I’m not sure why, maybe because a road trip can hold such a lasting place in your memory, or maybe because its one of the few times in your life that you are in such a confined place for a significant amount of time, but choosing the right person or persons to ride shotgun on your trip is crucial to having a successful adventure. Choosing the right persons will be the single most important decision you can make when planning a road trip. And the longer the trip, the bigger the impact this decision will have. Not just for the length of the trip, but potentially for the rest of your life.
There are essentially four ways to go here. You can take your best friend on the planet, in the hopes of sharing an amazing experience with someone you know well. You can take an acquaintance, someone you are friendly with, perhaps they are a friend of a friend, but basically someone you think s you can tolerate and who can tolerate you. You can take your girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse (who in most cases is also your best friend on the planet). Finally, you could decide to take a total stranger, and though the stories might be hilarious, you would really be rolling the dice here. If you do go this route, absolutely DO NOT believe them when they say, “Oh this chainsaw? No-I just use it for tree-felling emergencies.”
So lets explore these scenarios shall we:
Scenario 1: The best friend. This seems like the most logical of logical choices. They are someone you’ve known forever and with whom you’ve been through thick and thin. (I dont totally know what that expression means, but am proud not have ended that sentence a preposition with). This best friend may share your taste in music, food, your sense of adventure and they are someone with whom you know you will have great conversations. Who else would you want to share this life-changing experience with? Its a no-brainer right?
Not so fast friendo.
Not to be all Donnie Downer here, but if things go wrong on a trip with your best friend, they can go very wrong. After a few days on the road, a tiny debate with your good friend over whether you should turn left or right off the highway to look for food, can dredge up once-dormant feelings about why they made out with your ex in high-school. Just a few bad days, sometimes even a few bad hours, or even one bad incident in a car with someone that shares all this history with you and with no escape, can snowball into a problem you might not be able to get past once the trip has ended.
Scenario 2: The acquaintance. This is a more low risk, low reward scenario. If you are traveling with someone across the country who you don’t know very well, you can rest assured that by the end of the trip you will know them much better. The risk is that you could come to find out that knowing them better might mean that you never need to see that person ever again. Not such a big deal since they weren’t someone you needed to see that often before the trip. Best case scenario, the two of you create a bond on the trip and it actually begins a long-term friendship. Worst case, you kick them to the side of the road somewhere in Iowa and hope for the best.
Scenario 3: The significant other. Because my wife reads the first sentence of every paragraph I write, I feel it’s important to note that there is no better way to experience a road trip than with the person you care about the most in this world at your side. Ok, she likely skimmed ahead by now, so the truth is this: It’s definitely possible to enjoy a road trip with your significant other, but it can get scary out there (see scenario 1). Road trips with the opposite sex are tough to begin with due to the ongoing gender debates about appropriate road trip hygene and urination frequency that have spanned the ages. Throw on top of those debates, any other subtle conflict in your relationship and you’ve got yourself a recipe for some long-term couch sleeping. But don’t worry, after sleeping in a car in the middle of the desert, the couch is really a significant step up.
Scenario 4: The stranger. I’ve rarely heard of a situation where two strangers went on a trip and came out the other side as best friends forever. That kind of thing makes for great movies, but those instances are few and far between. If you are anything like the average American, you are only going to get a few chances to take a significant road trip, so make it count. Do your best to take someone you know will appreciate the ride as much as you will. And if you can’t find someone to take, that just means you’ve got extra room for snacks.
To sum things up here: When successful, a road trip can create the type of bond between friends that is nigh unbreakable. (“Nigh”, by the way, is pirate talk for near… Blogwriting 101: know your audience). By way of example, I can relay this story. I recently spoke with a friend who went on a road trip with a relatively new girlfriend. He has since told me that he’s considering marrying this girl. I asked him what tipped the scales and he said ” you know, the road trip was a big deal. I’ve never spent that much time with a girl in the car and had such a good time.” so there you have it, a real-world, practical example of how road trips, when executed properly with the right companions, can make your life complete.