Get Lost

Every morning I make a 45 minute commute from the town I’m living to the town I’m student teaching. Okay, I realize that’s not a major hike. And I realize that there are plenty of people in the same (or a worse) boat. But this gets old sometimes. Especially seeing the same rolling hills, the same cows nibbling on grass, the same rising sun in my eyes the entire time.

In order to make my morning commute a little less hellish, I decided to change my perspective. Instead of seeing the drive as a complete drag, I started to find the happiness in it. I started using it as me-time, relaxation time, deep-thinking time.

And as I’ve driven the same back roads, nodded a hello at the same farm animals, stopped at the same inconvenient stop signs, my drive has become a peaceful ritual for me.

Now I’m not suggesting you need a daily commute. But I think there’s a lot to be said about a solo drive. And I think we should all take at least one every so often.

Get Lost: The Benefits of Solo Driving

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  1. You have time to quiet your mind. Instead of having a long list of things to do in front of you, you just have your one task: get from point A to point B. Or, if you are just driving for the sake of driving, you have one thing to focus on: drive safe. It becomes a beautiful thing, quieting your mind and only focusing on the road for a change.
  2. You have time to think. We’re humans. We’re never going to fully turn off the thought machine. But, on a solo drive, you have the chance to deeply think. There’s no real distractions, you can sort of go on autopilot (stay safe, of course) and think about your future, the things that make you happy, your stresses, your inner fears, your best moments, your plan for the week, or (sadly) even your to-do list. Having time to process is important. And allowing yourself the time in a controlled, solo environment is a wonderful thing for your mental health.
  3. You have time to relax. On a solo drive, you can sit back, breathe, listen to music, and calm your nerves and muscles. When was the last time you just stopped, sat, and didn’t do anything for more than five minutes during your busy day? Oh, when you went to sleep? Yeah, that doesn’t count.
  4. You choose the music or soundtrack. Sometimes company in the car is a nice thing…but sometimes they change the station every two seconds and you want to strangle them. On a solo drive, you are the one in charge. You want to sing your heart out to a Britney Spears throwback? By all means. You are in control. This is your car, your drive, your time.
  5. You have the opportunity to listen to things you normally wouldn’t. I remember one of my long drives from Illinois back to school in Iowa. My mom made me a collection of motivational tapes and I was dead bored of looking at corn and overcast skies, so I put it in. Now, I’m a huge fan of positive people and positive thinking, but my go-to car soundtrack is always music–peppy, sing-to-this-at-the-top-of-your-lungs music. not a motivational tape. But wow, after a few minutes I was hooked. And it kept me awake and engaged for the rest of the 6.5 hour drive. Sometimes on solo drives you have the chance to do something different, listen to something different. Whether that’s the stream of a sporting event, a new radio station because you’re in the middle of who-knows-where Kansas, a book-on-CD of a classic you’ve never read, or a motivational tape, you have the opportunity to listen to something new and even eye-opening.
  6. You have time. Long drives give you time (well duh…where am I going with this?) Time. Time to make a phone call to your mom and chat about the pointless things you’ve done all week. Time to make a plan for the day. Time for yourself. Time’s the one thing we’re consistently running out of. Instead of looking at your drive as a waste of time, think of it as time spent rejuvenating, time well spent.
  7. You get to look at the world. Okay? No, give it a chance. When’s the last time you really looked at everything when you’re driving? And I don’t mean crash-the-car-looking, I mean opening your eyes and admiring the sunrise, the cows nibbling grass, the people farming at ungodly hours of the day. Look, see, reflect.

I’m serious when I say a solo drive can be cleansing. No, this isn’t something you have to do every single day, but it’s something that can help you to relax, think, and be reminded of what’s important. Sometimes we forget that the world is a beautiful place. Especially viewed from a driver’s side window.

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