After scheduling your first ever long-distance drive, you might feel a little intimidated. I’ve never done this before, you tell yourself. Do I really know what I’m getting myself into? Well, set those doubts aside! With a little preparation, you’ll make the trip an unforgettable experience – in the best sense possible. And once you get a taste of the driver lifestyle, you’ll find it difficult to give up.
Here’s just a couple of things that professional drivers and newbies alike should keep in mind before setting out.
Make Sure Your Vehicle Is up to the Task
Sounds obvious, right? But you wouldn’t believe how often people skip this part. Before trying to cover a thousand miles in a week, take a long, hard look at your ride.
What kind of gas mileage does it get? On a long enough route, frequent fill-ups become a real hassle – and that’s before you even consider the costs.
When’s the last time you took it in for a checkup? While maintenance is always important, it’s absolutely vital before an extended road trip.
How much space do you need? If you go it alone, your town car might suffice. But if driving other people or pets, you might want to consider renting a minivan instead.
Are you flying part of the way? Whatever you do, don’t rent right thereat the airport. The rental service down the road should offer a better deal, and those small differences can add up over time.
Of course, vehicle selection and preparation only goes so far. You options might be limited in that regard, but being aware of potential issues is always a bonus. If you know what to expect ahead of time, you’ll find it easier to adapt on the fly. Speaking of which…
Plan Ahead, But Be Ready to Improvise
As veterans of the driver lifestyle will tell you, a solid plan is great, but it’s not the be-all-end-all. So sure, figure out the route as precisely as you can, schedule all the stops, prepare for every eventuality. But then, when it turns out that your plan doesn’t cover literally everything – don’t panic!
Your GPS can flake out, especially on a longer route, but it’s not the end of the world. Having an actual physical map on hand can be useful. (Alternatively, keep an offline GPS app on your phone as a backup.)
Inclement weather can mess up any plan. Roads get shut down, sightseeing opportunities are lost. You might have to change your route on the fly, or even accept this force majeure and try to plan for it the next time around. Fortunately, there’s plenty of apps for that.
If forced to stay at a different motel or switch to a whole new route, try to go with the flow. Distressing as it may seem, it’s sometimes OK to get off the beaten track. It’s why you got behind the wheel, after all. So there’s that open road that you heard so much about, right in front of you. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.
Keep Yourself Fueled Up
Staying hydrated and energized is more than a general health tip. Driving long distance, you can gradually lose focus whenever you let yourself go hungry or thirsty. To stay on the safe side, you should always find the time for a quick snack.
Make healthy eating habits a part of your developing driver lifestyle. Over time, you’ll learn if the local cuisine agrees with you or not. For the time being, though, you’re probably better off packing your own meals.
If you do choose to bring your own grub instead of gorging yourself at a local fast food joint, a portable fridge would be a great investment. Stuff it full of granola bars and cold brew coffee – those should keep you going. Of course, there’s no accounting for taste, so we should provide a few alternatives.
Eating on the Road:
- Beef jerky. It has protein and sodium – you can’t go wrong with the classics.
- Trail mix. Full of antioxidants to compensate for the gas fumes you inhale.
- Hummus dip. Easy to make, even easier to digest, and they say it’s healthy too.
- Veggie wrap. Tortillas and turnip greens to make you skip roadside junk food.
Drinking on the Road:
- Smoothies. The options are limitless here, so go with whatever you feel like.
- Greek yogurt. Can serve as a drink or as a snack, and helps with digestion too.
- Fruity drinks. With or without kids in the car, a juice box always comes in handy.
- Water. It’s not exciting, but sometimes you just need those electrolytes replenished.
Rest Up to Stay Alert
Tiredness is known to creep up on a driver unexpected. We’ve all heard those horror stories of drowsy truck drivers plowing into bus stops and gas stations. So we all know how dangerous road fatigue can be, but what’s the best way to avoid it?
To start with, try to get a good night’s sleep a few times in a row just before you hit the road. That will build up your energy reserves, but also establish a rest-activity cycle right off the bat. That way, you’ll find it easier to stick to a prepared sleep schedule while out there. It pays to be cautious on this – trust your plan, and avoid pushing against the limits of endurance.
When rest is not an option, conventional wisdom teaches us that coffee is your best friend. However, scientists warn that caffeine tolerance can build up over time, which reduces its effectiveness. If you’re a coffee addict, it might be a good idea to wean yourself off before you start driving a long route. Then, when you get behind the wheel, you’ll find that it keeps you awake and alert again.
On the tech side of things, there are fatigue detection systems that track the driver’s body temp and issue warning signals when you start getting drowsy. Systems like this don’t come cheap – they remain unavailable to most individuals. However, transport companies are keeping an eye out for this developing technology – fatigue detection can be a literal lifesaver.
Self-Care Does Matter
When driving a long route, it’s the little comforts that make all the difference. Whether on the road for business or pleasure, it’s important to keep the stress levels down. Pamper yourself along the way to stay alert, comfortable, and safe.
Put together the perfect playlist. Assuming you’re alone in the car (or have like-minded passengers), blasting your favorite tunes makes the miles go by quicker. And it doesn’t have to be music, either – many drivers prefer podcasts, which have a similar effect.
Take a break whenever you feel the need and can spare the time. Stretch your legs, wash up, meditate – do whatever relaxes you. Drivers sometimes get FitPass memberships so they could grab a quick shower in a gym along the route. Likewise, it’s cheap to grab one at a truck stop or gas station, but the quality of the facilities can vary.
If sightseeing along the way, share what you find on social media. Your friends of a more sedentary nature will appreciate having their horizons expanded. And in return, you get that little dopamine rush that we’re wired to experience with each like or upvote.
For that matter, they say that good company is the best possible stress reliever. Driving is far more pleasurable when you have someone to take the wheel, or even just to talk to. Alternatively, maybe you’re lucky enough to have one of those pets that enjoy going for a ride? If so, don’t be ashamed to talk to your dog once it gets lonely out there – they really are great listeners.
Give the Driver Lifestyle a Chance
If all goes well, you’ll return from your long distance drive refreshed, invigorated, and glad to be home again. This might last for a good long while, but sooner or later, you’ll feel that yearning again. When the open road calls to you, it can be pretty difficult to resist. And why should you resist, anyway?
There really is a great big world out there. Whoever you are and however old you may be, odds are that you still haven’t seen all that it has to offer. At some point in life, we all get the urge to settle down. We set up a permanent base of operations, surround ourselves with loved ones. A great decision, as far as life choices go. But the trick is, that doesn’t have to last you a lifetime.
In short, the driver lifestyle is not just for pros. Some folks think of themselves as homebodies before they realize what they’ve been missing. Then suddenly, they find themselves on the road – traveling, exploring, living the good life. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll decide to join them.
Updated September 17, 2021
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