I’ve always wanted to do a spontaneous road trip to a random destination: no planning, no prior knowledge of the city, no research. Everything about the trip would be an adventure. So, last weekend a friend and I did just that. Bearing in mind that Des Moines and Omaha were only a few hours away, we flipped a coin and let probability decide our destination: Omaha!
Now, my previous knowledge of Nebraska has pretty much been limited to references made by Penny from Big Bang Theory and Becky from Full House…so I didn’t have much to go off of. Still, it was all about the journey and the sense of adventure and discovery. So, we hightailed it to Omaha, figuring we’d find plenty of ways to amuse ourselves along the way, because…well, we usually do.
It turns out Omaha has its draw. A zoo, bicycle rides across state lines (Nebraska and Iowa), great restaurants, and probably a bunch of other things that we skipped out on because were only there 24 hours. No regrets though – the fun was more in the journey, not the destination.
While I do think that all trips should be approached with that kind of mindset (journey > destination), I think it’s especially easy when doing a spontaneous road trip. There are no checklists of sites to hit, so every little discovery along the way is an exciting one – whether it’s stopping at a roadside fruit stand, pulling over on the highway to do a photo session in front of state welcome signs, or learning about Omaha’s major dining hubs from a complete stranger.
Another thing I loved about this trip that has turned me into a firm believer in spontaneity is just how cheap it was. Our main expenses were food, gas and lodging, none of which broke the bank (the drive was about 165 miles and we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express). Lodging can obviously be done even cheaper if you don’t mind 1-2 star places like motels — just be wary of location and safety.
A quick road trip to a nearby destination has another advantage: it’s perfect for those who are short on time but still need a little break, as long as your destination isn’t more than a few hours away. Like I already said, the fun is in the journey, not just the destination!
Don’t have a car? There are still ways to do road trips. Most major cities have buses like Boltbus or Megabus available that can take you to other nearby cities, and they’re fairly inexpensive. Sure, their bathrooms get kind of gross and if the people next to/near you are annoying in some way, it can put a damper on the ride. But on the upside, you get to kick back and not worry about driving.
Ultimately, a quick little road trip can be a blast. It’s great for those with perpetual wanderlust because it satisfies that need to explore without putting too much of a dent in your credit card, and making do with whatever happens to be near you can be exciting, since it might take you to a place you’d otherwise never visit. (Not once have I ever thought to myself, “Hmm, I wonder what’s in Omaha. I should check it out!”) And if anything, it makes the surprise all the more pleasant when you’re out there and you realize you’re having fun!