I travel......a lot.
Proof? My trusty '99 Lexus LX470 just passed the 470,000 mile mark. I know. And before you gear heads start saying, "Yeah, three transmissions later!" Nope - the only thing new is the A/C. And that had to go, of course, when I was riding through Arizona in 115 degree heat. Luckily, I found a Starbucks and ordered three Venti ice waters. I put the cold cup against my neck and behind my ear (where your temperature receptors are), and when it melted, I drank the water and readied the next Venti cup. Eventually, that got me all the way to the next repair station and hotel room, where I cranked the A/C down to a blissful 68 degrees.
And that brings me to this post - there are lots of travel blogs out there, whether they come from TV stars like longtime host Rick Steves, or from entrepreneurial young woman who document their favorite trip moments and thoughts on platforms like Instagram. You know, people who fly to their destinations. Not that I don't enjoy the convenience of flight, but I'm often on a photo shoot, and need all of my gear in easy access. Imagine checking all of that baggage, which is more than even I and my assistant can hold at once. No way. I put miles behind me, baby - and I've been doing it for years.
Now, as I embark on more photo shoots than ever with my new magazine in Austin, Texas (Welcome 2 Austin), I'm sharing my trips and tips for all of you who feel the pull of the open road. I'm not saying I'm your only source - but I've got miles behind me like some guys have knotches in their belts (and I've got a few of those, too). If you enjoy tales from Road Warriors as much as I do, then set your alarms to Wednesdays. Here we go.
Highwayman: The Romantic Idea of Roaming the Open Road
A highwayman, technically, was a robber who roamed the roads between villages on horseback. I like to re-coin the term to mean something akin to wanderlust. Other terms for these travelers were "knights of the road" or "gentlemen of the road." See? They seems like respectable guys.
Anyway, the romantic idea of travel is more than just connecting to a new place. When you're traveling solo, as I have many times, being somewhere new is more about the uncensored thoughts you have with yourself, and less about "doing stuff." When you're a young person, you might view this as "finding yourself." When you've got a few years behind you, you might view it as a time for reflection - but I like the idea of solo travel as a means of layering over your many other past experiences.
I live in Texas, and shortly before, I lived in Chicago - but I've been through California close to 40 times. For work, to visit family...but I hardly ever fly. Why? CA doesn't really fit the mold of a "flyover state." It's a destination. Many states can claim wonderful things, but California is the most beautiful. (I'll fight you). It has snow-capped mountains mere hours away from some of the most incredible beaches you can imagine, and that's only hours from some of the most innovative cities in our country. And driving the celebrated highways of California - like the PCH, or Route 1: Pacific Coast Highway - is an experience few flyers get to really enjoy. I've taken Route 1 from San Diego to Eureka, and have seen the landscapes - crystal blue waters, rolling, golden hills that seem out of a storybook illustration, weird and wonderous destinations like Hearst Castle, sprawling urban landscapes like Los Angeles and san Francisco, the tallest and oldest trees in the country in Muir Woods, and the decadency of wine country - and all of the little towns, historic spots, and often-missed gems in between. Because I drive.
Driving scares many people. Eight hours in the car is a lifetime for some, and the blink of an eye for others. My assistant and I once drove 80 miles to and from an amazing pizza parlor for dinner, and those we told seemed to think we needed medical attention. But what is wrong with juicing the day? Getting every bit of it you can?
When you travel by car, sure, there are things to keep in mind: the stability of the vehicle, the possibility of rolling through unsavory towns and neighborhoods, the likelihood of limited cell phone service. That's where aspiring Road Warriors can learn from those whose tracks have come before them:
Road Warrior Wisdom: For the Aspiring Romantic Highwayman (or woman!)
- Never be afraid to stray from the path. You live in the age of Google Maps. Do you know how thankful your father or his father would have been for such an incredible tool? It's your eye in the sky, so use it to find that off-road treasure that will become a fond memory, a new experience - a story to tell others.
- Be Spontaneous. Does it seem like an hour's drive should need a week of planning and preparation? Don't age yourself - It's an hour. Take it, and explore. Don't just seize the day - squeeze it.
- Find the Road with Much To See - I'll be using this post to talk about my favorites, but I do love a great, tactile guide: National Geographic's Scenic Highways and Byways, or Reader's Digest's Off the Beaten Path. And for those torturous times when cell phone reception is low or non-existent, rely on a great atlas like this one here from Rand McNally, and this one from National Geographic, which I always keep in my car. Find the scenic highway, and expand your life and your experiences, in the space of an hour.
I hope you enjoy reading future posts like this one. I'll mix it up, add some hardcore, hard-earned road wisdom, and promise not to always wax poetic on the joys of travel. I do promise, however, to always share my photos of these places, because that's my memory of them.
What about you? Any favorite places you found by accident? Any memorable times traveling solo, and discovering something new? Share them with me and fellow travelers, below.
Carpe diem, friends -