Road Tripping: 7 Ways to Break the Silence
Everything is packed and ready to go, the engine started, and seat belts buckled. The number of miles until your destination is daunting, though the GPS will faithfully count them down for you. Silence reigns as you back out of the driveway and persists as you get on the highway. Exactly how long is this trip?
Though I find truth in the popular saying, “Silence is golden,” experience tells me this is not the case for road trips. In fact, the conversations and laughter in the car are some of my favorite parts of road tripping. Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring and taking in the incredible landscapes and monuments, but there’s certainly something to be said about spending all day in the car with friends or family. If done right, the long hours can be near-magic.
Warm up the vocal chords with a few rounds of 20 questions. Have one person pick an object (hamburger, orangutan, pet rock, etc.) and the rest of the group will try to guess it through a series of yes or no questions.
Essentially an interrogation, this is a fun way to get to know your traveling companions better. One person is on the “hot seat” and must answer any question asked of them. Bizarre questions are fair game and will likely produce equally weird answers, e.g. I was once likened to a refrigerator. See what sorts of things you can come up with.
When traveling with a larger group, it might be more efficient to have everyone answer the same question before moving on to another one. Then again, who’s concerned about being time-efficient on a long road trip?
Exchange your favorite jokes with your traveling companions. Share from joke books, the good old memory bank, the internet, and, if you get really desperate, Laffy Taffys. From gut busters to groaners, blonde jokes to puns, pass the time with some (off-beat) humor. Some personal favorites: elephant jokes and the muffin joke.
Admire the scenery together as you zoom across the country. Marvel at the landscape, especially if you’re in the southwestern states and maybe less so in the flat, farmland states; however, there might be some great cows to comment on and pun with. If the cows get boring, channel your inner Linus or Charlie Brown and look for shapes in the clouds.
When you drive through town, read interesting signs, comment on unusual things, and make random quips. Trust me, there are some great signs and restaurant names out there. See how many crazy ones you can find.
If you’re further along in your trip and have already seen some cool things, take some time to talk about them. Comment on your favorite activity, an incredible view, a moment of insight. Are you glad you came? Is the place worth coming back to?
Dig through the memory bank and share something funny, serious, or anything in between. Revisit cherished moments. You might be surprised by what other people remember, and their memories are likely to jog your own. Moments in time are dragged out of the closet, bringing with them reminiscent smiles and laughter. Narrow the topic with various adjectives (favorite childhood memory, favorite Christmas memory, etc.). It’s a great way to pass the miles and keep the memories alive.
If you’re like me, this stuff is utterly fascinating. I love hearing my parents and grandparents talk about their childhoods, jobs, and random life experiences. My dad recently wrote some 200 pages (integrated with photos, many from our own family road trips) of his recollections; it was a thoroughly entertaining read as I learned more about my extended family and viewed parts of my childhood through my dad’s eyes.
While you don’t need to work on a memoir during your road trip (though it is recommended to keep some semblance of a journal), ask your parents about their childhoods, unexpected life lessons, the relatives that you see once a year at the big Christmas reunion (the ones that never cease to comment on and marvel at how much you’ve grown), the significance of family names, etc. The stories that your family holds can be quite interesting and are likely to remain unshared if you don’t ask.
If you’re traveling with friends, ask about each other’s families. Surely there will be some great stories about the shenanigans your friends pulled with their siblings. Perhaps these moments will shed some understanding to those bizarre quirks you’ve seen exhibited in your friend. Or maybe you’ll discover a (distant) claim to fame. On a thrilling road trip out east, I learned that a friend’s mother was friends with Julie Andrews’ daughter. Exciting stuff, eh?
Think Outside the Box:
Talk about anything and everything. What’s the worst that could happen? Sure, there might be threats of roadside abandonment, but reality will not follow through (well, this might depend on your family and friends…). Worst case, your companions clam up and refuse to answer. If/when this happens, sit contentedly in silence and watch the scenery zip by. That’s not a bad option either.