Ahhh, summer. With Memorial Day behind us and 3 glorious months of sunshine and barbecue ahead of us, we can’t help but daydream about vacation. Sure, you could fly off to some exotic locale. Or, you could pack up the car and let the spirit of the road lead you on an adventure.

There are a variety of road-tripping styles:

  • There’s the family road trip … in which Mom has eyes in the back of her head, Dad curses at the driver who won’t pick a speed, and nobody is quite sure if they are there yet.
  • There’s the buddy road trip … in which fast food is supersized, you share driving shifts, and nobody can agree on which Beatle or Godfather or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle was the most crucial.
  • There’s the Point-A-to-Point-B road trip … in which you’ve done this route a million times so let’s get it over with, meals are Gatorade and Combos, and the left lane is your only lane.

And while all of life’s road trips have their charms, there’s one that’s a bit rarer, more elusive than the others: the Zen road trip, where your mind is emptied, inner peace is restored, and the world’s mysteries (or at least your smartphone’s directions) all become crystal clear.

Never been on that road trip before? Don’t worry. In keeping with the spirit of our Buddhist guide to decreasing road rage, here’s are some road trip tips to find your Zen driving path.

Zen road trip tips

1. Go alone

Disconnecting from others can be difficult these days, which is what makes the open road so alluring, particularly because the very texting, tweeting, and chatting that permeate most of your life are actually detrimental — and illegal — behind the wheel. It seems a road trip is one of our last great excuses for a bit of isolation.

Riding alone isn’t useful simply because it’s novel, however. There are real Zen benefits (Zenefits?) behind it too. A recent Harvard study found that solitude helps people relax, form sharper memories, and think creatively. In other words, it’s exactly what your beat-poet soul craves on a journey like this.

2. Don’t be afraid to get lost

Remember the days when we’d drive off without a smartphone or GPS or MapQuest printout, when we had nothing but a destination and vague notion of “head thataway”? Ok, me neither, but I bet they were oddly special — and others agree.

Psychology Today says there’s real spiritual pleasure in going somewhere new and even getting lost. When we don’t recognize where we are, we submerge ourselves in our surroundings and take stock of the moment. In essence, by getting disoriented, we become connected, stimulated, and, surprisingly, better navigators.

3. Listen to the road, not the radio

Honestly, an entirely silent road trip would be brutal. Music just makes driving better in many cases. But it might be a refreshing change of pace to go a few extended stretches without the tunes, podcast, or audiobook. Instead, open a window and simply take in the whooshing of the air and vibration of the tires. Even if you have other passengers, you might find that collectively sharing the silence — again, just for a little while — might offer a sense of camaraderie.

4. Admire your surroundings

It’s oh so easy, especially if you’re on a painfully familiar drive, to ignore your surroundings and basically space out until the trip is done. But just because the route is the same doesn’t mean the landscape is. There’s a reason we glorify things like Route 66, Easy Rider, and the very idea of the American journey.

5. Be thankful

In true Buddhist fashion, finding your Zen on the open road only comes once you learn to cherish everything the open road is providing — even if it’s bad. After all, what better way to take the stress out of driving than by changing the very way you perceive that stress?

So, road construction causing delays? Thanks, potholes, for giving the road more character. Rain coming down? Thanks, clouds, for giving my wipers something to do. Gas station hot dog not agreeing with you? Thanks, nitrates, for keeping over-the-counter antacid companies in business.

There. See how easy that was? You’re probably feeling more Zen already (or is that the hot dog again?).

Destinations | Getting there


about Alex

As copywriter for Esurance, Alex had professional experience in everything from film to literature to (thanklessly!) correcting the grammar in friends' emails. As a fervent Minnesota sports fan, he spends most of his non-writing time gently weeping into cereal bowls.