April 1, 2022 | LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Illustration by Xixi Qin
In five hours of driving away from Colorado Springs, you can visit the red rocks of Moab, the triumphant fourteeners scattered throughout the Rockies, the lonesome wonder of the San Juans, and the whispers of the Wyoming mountains. An empty schedule for spring break and 10 days of potential exploration oftentimes leads Colorado College students on road trips throughout the areas surrounding Colorado Springs.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time traveling alone, and I think it poses many questions as to whether solo travel can bring more adventure or if the solitude leads to loneliness and longing for friends to keep you company.
This question –– to travel with friends or alone –– is often answered by other people’s plans and availability. So, when left to travel alone, what power can be derived from that? Or, in contrast, is it better to intentionally plan a road trip with friends?
A road trip alone can bring clarity within the busyness of the Block Plan. It can bring silence and slowing down, as well as time to ponder and unwind. I felt this traveling through Utah, watching the small mining towns pass by. There is a freedom in driving alone, as you can stop wherever you want to stop. Solo road trips can allow you to really dig into what you actually enjoy and how you really want to spend your free time without the pressure of others’ decisions.
However, I recently road-tripped to Durango, ignoring that it is, in fact, still winter. Cold at night, camping off an odd 4×4 road in Hesperus with a few other dark cars, I wished to have my friends with me. In moments like those –– vulnerability –– I longed to have companions, and the solitude felt more powerless than powerful.
Weather can be a kind of signal for whether a road trip can be more enjoyable alone or not. Utah in the summer is slow and hot and the days drag by in a wonderful fog that has always, and will always, invite me to sit by the river, read my book, and doze in and out of sleep. The heat, the laziness, and the pure contentment that comes with a day alone by the water can be especially rejuvenating.
But throughout the Rockies, in the time before the deep months of summer, I have always found more happiness in being with others. A fire, some hot chocolate, and camping in every layer of clothes you own is something that can –– and should –– be shared with friends.
Thinking about whether solo road trips invoke power or powerlessness also questions why we decide to leave the comfort of our homes and explore. Perhaps being stuck inside for three hours every day makes the adventurers in us pound on the windows, wishing to be let out.
This escape that road trips provide feels crucial in the moment. Alone or otherwise, the feeling of driving in the opposite direction of home can be alluring in a way that makes you forget why you have called a location home in the first place. Perhaps the returning after the escapist road trip is what makes home feel that much better.
Road trips are a privilege, one that I am so grateful to be able to experience, with others and alone. Whether I am driving for hours by myself or just a few minutes with friends, I am reminded of the power in both: that road trips can be a way to find joy and tame the adventurer for just a few more weeks. But road trips are not the only kind of adventure; escape can be found at home too.