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We’re about a year into what will someday be (is already?) called “the covid era.” For some, it’s been a time of isolation. Others have had their patience tested by housemates they’re spending every waking moment with. But for those in either category who are lucky enough to be healthy, a simple solo road trip can go a long way to alleviating mental stress and sadness.

  • Car(s): 79-Series Toyota Land Cruiser Namib Edition
  • Location: Kruger National Park, northeastern South Africa
  • Photog: Yours truly
  • Camera: Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

I’ve been a big proponent of solo travel my whole life. As a kid I’d aimlessly bike around town for hours. Once I got my driver’s license, and passport, I started flinging myself all over the place without accomplices. The big advantage is that when you’re rolling solo there’s no democracy, you do what you want when you want. The lack of social pressures to maintain any specific plans is incredibly freeing, I find.

The downside, besides sacrificing the safety of the buddy system, is that you won’t have anybody to share your memories with. Aside from your social media followers, I guess, but you know what I mean.

I’m thinking about this notion today as I paw through pictures from one of my favorite solo trips ever: my lap of Kruger National Park in a loaner Land Cruiser. Each day I was out there my itinerary only had two bullet points:

  • Get back to one of the walled camps before the sun went down and the gates were locked
  • Avoid being devoured by predators

Those were some of the most mentally salubrious days I’ve ever experienced. As the truck’s knobby tires bounded towards leafy horizons my mind wandered, I never looked at my phone, and I well and truly chilled the hell out.

You don’t have to go to take a 14-hour flight to Africa to get catharsis from a car trip, though. Gas up your vehicle, check the oil and tire tread, stash a sleeping bag and pillow in your trunk, keep some masks and hand/surface sanitizers up front, and give yourself a weekend to go wandering. Maybe you grab a hotel room somewhere random. Maybe you pull up at a truck stop and snooze in your passenger seat. Whatever you do, roll out with an open mind and try not to turn around to go home the first second you get a little bored.

The objective is to spend time with your thoughts. Your thoughts, and, your car.

Covid’s definitely still a thing, so it is tough to make friends or enjoy interesting waystations, which can sometimes be the best parts of wandering. But watching the world go by through a windshield and learning where some new roads go is still a safe way to spend some time without coming into close contact with strangers and their germs.

Don’t forget to tell somebody you’re off and pack a phone charger too, just in case. But if you’ve been hesitant to go off on your own for fear of being bored or wasting time, I’d encourage you to give it a shot anyway. At the very least, if you hate it, you’ll be happy to see your house again when you get back.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have had solo travel experiences too, by the way. And I’d be happy to answer specific questions about it, too! Don’t be shy about logging into the comment board and checking in.

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