One of my favorite things to do is get in a car and drive. I used to live in a small town in the states, so there wasn’t much to do back in high school. When my friends and I were bored, we would get in the car, blast music from our childhood (Lizzie McGuire movie, I am looking at you), sing at the top of our lungs and get lost that we somehow ended up in some small town on the shores of Lake Michigan watching the lights sparkle in the Windy City. They are some of my favorite memories from my teenage years.
When I moved to Paris, one of the things I quickly missed was being able to drive. Especially being in France and knowing that there were cute little towns waiting to be discovered off of the railroad tracks. I remember my train ride from Nice to Paris, how the countryside just seemed to whisk by me. I wanted to jump off and see the countless castles looming over the hills, learn about the history and imagine the stories of people that had stood in the same spot. Growing up in the United States and then moving to Europe, I quickly realized that long road trips were considered an “American thing”. When the Frenchman and I started dating, I noticed that day trips for him meant going about an hour outside of Paris. If the destination was three hours away, it was considered an actual trip in which bags had to be packed and a room had to be reserved. On my recent trip to the U.S., I sat next to a British man who had lived in the U.S. for a few years. He told me one of the things that stunned him the most about Americans was that distance wasn’t an issue for them. Three hours for Americans in a car isn’t the same for anyone from Europe.
I once had a debate with a French person about why traveling by car is amazing and fun. He said it was long and boring. I said he hadn’t prepared for it. So, in that case, here are my tips on how to make the car ride more enjoyable:
- Make a playlist: Half of the fun of being in a car is the music. I always make a playlist for each trip I take, because music makes good memories. “When did that song come out?” “Oh, the year we did… or the year this happened.” If there is good music bopping in the car, at some point, there probably will be some kind of impromptu singalong.
- Listen to podcasts: If you aren’t in the mood for music, podcasts are a great way to go as well. I am a big sucker for podcasts that teach languages or anything having to do with the news. My big podcasts recently are: Coffee Break Italian, News in Slow Italian, The Italian Podcast, France in Focus, Les Matins de France Culture, NPR, and I’ve recently but not yet listened to S-Town.
- Read: This one is uncommon for me, but has occurred in the past. Sometimes, when I am really caught up in a book, I can forget about the motion sickness I get from reading in a car. If you are someone that doesn’t get sick, reading is a good way to go.
- Snacks and drinks: So that the pit stops are just for going to the restroom and not paying for that overpriced water or chips because you are thirsty and hungry.
- Sleep: Yes, driving gets tiring. Pop in some headphones and fall asleep!
- Play games/conversations: The person who has it worse in the car is the driver. He or she has to be attentive at all times, so they can easily get stressed or tired. When I notice this, I like to come up with games or just talk to them to keep them awake and calm. They, of course, have to be willing to.
- Have small stops along the way you might want to see: The best part about road trips! They are the back roads and small towns that aren’t as touristy. If you want to dive into a culture, road trips are the best.
Do you have any tips on what to do during long car rides?
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