come. The discoveries of new music or rediscoveries of old tracks. The hidden gems you find along the way, whether a detour to dip in a lake or a first taste of black pudding at a roadside cafe. Even wrong turns only add to the experience – in retrospect, at least.

Road trips make memories, give you tales to tell and inspire others to follow in your tracks. Finally, when you do reach your destination, there is a sense of achievement of having got there independently and safely.

And the best part is that you get to do it all again on the way home.

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Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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