How to Have a Great Road Trip (if You’re a Bookish Introvert)


My best advice for how to have a great road trip (if you’re a bookish introvert)? Bring snacks, pack smart, exercise, read aloud, consider your travel companions, enjoy the break and use the wee hours.

The beauty of road trips, if you’re fortunate enough to have long stretches in the car, is the miles of open road. Time to think, time to enjoy the scenery, time to be lulled by the hypnotic sound of tires on pavement. 

I can see why people get wanderlust. 

There’s something magnetic about the call of the open road. 

A lot of our road trips have been across long stretches of open road. Pete and I went to college in California and our families were in Indiana. So, after we were married (and still in college), we did a lot of back and forth from the mid-west to the west coast. 

Then we became missionaries in Mexico in the nineties and did family road trips from Indiana to 800 miles south of the border.  

The dangers of road trips in Mexico were less than they are now, and we were mostly unaware of the ones that did exist. Plus, we worked our guardian angels overtime and kept our prayer warriors on their knees. 

Starting from the days of road tripping with my parents, the best vacations always included the best books. 

When I was growing up, my mom read to us in the car. I read to our kids in the car on road trips.

Now it’s just my hubby and me, and my favorite moment is when he says, “Okay, you can read to me.”

I try to pick books he’ll like. Some are a clear miss. Others hit the target.

Often a road trip is a chance to catch up with friends and family you don’t see every day. You don’t want to miss out on those special times by burning out socially. By learning how to gage your social energy and developing strategies to recharge, you can invest in those special relationships and still keep your sanity.

Bring Snacks

Bringing snacks is a good idea for obvious reasons, but also for skipping out on meals. 

When you’ve hit your social limit, it’s time to get away from the crowd and recharge. Sometimes the best way to do that is to skip an activity or meal. Having some hefty snacks gives you options if you won’t be eating with everyone else. 

Some good meal replacements are cheese sticks, protein bars, trail mix, protein drinks and beef jerky. The idea is something filling that will satisfy till the next meal rolls around.  

Pack Smart

Keep it light.

There are scads of good resources for packing clothes and toiletries for a trip, so I won’t cover that here.

Think through the food options ahead of time (see Snacks)

Books, of course. Print books from libraries and bookstores. Audio books and ebooks on the ereader, phone or computer. (How to get hard copy books for free)

The books you take on vacation are more important than the clothes you pack. You have to take precaution with what you’re putting into your mind. 

Plan your books. Put a little time into research so you make sure you’re taking winners, not duds. 

My best advice for choosing books for a road trip is re-read your favorites. (If you’re a re-reader.) Then you know you’re going to have a winner. 

Second best is take along the books that have been recommended by a book whisperer you trust. Then you have a good chance of bringing along a winner. 

In the last ten years I’ve had to work at finding the great books. Before that, I used the “stumble upon” method, which worked surprisingly well. But, I was fortunate enough to have good ponds to fish from. 

Fit Exercise into your Schedule

This can be a real challenge. A hotel fitness room works out great here, if the the hours it’s open fits into your schedule. The next best bet is a brisk walk around the neighborhood, or doing yoga or a workout routine in your room. 

All of the options have challenges and at some point you might have extend grace to yourself and promise to get back to your normal work outs when the road trip is over. 

Enjoy the Break in Routine

This is the beauty of road trips. You don’t have to do what you do in your everyday life. Revel in that fact. 

You could go to sleep without setting an alarm. 

Maybe even get to skip out on meal prep and doing dishes.

You don’t have yard work or mail to sort. 

This is your chance to live in the moment, not looking forward to the next vacation. 

Everything’s fine back home. Don’t worry. Enjoy where you are. 

You get to see people you don’t get to see in your everyday life. You get to see sites you don’t see every day. This is the chance to learn about a different part of the country or a different country altogether. 

Develop the mindset that you’re going to enjoy everything about the road trip that is different from your everyday life. 

Consider Your Traveling Companions

If you’re traveling solo, this isn’t an issue. Stopping to see people on the way, of course, is within your control. You can decide how long to stay, when to move on and how packed your social schedule will be. 

Traveling with others is a different story, especially if the others includes extroverts and especially if they are part of the decision making team. (Sorry, my opinion is that extroverted kids shouldn’t be calling the shots where a family road trip is concerned. But, I do think older kids should have the chance to voice their preferences.)

The key is negotiation and compromise. 

If your road trip is primarily about vacation, a healthy diaglogue about social energy is critical. A packed social schedule is going to leave an introvert drained, not energized. 

Negotiation and compromise also come into play among the planners versus spontaneous wanderers. Find the middle ground.

Read Aloud to the Kids

I almost didn’t include this one, because I thought times have changed since the time I was growing up and my kids were growing up. Now kids have their own screens. They can watch movies and play video games in the car. They might even have access to the whole of the internet. Why would they listen to a book?

But, I believe so much in the power of reading aloud, in the shared experience, in the value of great books and the impact they make on family culture, that I think it’s worth keeping.

With today’s technology and accessibility, it’s possible to check out audio books from the library that will play in your car.

Or, you can do it the old fashioned way and read with your own voice from a print book.

For family reading, you can’t go wrong with The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s something there for everyone. 

I remember reading Cheaper by the Dozen to my kids. 

I remember my mom reading all kinds of great books to us— Wind in the Willows is a favorite to this day. 

When it’s just us empty nesters, the fare is decidedly different. We’ve tried some Louis L’Amor and Zane Grey. Recently we read David Platt’s Something Needs to Change

Use the Wee Hours

If you’re on a road trip with other people, one of the biggest challenges for the bookish introvert is to find quiet time alone. 

The best source of this time is when everyone else is sleeping. 

This could mean early in the morning or late at night. 

Re-energizing introvert activities are endless: journaling, quiet time with God, writing, surfing the internet or the unequalled pleasure of “just one more page”. 

The need for the introvert to recharge is critical, so take it unapologetically. Even if you need to set an alarm for an unearthly hour. Or read under the covers with a flashlight.

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