I’ve always loved a road trip. In the age of COVID, they are becoming the best way to escape for a little while; gas is cheap and personal time is more abundant—or at least less “directed” for most of us. With that in mind, I volunteered to help a good friend (who is moving to San Angelo, Texas), move his 1954 Chevy truck to his new home. It wasn’t a huge deal, I had the time and a truck/trailer, and we rode together for company.

My doctor friend is authoring a new book, and we had much to talk about surrounding his fascinating and highly spiritual quest. He is a deep thinker and qualifies in my mind as a seeker. We shared things that matter most regarding life’s purpose and the hope we each have in faith and the divine. These were conversations never to be forgotten.

We had discussions on faith, politics, COVID, family, and dreams. At the same time, we mixed in some e-books, music, and articles from the Wall Street Journal. 24 hours of drive time in two days—and all of it empowering. There was of course time for laughter and good story telling.

Naturally, we needed to stop every few hours for a break and grab some fuel and treats. One of the delights of a road trip for me is the chance to roam the isles of the mini marts in search of whatever beckons my call. Even as a diabetic, most rules of nutrition are out on a road trip. On a road trip last year to Texas, I discovered a product called “Beer Salt.” I found it in convenience stores in gas stations. I don’t drink alcohol, and the product doesn’t have alcohol in it, but it is fantastic on apples! (most folks use it on the lips of their alcoholic drinks). On this trip, I refreshed my supply—such are the treasures found on road trips.

Four ideas to enhance your COVID road trip:

1 – Own the road, NOT the conversation

I was fortunate to be traveling with a great listener. Perhaps that is why he is so brilliant. I’m reminded of a shorter road trip a year earlier with another friend, where I spoke perhaps 10 sentences in our “conversation” as he took all of my oxygen listening to his own voice for the better part of four hours. I love the man and appreciated immensely the experience, but also felt that he didn’t care so much about my perspectives as he took 99% of the free space. GREAT road trips embrace conversations, which by definition is an experience where all who are present have a chance to express themselves openly. You don’t have to measure whose time it is to speak, but you ought to listen with intent and allow a free flow of thoughts without dominance.

2 – Give yourself permission to explore the space (a little more cow bell)

Apparently, some 62% of Americans say the political climate prevents them from being open or saying things they believe because others might find them offensive (CATO National Survey). Our road trip eliminated all barriers (what would one do, jump out of the truck?). Even though our views are similar, it was refreshing to share openly and LISTEN for the other’s opinion. We had some verbal protests, but NO rioting. I love the vintage Saturday Night Live video about producer “Bruce Dickinson” asking the rehearsing band to give him more cowbell. Being open enough to share 100% of how we feel about a topic is the pure fruit of a good road trip. In many ways, this hilarious video from the 70’s gives us a reminder of how give and take in opinions really matter.

3 – Go ahead and solve the world’s problems

Look, we all hope for a COVID cure, healing for social unrest, true equality for all living souls, and a return to even more meaningful relationships than ever before. We might as well start now. Solving the world’s problems may not be possible on a road trip, but it sure as heck doesn’t hurt to get started one friend at a time.

4 – Find your own version of “Beer Salt”

In a day when we traveled the world more freely, we came back with memories of places that spoke to us—places, food, people. These are the pearls of travel; experiences that make up the body of our soul. A road trip can be just as fulfilling as an overseas vacation—you just have to be intentional. That’s a word I love.

Part of this challenge of finding your own “beer salt” requires that we watch and learn, appreciate the oddities of the world around us, and embrace ambiguity. There are so many unknowns and unsettled things around us, that if we appreciate the hidden gems, and unearth them, we find jewels— be it wisdom, discoveries, new truths, solutions, dilemmas, or revelations.

I hope you each have a friend or two as good as I have had to do “road trips” with. I have learned a ton, found treasures—even hidden treasures, and sewn together stronger friendships in the process.

Be intentional and make your road trips a delight and pleasure; even (and especially) in the age of COVID.

Steve Hitz is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide, a nonprofit organization that empowers young adults with personal leadership and faith. The Launching Leaders course is free on the BYU Independent Study website (scroll to the bottom). Steve is the author Launching Leaders: An Empowering Journey for a New Generation, and Entrepreneurial Foundations for Twenty and Thirty-Somethings, available at Deseret Book or Amazon.

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