How to See Thousands of Miles and Feel Good Doing It

By Anna Thorne,

My small hatchback received a multitude of weary looks when I voiced its responsibility to transport four adults across the country this summer. In addition to having a small car, it’s easy to fall into a trap of spending hundreds of dollars on food that zaps the energy from your system, leaving uncomfortable and grumpy passengers. So how do you travel long distance and feel good doing it?

Here are my 4 go-to steps for feelgood, multi-mile travel:

  1. Prioritize What You Take:

  • Ask yourself this question for every single item: “Do I really need this?” When traveling in a small car, it’s important to only take the items you will use multiple times, not just once.
  • Embrace the beauty of rewearing clothes. Two shirts, maybe even one. One pair of pants. One jacket. One pair of shoes. You can do it, I believe in you! Once mastering this concept, traveling is incredibly freeing!

On my most recent trip from Missouri to the East Coast this fall, my travel partner and I were able to pack light and arguably have more fun because of it. We only filled about 1/4 of the space in her car and still had everything we needed. Score! It’s all about your mindset and how willing you are to invest in memories, not the stuff you take. Anyone can travel this way. You don’t have to buy special gear or be a pro-outdoorsman.

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  1. Eat Well:

  • Plan ahead and prepare. You may recognize this as the first principle of Leave No Trace ethics. Imagine that, it applies to long distance travel by automobile as well! Planning meals ahead of time and making a trip to the grocery store will treat your stomach with the respect it deserves.
  • Here’s my go to shopping list when it comes to road trip food:
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes – Trust me on this one. They are the absolute best food after thousands of miles. All you need is a bowl and hot water for warm comfort food.
  • Coffee – I use my GSI Collapsible Java Drip, compostable coffee filters, like these, and grounds from my favorite local coffee shop for the perfectly tailored cup anywhere I go!
  • Yogurt and granola
  • PBJays — seriously, these are the best on the road. Get yourself some bread (I have celiac disease and make my own GF bread with this mix), organic peanut butter, and squeeze grape as my friends and I like to call Welch’s Grape Jelly in a squeeze bottle. Easy and no clean up.
  • Granola Bars – KIND Healthy Grains Granola Bars provide just the crunch and flavorful goodness I want on the road!
  • Fruit – Bananas, apples, and oranges are portable, good for you, and a tasty addition to a picnic lunch!
  • If you have an easy way to boil water, such as a Jetboil, BRING IT! This becomes your best friend for roadside mashed potatoes, coffee, and hot chocolate and is a steady answer to the search for hot water as mentioned before!
  • If you eat all your own food, you save an unbelievable amount of money, have more energy than after eating at restaurants, and your body will recover faster from your trip having stuck to a normal diet!
  • Stay hydrated, drink water. Yes, you will probably need to stop more because of this, but again, your body will thank you later!

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  1. Take Advantage of Stops:

  • When you pack your own food, you can make incredible time on the road if you plan your meals around unavoidable fuel stops. Pop open you trunk in a parking spot post-fuel up, assemble your Jetboil, get out a plate/bowl/mug/spoon and have lunch! The amount of funny looks you will get not only provides entertainment, but opens an opportunity to share these simple tips with others!
  • If you stop at gas stations, they are often generous with their hot water supply. Take your portable coffee maker inside, siphon water from their coffee machine, and enjoy!
  • You can also stock up on napkins to be able easily wash out your bowls and mugs as well.
  1. Lastly, Get Out and Get Crazy.

  •  One of the best things I’ve found to avoid fatigue is taking “crazy breaks.” Stop, run around for a few minutes, and get back in the car. Parks, gas stations, you name it-you can generally run there. These sessions not only keep the blood flowing in your legs, but keep everyone’s mood livened.

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By doing these things, you are certainly set up for a good time, yet we all know the best memories are not made by things. Your mindset and the people you choose to travel with will ultimately deem your road trip as one for the books or one to look back on and say, “Yeah, that was the worst road trip ever.” Now get out there, see the world, make some mashed potatoes, and never look back!

thorne_headshotABOUT ANNA: Anna is a firm believer in the majesty of unplanned and sporadic road trips, her favorite color is pine green, her main food group is coffee, and she loves to spread smiles. On any given day you might see Anna pulling cardboard out of people’s trashcans and annoying them to recycle. With a heart for the mountains, she spends her summers in the New Mexican Rockies.