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The Fine Art of the (Canadian) Road Trip

Posted: 11/26/11 08:20 AM ET

You know what's rather large? Canada. It's big. Like, really big. Thus, the romance of road trips is too often relegated to sunlit patches of fresh, black asphalt hugging lush California coastlines, instead of snow tires spinning out over grey slush on empty, dark highways stretching endlessly to Northern Ontario. Fair enough. But if your idea of a road trip is cruising through the desert in a red convertible with the top down while you sport ridiculously oversized sunglasses and sing every word to the Grease soundtrack, you are not invited on my next road trip.

And that's really a shame. Because my road trips are more fun than yours! I know this definitively because: a) I'm in my car on my road trips, not yours. So you don't get to have me along for all the wild adventures, hilarious anecdotes, and industrial-sized boxes of Sesame Snaps I provide; and b) my road trips are unlike any others. I get lost. I drive aimlessly, seeking the obscure. I make decisions on where to go based on the pictures on roadside signs (the worse, the better). But more importantly, I make sure my road trip is entirely different than the one the guy ahead of me is on, even if we are driving the exact same route. And because his trip is different than mine, to him it's better! (But objectively, it's probably lacking in Sesame Snaps).

Yes, Canada is big. And yes, it can be hard (and sometimes boring) to drive through. But the art of the road trip -- nay, the whole point of the road trip -- is to do something and go somewhere different. Which is why the convertible-in-the-desert idea sounds so boring (and windy). You know why? Your mom and her "gal pals" drove that route. Yes, it had its moment -- in the '70s.

No two trips are the same. The same person can go to the same place at the same time of year and even wear the same underwear, but the trips will be infinitesimally, fundamentally, wholeheartedly different. Which is why we love to travel! It takes us out of our plain-old, ho-hum, wearing-sweatpants-on-the-couch-while-watching-30-Rock-reruns, common, boring routines. It pushes us to go new places, try new things, meet new people and discover new ways to get violently ill while travelling. So when you take someone else's trip, like the one your mom took back in her glory days, it won't be the same. Which is a good thing! But a bad thing for you because you will have a world of expectations and comparisons which will leave you underwhelmed.

In travel, as in life, you must constantly forge your own path and discover new routes, lest you fall into a mediocre routine that was blazed first by someone else. The reason the first guy enjoys it so much is that it is a new, exhilarating experience that makes him feel amazing. The reverse is true for one's first time overdoing it on Canadian whisky.

So what better place to do the road trip differently than in our own backyard? I recently hit the road and headed east from Toronto, vaguely heading toward P.E.I. and the Cabot Trail. Was the trip idea new? No. At nine, my sister and I were packed into the backseat of the world's largest and least fuel-efficient vehicle ever made, our 1986 Buick Century, for a family cross-country road trip from hell. The smell of rotting apples emanating from the world's largest and least fuel-efficient cooler ever made, which was stuffed into the middle seat to lessen backseat sibling fighting, left me consistently carsick and bored out of my skull as I watched the absolute nothingness of New Brunswick pass by the window. Somewhat unsurprisingly, that trip ended in a rural Nova Scotian emergency room after I found a cure for boredom at my cousin's wedding -- sliding into a stack of tables next to the dance floor, slicing open my face in the process, and leaving promptly to go get stitches. Clearly, that road trip had left me desperate for entertainment.

Luckily, my recent trip was a little different. While my rational, logical fiancé counted kilometres and made the entire goal of the trip about beating the suggested travel time on the GPS (even if the destination was just the next gas station), when I took the wheel, things changed. While he lost his mind, I sought out the most mind-numbingly boring attractions our fine country has to offer. World's longest covered bridge? That seems like it's worth a one-hour detour through back roads to find. Magnetic Hill? That's famous for nothing. Let's go there and take pictures of us going uphill -- backward! In a car!

So do it differently. Hell, take the same route your mom did in that cheesy convertible -- but do it in an ice cream truck. Or the sidecar of a motorcycle. Just make it your own.

So, no. You can't come on my road trips. I am very particular about my travel partners and if you don't bring vast amounts of candy, you can't get in the Corolla. But you can follow me here to be a part of my adventures (they might just be funnier than yours).

 

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