A year ago I gave my parents a mini heart attack during dinner one night. I told them I had two weeks of paid vacation to use up or else I’d lose them completely, and that I wanted to go on a road trip around our state. The real problem I encountered was that the idea of “vacation” during the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown didn’t seem that enticing.
While working at The Washington Times, all of my business travel starting in February had been canceled and as of March, I was permanently assigned to telework. At first, it was nice not to commute straight into D.C. and my hours became more flexible as a result. However, the salary of everyone in the newsroom was slashed due to austerity measures, so that made this situation a bit more of a challenge.
Teleworking seemed like a dream at the beginning, but the reality crept in. My home which was supposed to be where I relax and disconnect from work became an extension of my office. I found myself working harder and longer hours out of a neurotic sense of personal accountability and straight-up boredom. My spending went down but I also wasn’t making much money either, so it was like nothing changed, except now I was making less.
When I got the email from my boss to use or lose my vacation time, my only thought was the idea of being stuck at home with nothing to do even longer felt worse than being stuck at home with work to do at least.
Amid the pandemic, riots, and the all-around high-strangeness of 2020, I decided this wasn’t just going to be some sort of “staycation," I was going to get the hell out. I went online and crafted a budget-friendly road trip around my home of Virginia, and set off to see every town and free (or extremely cheap) destination I could find. I did it by myself and took advantage of cheap hotels and cheaper gas. It wasn’t some super sexy travel experience, but for me, it was a big deal because 1) it was my first time traveling alone, and 2) I did something everyone was telling me not to do.
Now, I’m not telling you to take chances I wouldn’t take, but here is what I am saying: assess the environment and make your own choices. Don’t let the government and the media keep you in a state of constant fear.
In the past year, I’ve done road trips and traveled to six states for work and pleasure. I went to Indiana with my girlfriend to stay with some friends and explore the Hoosier State (which turned out to be way more interesting than anyone gives it credit for), and recently I came back from a road trip traveling around North Carolina.
Each road trip I took was under $500 (food, gas, lodging, etc) and no longer than a week each, and while nothing luxurious, it made me feel happier and more alive than I have felt in a long time.
With the veiled threats of more lockdowns, the idiotic and dangerous “vaccine passports” proposals, and higher gas prices, you might not think now is the time to pick up and get going anytime soon but the truth of the matter is simple – missed adventure is better than misadventure. There will always be difficulties, challenges, and austere times, but we can’t let them take away our happiness.
Before I go, I’ll be doing some episodes about my trip to North Carolina on my podcast, so subscribe today if you haven’t already so you don’t miss a thing! Also, I’ve provided links to some great sources that I use to help me become a better traveler and get more ideas for budget-friendly destinations and trip ideas.
My Atlas Obscura Adventures Over the Past Year
The difference between vacationing and traveling is that traveling involves going off the beaten path a bit more. Sometimes you’ll eat at a few greasy spoons and gas stations instead of a nicer restaurant, and sometimes you’ll camp or sleep in your vehicle in order to get further away from the cities.
About a year ago I came up with a goal; travel as far and often as possible and on a very tight budget, but go to see free (or cheap) and obscure locations that usually might not end up on a tourist guidebook, but have an amazing and unique story nonetheless.
This is when I discovered Atlas Obscura.
Atlas Obscura is a site and community of travelers like myself that want to see the strange, uncanny, and amazing destinations that make the journey getting there sometimes the coolest part. You can learn more and see the locations I’ve traveled to around the world by clicking the button below.
From my recent North Carolina trip in March:
Where I go to Learn and Discover New Travel Tricks, Tips, and Locations
Tools for Those Who Want to Live Overseas
Check out my Recent Appearance on “The World According to Ben Stein”
Learn more and let’s connect!