Hit the Road, Jane

10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Do

by Lisa

You feel the call of the open road. You want to pack up your car, step on the gas, and leave your normal life behind — for a little while, anyway. You want to experience the world…or at least as much as you can get to on four wheels.

I’ve been there, and you know what? I did it. Solo. It’s possible, doesn’t have to be expensive, and is a million percent worth it. Before you make the big decision and set out, however, here are ten questions to ask yourself. Be honest with your answers, and before you know it, you could be re-creating Kerouac’s On the Road — with your own 21st Century girl style.

  1. Do I Want To Bring Anyone Along? Are you yearning for a living by-your-own-wits, completely independent solo adventure? Or do you want to share the experience? Think carefully about this question. Having a road-trip companion can be great, but spending hours with the same person — even someone you adore — in the confines of a car can drive anyone to the brink of crazy. Just make sure everyone is on board — with the plans, the goals, and the budget — and make a pact to be extra considerate of each other before you go.
  2. How Much Time Do I Have? Are you going for a week? A month? Six months? How much time you have will dictate how far you can get, what kind of a budget you’ll need…and whether anyone else has that kind of time to go along. Short trips are a way to get your feet wet without committing to a lengthy journey, but longer ones are the only way to really transform a road trip from a vacation into an experience…and will help create a better balance between driving and doing.
  3. What’s My Budget? Road-tripping can be a really inexpensive way to travel. Yes, gas prices are tough, but aside from that it’s simple to eat cheaply, and if you are willing to stay with friends, in cheap motels, or, better yet, to camp, your road-trip dollar will go far. Think carefully about how much money you can save and how much you’re willing to spend per day. (I did my six week trip on an average of $81/day, and I probably could have shaved that even further!)
  4. What’s the State of My Transportation? Do you have a car? Is it in good condition? Do you know how to handle minor issues, and do you have a service like AAA to call for major ones? It’s a good idea to have your mechanic give your car a once over before any big trip, and especially important for a long-term road trip.
  5. Where Do I Want To Go? Do you want to head across the country, or do you want to stay closer to home? Maybe there’s a particular road you want to travel (route 66? The Pacific Coast Highway?) or activities you’re interested in (southern BBQ, National Parks, haunted places). Decide what your trip is about…what the theme will be…and go from there.
  6. Where Can I Stay? Once you know where you’re going, take a look at what’s available for lodgings. Are the hotels and motels within your budget? Campgrounds where you can pitch your tent? Or maybe…
  7. Who Do I Know? …you could crash with friends. People are surprisingly willing to open up their homes when you’re passing through on an adventure like this. I was floored that even relatively minor acquaintances, when they heard I was driving around the country, offered to let me sleep on their futons and couches. They want to be a part of your adventure…so let them!
  8. What Do I Need To Bring? The answer to this question depends on what you’ll be doing, how long you’ll be on the road, and what the weather will be like. Make sure you consider equipment you’ll need to buy if, for example, you’re camping and hiking. Also, there’s a temptation to overpack on a road trip since you can just cram everything into your trunk. Take it from me that you should treat this like any trip, try not to overpack, plan to wash clothes while you’re on the road, and be organized about packing and storage.
  9. Can I Keep Myself Entertained? If you’re going alone, think hard about whether you like being alone. Sure, you’ll meet people on the road, you might visit friends, but there will be long hours in a car with only the radio for company. There are plenty of ways to keep from being bored, and the excitement and freedom of being out on the road can trump brief bouts of boredom, however, so don’t worry if it makes you a little nervous.
  10. Am I Brave, Confident, Independent? Do I Want To Be? Solo road-tripping — particularly for women — can be a scary endeavor to contemplate. Many women I’ve talked to about road-tripping express concern for their safety, or worry that they wouldn’t be able to handle things on their own. They’re wrong. They can, and so can you…and figuring that out about yourself is freeing, invigorating, and teaches you something about yourself along the way.