Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Loving the Open Road

my sister and my cousin in our mobile home
(summer, 1996 - location: aosta, italy)

A road trip is often more about the journey itself rather than it is about the destination.

As a child, I learned to appreciate the joys of traveling by car. My father hates to fly (with "hate" actually being a euphemism for "absolutely terrified"), so any place we would go to as a family would have to be accessible by land. So while I've had my share of plane rides growing up, I find that I still have a soft spot for long drives to distant places.

Despite the butt-numbing, leg-cramp-inducing torture of an hours-long drive, I'm convinced that it's still a great way to travel.

I've never actually driven farther than Batangas myself, but I have been on several long-haul trips with friends in recent years. The summer after internship, my blockmates and I made the grueling 13-hour trip to Ilocandia by bus. Once already there, we set about to exploring the territory with borrowed vehicles, guided by two friends native to the region. The time-consuming drives were definitely made faster by the great company and lots of laughter. Travel by car is, hands down, great bonding time.

block J and friends at Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte (summer, 2004)

While quality time with friends and family is a great reason to travel by car, for me the best thing about traveling by road is discovering places you never would have found otherwise. On one of my most memorable road trips ever, my uncle rented a mobile home and took my cousins, siblings, and me on an unforgettable, meandering drive from Aachen, Germany all the way south to Rome, Italy - with a stop at Pisa, Florence, and Paris along the way. We would park from camping ground to camping ground - all located in remote, unknown pockets of beauty in the European countryside.

When people ask me about that summer trip to Europe, they marvel at our unconventional itinerary - because despite being there a month, we weren't able to hit all the "must-see places." But I'm pretty sure that people who do "the grand tour" to cover all the highlights have not been treated to the gorgeous sight of Tuscany countryside in the early spring; or the breathtaking view of a medieval castle on top of a verdant mountain, its spires rising above the mist. That trip was, without a doubt, an awesome experience I would love to relive again.

our Europe road crew sans our driver (summer, 1996)

Any long-distance trip by car requires a good deal of patience and eyes on the goal. It also requires a healthy sense of humor - most needed when faced with the inevitable mishaps that crop up along the way, given the lengthy travel time and the many factors out of one's control. The best way to enjoy any road trip is to simply embrace every experience, making every one taken a life lesson in itself.

As I look back at my career as a budding wanderlust, I find that when armed with great company, the right attitude,and an openness to take detours along the way, going by open road can be the best way to see the world. And - at the expense of mixing my metaphors - when you choose to take the journey, finding yourself at a destination well-worth the trip ends up as merely icing on a really amazing cake.

worth the 12-hour journey
(caramoan, camarines sur)

So what are you waiting for? Gear up, tune your cars, and get going!


For the 5th edition of TBR - "I know what you did last summer" at Doc Ness' place.


Ness said...

Great Clairebear! Thanks!

Manggy said...

That looks like so much fun, Dr. Claire! :) I find, though, that I actually like being in a strange place on my own, and I like the company of strangers/ new friends.

OMG, that's asking for trouble isn't it!?!

Panaderos said...

A lot of towns have so called "well kept secrets", sights that are either pretty or worth seeing that such towns have managed to kept from the prying eyes of tourists for years. Such are examples of sights one sees on long drives.

In addition, people in such places are friendlier to tourists than those in places deluged by tourists. Ironic? Yes. :)

MerryCherry, MD said...

I like making detours also and going to the 'not-so-usual' tourist spots. Madami kasi surprises :)

Btw, please join the TBR 6th ed: Philippine Healthcare System. Details here.

Ness said...

Doc Clairebear,

I wanna go there! I wanna go there! ... Tuscany countryside in the early spring...the medieval castle on top of the verdant mountain, spires rising in the mist...

Mari said...

i like aimless road trips hehehe. the europe tour certainly looks fun.

Diane Scott said...

When I was little we traveled up and down the east coast and into Canada by car, and eventually pulling a camper. While in the moment kids might not fully appreciate every moment, I am so glad we did! As an adult, believe it or not, but my dream is to get a motor home and just travel the country again. With a satellite hookup I'd be good to go :)

Thanks for a fun reminder!

Marjie said...

aaahhhh...there's nothing like a family travel vacation. I've missed those moments since I've been away from families for so long, but I still have my hopes up for the future. Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer vey-key....:)


dr_clairebear said...

@everyone: sorry if i haven't replied! things happening. :)

i love, love, love road trips. and i love, love, love secret tourist spots.

one thing i hope to learn to develop as a genuine traveler is that the following statement be true of me:

"A tourist is someone who goes to affirm his own vision of the world. A traveler is someone who goes to discover another version of the world that opposes his own."

seriously, whenever i go on my all-to-rare gala trips, the song i always hear in my head is...
"... and i say to myself... what a wonderful world."

megamomph said...

I like your tourist vs traveler quote. Now here's hoping you can take the same metaphor and use it for LIFE in general (and not just travels). ;) You know what I mean.