(tips are at the bottom)
I’ve always had this idea that vacations have to be difficult.
Growing up, my family always got really stressed out whenever we had to drive somewhere. My poor parents had to stay focused on avoiding all of the insane cross-country drivers and traffic jams from most people’s nightmares. Meanwhile my brother, sister and I entertained each other by converting the back seat of our green Plymouth Voyager into a UFC fighting ring. It was never easy for my parents on trips and it made me feel like there was no way of traveling without stress. This isn’t a post about traveling anywhere you want in the world with young kids. Even though I’m not a parent, I’d imagine that there would be a challenge to that no matter what “life hack” you have working for you. This is post about getting over a few hurdles that are holding people back from doing, creating, and discovering new and incredible weekends, and adding 2,496 hours of vacation time to your year.
“I feel like going on a road trip but I don’t know when we would go or where” My friend Robby said over a basket of boneless garlic parmesan wings. “What if we went to Mount Rushmore? It’s only 6 hours away from Denver, and a friend of mine tells me it’s a pretty cool road trip.”
None of us had any vacation time, and since it was already October we were running out of opportunities for snow-free driving. If we wanted to do it that year we were going to need to get on it, and make it happen.
“What if we went this weekend?” I said half-jokingly.
That’s all it took.
We left Saturday Morning and got back Sunday night. I got to see Mount Rushmore, and the (still uncompleted) Crazy Horse monument all over a short period of time that would have normally consisted of me binge watching Netflix in my underwear.
Since then I’ve never been afraid to saying yes to the idea of a two-day adventure, and no to all of the things I would normally do over a weekend. This year we did a trip to the Grand Canyon from Colorado Springs Colorado.
2 day weekend + 24 hours of driving + awesome landmarks + friends + snacks = an experience I’m glad I was willing to go after.
I emerged on the other side of this journey with some great pictures, a few stories, and a few little bits that I will chew on the next time I evaluate whether or not to do something like similar in the future. I’ll throw these out to you to consider the next time you have a weekend, a few friends and a destination in mind. If you’re a parent I’m sorry if this post doesn’t help you make road tripping easier, but perhaps you will find some other value in here that can add to your next road trip.
Here are a few stories people tell themselves:
- Planning a trip is difficult
- Why would I go somewhere just to turn around and come back
- It’s going to feel like I didn’t even get a weekend
- I only have two days
- I don’t have the money for that
When is the last time you had something other than “good” to say in response to the question “how was your weekend?”
It’s time to go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but “never had the time for.”
Agenda’s for the most part are useless for this kind of experience. Part of unlocking these two days will require accepting the events as they come, and embracing them as part of the story.
We didn’t have an agenda or a schedule setup to make this trip happen but if we did it would look something like this:
- 10:30pm Thursday Night – Meet roommate at Walmart to gather snacks
- 11:00pm Thursday Night – leave for AZ
- 2:00 am Friday Morning – Arrive in Gunnison Colorado to Pick up my girlfriend
- 11:00am Friday Morning – Arrive at Grand Canyon National Park
- Friday during the day – Frolic around and enjoy the wonders of the Grand Canyon
- Friday night – Stay at hotel in Flagstaff
- 8:00 am Saturday Morning – Head home
- 9:00pm Saturday Night – Arrive at home
Of course even though that was the idea, the actual trip ended up like this:
- 10:30pm Thursday Night – Meet roommate at Walmart to gather snacks
- 11:00pm Thursday Night- Roommate doesn’t feel well and isn’t sure he is going to be able to boot and rally
- 12:00am Friday Morning – leave for AZ
- 12:15am Friday Morning – Stop at Taco Bueno for their awesome 60 Cent taco deal
- 1:00am Friday Morning – Finally on the road
- 4:00 am Friday Morning – Arrive in Gunnison Colorado to Pick up my girlfriend
- 6:30 am Friday Morning- Stop and get pictures of the sunrise over the beautiful colors of the aspens.
- 12:30pm Friday Afternoon- Stop at four corners (another monument I’ve wanted to visit.
- 3:00 pm Friday Afternoon – Arrive at Grand Canyon National Park
- Friday for the remaining day- Enjoy the grand canyon, get pictures go to the gift shop and then head out for flagstaff.
- Friday night – Go out on the town and stop at a dairy queen, then go to see the Martian, then stay at hotel in Flagstaff.
- 8:00 am – Grab coffee with a friend who attends college in Flagstaff
- 11:00 am Saturday Morning – Eat breakfast at an awesome diner
- 12:30pm Saturday afternoon- head home
- 2:00am Sunday morning – Arrive at home
Everybody knows that trips never go the way you think they are going to go, but that’s not what’s important. What is important is recognizing that no matter what happens during the journey it’s up to you to accept everything that’s out of your control as the current reality, and focus your attention on all of the incredible upsides to the places you are experiencing and conversations you are having.
In order to make this trip happen I needed to live with two ideas:
I can live with less sleep for a few days
The joy from traveling has less to do with the destination and more to do with the journey to the destination
I recognize that lack of sleep and sitting in a car for 24 hours is tough, but sitting at the end of my life thinking about all of the things I wish I could do is a lot harder. The trip to the Grand Canyon was a lot of fun and offered some incredible scenery, conversations and experiences. I realize now that this trip opened my mind up to a new realm of possibility. For most people, it’s un-thinkable to donate the few days you have free from commitments to creating an experience that will last your lifetime. You may not be able to change the things you are committed to during your work week, but you do have the ability to change your thought process about what you can accomplish over a two day break.
With this new level of thinking I look at my weekends in a whole new light. Instead of “chilling out” watching Netflix, and dreading Monday morning, I see a chance to do something crazy. I can build something, go somewhere, learn, write, and explore.
All of these things are available for you too.
I offer a simple challenge: Take a look at what you’ve done for the last 5 weekends. Now design a weekend that is completely different from the average of your 5 past weekends. In this way you can come away from the weekend with a new outlook on life, and greet your Monday morning with stories about a weekend you dared to create.
Here are 5 simple rules to follow to create memorable weekend experiences:
Pick a destination – Choose a place that’s outside of your comfort zone. a place that takes twice as long to get to as the usual place you might visit over a weekend.
Go with friends- Find a few people you love spending time with who will go with you on this incredible journey. Make sure that these are people you get along with well. If you get 4 people together and are willing to share, the cost of a hotel room becomes a whole lot less.
Don’t plan too much- Stuff happens, and there isn’t anything we can do about most of it. During a trip like this you must be willing to not take things to seriously and do your absolute best to focus your energy on only that which you can actually control.
Be prepared to not sleep- Sleep as much as you can leading up to the trip, but recognize that in order to add some hours to your life you have to be willing to trade some of your time. You may not need to do this for closer locations, but anything over 8 hours away starts to wear on you. ( Having friends with you also helps here because they can take on some of the driving.)
Pretend like you are leaving the day before you actually are – This seems really obvious but it’s amazing how much better my adventures go if I pretend like I’m leaving the day before. Having a list helps with packing, but it’s nice to not have the weight of hurrying to get ready to leave. No one wants to be the person that holds up the group.
Bonus! See the beauty in everything – Focus on the beauty all around you. You may not live where there are lots of pretty things to visit fairly close by, but I’m sure there is somewhere that is different from what you are used to. Go find that place and look for the beauty that exists there. I know you can do it!