People of the Road Trip
Part of my education from living with a creative person has been learning about the two-way interaction between one’s creative activities and his or her other activities. I think that Miriam is somewhat representative in the way she makes slots for doing her writing (or revising) by setting aside certain times of the day or week, or going off to a writer’s residency for a week or two, or just driving an hour and checking into a motel for a night. However, the activities in her life that aren’t directly about writing are also a source of creative material. Travel in particular can work both as a way to create a structure for writing and as a source of material.
Personal travel is a common source of material and inspiration for artists or creators of all types. People differ in their styles of going away. For some, it serves primarily as a chance to rest and recover from the wear of regular daily life. For others of us, it’s a chance to be stimulated and indulge interests that we aren’t able to fit into our regular lives.
The road trip tends to fall into the category of stimulating as opposed to restful. I love road trips to a degree that, for almost any destination I’m visiting recreationally, I notice myself trying to turn the vacation into a road trip. This behavior has extended even to visits to Hawaii’s islands and Juneau, Alaska, not places that are generally thought of as prime road trip territory. (I think of road trips as being able to be conducted either in one’s own vehicle or by hitchhiking).
Although Miriam would be perfectly happy to spend her vacation on a beach, reading, I have won her over to the road trip as a recreational travel style by assembling itineraries that are built around her interests, and it’s become one of our favorite shared activities. The experiences of travel tend to have a freshness that’s much less common in the daily activities of one’s regular life. For many years now, Miriam has mined our travels for material for poems and essays; with the creation of the blog, she uses them as a source of material for that.
I can usually gauge quickly whether other people are fellow road trip enthusiasts. When some people hear that we recently went on a road trip to Cloudcroft or Tucson, they look blank; others look envious and sigh and comment that we’re always going somewhere and they wish that they could fit a road trip into their schedules some day. However, the fellow devotees will nod knowledgeably and comment on the prettiness of some part of the drive, or ask if we took such and such road. They’ll then report in turn on their latest trip.
Of course, road trip narratives are a popular sub-genre of travel writing in general. Books such as Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Kerouac’s On the Road and Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways are considered classics, and all have their fans, although each of these three titles left me somewhat disappointed. (I’d be interested in finding out other road trip narrative recommendations).
I now look forward to our road trips both for the experiences themselves and out of curiosity as to what parts of them will find their way onto the physical or virtual page. I hope to reflect some more on road trips, including how they’ve been affected by the growth of online social networking, in an upcoming post.