Note: Road Trip Memories is a series on Traveler Ahoy where I look back at the various things I’ve seen and done on past road trips.
Some of you may be rolling your eyes, about to hit the back button. “This girl is writing about a place she didn’t go to. Shouldn’t she be writing about a place she did go to?”
It’s not much of a lead-in, but stay with me. I wanted to go to Boston, really. A few years ago I went to visit a friend in Nova Scotia. We decided to take a few days and do a road trip from Canada to the US. It had been a couple years since I’d visited the US. We planned to visit Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Neither of us had been to these states. My friend and I started getting excited for our road trip.
Then I made the mistake of looking at a map. I have a problem with maps. I looked at Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts on the map and thought these states are pretty small. All three could easily fit inside Alberta [my home province]. We can drive to all three states in two days. No problem.
You might be questioning my reasoning skills. Wondering why I didn’t account for different topography affecting our drive (being from the prairies I was expecting flat, straight and speed friendly driving). While it’s true that all three states could fit into Alberta, it’s not like I’ve ever driven the entire length of my province before (a drive that would take at least 20 hours nonstop, maybe more).
In my head I had everything worked out. The drive would be easy and quick, but that’s not what happened. The drive took longer than expected. We ended up getting turned around (actually drove back towards New Brunswick) on our first day. The next day we went from Ellsworth, Maine to Manchester, New Hampshire. Except I forgot my shoes at the hotel. Since we were planning to drive a different route on the way back, we took an hour detour so I could get my shoes back.
When we checked into our hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire we had been driving for 7 hours. Before our trip I planned for us to check into our hotel, and then drive to Boston for supper. We checked my friend’s iPod and it said Boston was 2 hours away. It was already 8pm. Now I understood that it would be a 2 hour drive, but only if there were no problems such as traffic, construction, detours, speed limits, flat tires, and the many other things that can occur on a road trip.
Then I thought about it; why did I want to go to Boston? Well essentially so I could say I’d been to Boston. I’m sure Boston is a great city, but I didn’t have time to research it before I went. I didn’t know what there was to see or do there, and we’d be getting in late, well after 10pm. What could we do then, besides go out for drinks? We’d have to drive at least 2 hours to get to Boston, only to have a drink, and then we’d have to turn around and drive another 2 hours back to our hotel.
The next day was going to be another long drive from Manchester to Saint John, New Brunswick. Thinking about the long day ahead my friend and I knew that Boston was out. We went for supper in town and then came back to the hotel to sleep. We didn’t even attempt to cross the state line into Massachusetts. Perhaps my days of 21 hour road trips are over.
It was more than that. I learned something from not going to Boston, and from that trip in general. I no longer wanted to drive all day to get somewhere, then to turn around and drive some more. I was done treating travel like some to-do list. Go somewhere just to say you’ve been there, and cross it off the list. Next city. Next state. Next country. Now I would try, as much as I could, to focus my travels on quality, rather than quantity.
There’s a line in the musical Rent that I try to live by, “forget regret, or life is yours to miss.” Honestly thinking about that trip saddens me. Not because I took it, but because of how little I saw. My time in Maine and New Hampshire was mostly spent in a car, watching as other cars zipped by us, watching as the trees alongside the road became a forested blur, watching as signs for gas stations and fast food restaurants appeared in our rear-view mirror. I travelled a long way to see some things, but I saw nothing.
Boston was a nice idea, but I forgot that the travels plans you make never work out the way you think they will. Something will happen; something will go wrong. It’s not a pessimistic attitude, but a realistic one. When trying to live your travel dreams you still have to account for reality.
One day I’ll go back, and I’ll get to Boston, and I’ll give myself some time spend there, not just an hour. I’ll go back to Maine and New Hampshire as well, and I’ll make sure to see more than the inside of a Target or a Dunkin’ Donuts. Not going to Boston has shown me that life is much too short to waste my travels.