Life on the Road

Road trips are a remarkable way to travel by. A heavy part of traveling tends to rely on the destination, but on road trips, destination comes secondary. The trip becomes more about the journey and adventure on the road, making the final stop that much more enjoyable.

Growing up with parents who spent the majority of their (extra) money on travel, road trips were a big part of my childhood. Some of my fondest memories are on the road, because you can really get to know someone when you’re stuck in the car with them. It’s a  common saying that you get to know someone best on the road, and from personal experience, this statement couldn’t be more accurate. With nothing but the road ahead, it is easy to bond over the surroundings you’re passing.

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My siblings and me in Yosemite National Park, CA

Nomadic Matt, a popular and successful travel blogger, greatly supports road trips in the United States for several reasons. He says, “There are lots of unique national parks, cultures, music festivals, and various types of food to try around our own country.” So why not explore them? The best way to start is by simply getting in the car. Even without a destination, you can find great adventure. He says that while big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are full of activity, there is just as much life on the road that is worth seeing. “The cities are great,” he says, “but America really reveals itself in the landscape.” For more insight on road trip tips, visit Nomadic Matt’s Blog.
To get a better understanding of the impact a road trip can have on you, I spoke to Stanford sophomore Shin Mei Chan. Chan has always been involved in non-profit organizations throughout her life. She enjoys encouraging younger children in particular to explore the world while they are young. Most children aren’t given the opportunity to travel to foreign countries or exotic locations, so she said road trips are an easy way for kids to start traveling. She became passionate about road trips after taking a family road trip around the Western United States for two months over the summer of her junior year. She has opened the “Fun While You’re Young” program at numerous different elementary schools in the Bay Area, and raised money for kids in the program to go on road trips. She says, “It is immeasurably important for children to see the beauty of nature at a young age.” Children in the program are given opportunities which they wouldn’t normally get, thanks to Chan.
She even said, “On road trips, there isn’t any wifi. Your gadgets are merely useless pieces of plastic.” After the kids get back from the trip, they are enthusiastic about having another experience soon after. “To see their excitement towards nature after the trip makes it all worthwhile, Chan said. “It allows me to relive my childhood road trip through them.”
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Chan in Colorado

Another experienced road-tripper, Michael Nelson, has taken dozens of road trips around the country. Nelson is a Chico State graduate, currently employed at a travel agency in San Francisco. His passion for road trips didn’t stem from a fond childhood memory like Chan or myself, but came later on when he was in college.
“When I went to Chico, I was immediately caught up in the partying life, which was new to me,” said Michael. “I needed to step back and and re-evaluate what was important to me.” Nelson took his first big road trip by himself during Spring Break of 2012, traveling to National Parks in California. He realized that in order to get back to a healthy mental state, he would need to travel by himself and embrace his thoughts rather than other people’s. “The trip marked the beginning of a new me. I was able to clear my head and revert to my personal morals.”
Michael’s trip was just the beginning of his life changing journey. After learning for his love of nature and solitude, he continued to take road trips throughout college, and still takes several a year today. He said he was greatly inspired by the journeys of his hometown friend, Korey, who has been traveling to National Parks since high school.
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Nelson at Sugarloaf Regional Park, CA

 With the help of Michael and his knowledge on road trips, along with my own experience, I have created an road trip itinerary of 10 attractions to visit in the West Coast of the United States. There is more information on each given attraction at the bottom of the page.

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Because National Parks are amongst the most popular destinations on road trips, I wanted to get some inside perspective from Yosemite Park Ranger Suzie Howell-Olsen. She became well aware of the importance of nature and National Parks while majoring in Parks and Recreation at UC Berkeley.

Her passion for Yosemite National Park sparked when she was a young girl, on a road-trip with her family. She fell in love with the idea that road trips bring new adventure every second, with new landscapes and attractions with every mile that passes.
Howell-Olsen said that she has talked to several thousands of visitors and tourists that pass through on National Park or California road trips. “The tourists find an extreme amount of ease and satisfaction in themselves towards the end of their park experience, because they have fallen in love with the nature.”
Tourists can find road trip itineraries on the United States Parks website, a website that Howell-Olsen recommends to encourage people to visit Yosemite National Park. “Road trippers love it here, and I don’t blame them.”
Road trips are a great way to bond with others, appreciate nature’s beauty, and reflect on what is important to you. Next time you plan on traveling, consider a road-trip. It may not seem as glamorous as a European expedition, but it’s worth admiring your country’s own beauty.
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Yosemite National Park, CA

West-Coast United States Road Trip Itinerary
1. Joshua Tree, CA – The city doesn’t seem like much, but the National Park is “insane yet naturally odd,” says Nelson. This should be your first stop because there are several different moderate hikes that showcase California’s beauty.
2. Redwood National Park, CA –  Home of the largest Redwood Trees in the World! They don’t call them the serene giants for nothing. This second stop really eases the mind and helps open up a world of nature.
3. Glass Beach, CA – One of the most unique beaches in the world, as it is covered by glass particles from hundreds of years ago. The texture of the glass is unique and soft to touch, which also attracts many tourists.
4. Yosemite, CA – The point on top of Glacier Point Rock is my brother’s favorite view in all of Yosemite. The main attraction of Yosemite, Half Dome, is also amongst one of the most hiked mountains in the entire world.
5. The Grand Canyon, AZ – As we move out of California, we take a stop at the greatest canyon in the world. This is Chan’s favorite destination of her road trip. “The rock layers and deep canyon truly take you into a different world,” Chan says.
6. Colorado Rockies, CO – Further east into the US, Nelson says that the Rockies are a crucial part of the road trip because the mountains are “breathtakingly ginormous.”
7. Zion National Park, UT – As we continue north on this trip, the open canyons and rock forms are some of the most stunning views in the world. My favorite destination of my childhood road trip was Zion because when the sun’s rays hit different parts of the rock layers, supernatural colors stand out.
8. Bryce National Park, UT – Familiar with the Disneyland Roller Coaster Thunder Mountain? The design of this ride was centered around the landscape of these unique rock formations.
9. Yellowstone, WY – Home of the famous geyser Old Faithful, this destination is easily the most unique due to its diverse amount of attractions, says Nelson.
10. Crater Lake, OR – A perfect way to end the trip. At an elevation of 6,000 ft., the views from the surrounding cliffs overlook over 20 miles of lake.

 

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