Summer is on the way, and it’s the perfect time for the classic American right of passage: Bumming around Europe. The idea brings to mind college kids, hippies, and the classic American writers of the Lost Generation. Europe is one of the most appealing destinations for many Americans. A lot of us have ancestors who sailed over here a hundred years ago, and the desire to connect with the Old World and its charming cultural history is a strong draw. So what do you do if you’re the romantic type who yearns to soak in all Europe has to offer, but are so poor that the closest you can get to authentic Italian cuisine is a pepperoni Hot Pocket? Why you strap on a backpack with a few changes of underwear in it and book the cheapest flight you can find. This article will be your guide to seeing as much of the continent as you can on the cheap.
A bit of warning before we start. This isn’t a guide to Europe on $100 a day. This is more “Europe on $50 a day”. You might even find yourself looking for a wooded thicket to sleep in. So, serious bohemian-style backpacking. So if you think you’ve got the stones for it, here’s your complete guide to backpacking Europe like a goddamn hippie.
Getting a flight to Europe is going to be the most expensive part of the trip in most cases. Though Europe is only about 6 hours away by plane, the fact that just a few airlines have a lock on this popular route means you can often book flights to Japan from the East Coast for less than a flight to Berlin. There are a few options though, if you’re flexible, to get there for less than $600.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to be open to a lot of different destinations and flight times. Flights are often most expensive on the weekends and during the day since that is when most people want to fly. Flights to popular locations like Paris or London are almost never going to go for less than a grand. Don’t get hooked on the idea of flying direct. You can often get a much cheaper price by flying to somewhere like Reykjavik and getting a flight to the continent from there. Use some of the budget airlines. Wow is a great choice if you live near Boston or Washington or can get there cheaply. They offer inexpensive fairs to most of Northern Europe from this city. Do your research, and if you can find something for around $500-600, then jump on it. If it means you end up in Amsterdam when you wanted to see Rome, well you can get to Rome a lot cheaper from Amsterdam by plane or train in most cases than you could if you booked a direct ticket there.
Also, by some fluke of capitalism, a one way flight is generally more expensive than a round trip. It’s a weird concept. I can’t think of any other situation where two of something costs less than one, but that’s the way the airlines work. If you can plan your trip to come full circle and fly out from the same city you’ll save a lot by booking a round trip flight.
Generally, you want to pack as lightly as possible. You want everything to fit in a bag small enough to carry onto a plane. This will avoid paying $50 on every flight for the checked bag fee. In addition, you will find as you are traveling that not having to lug a suitcase around will really help. So you want clothes that will do double duty. Generally you want fabrics like smartwool. It dries quickly and will suppress odors. Stay away from cotton if possible. It takes forever to dry and can start to stink. A kindle or e-reader is a great for flights and train rides. A laptop or iPad will help you stay in touch and conduct any necessary business.
Cash is generally exchangeable at banks. Never get money changed at an airport. They will screw you out of a sizable percentage. Pulling money out at an ATM is easier and will save you a lot in fees. Don’t carry too much cash around and consider that in most places your debit or credit card will work just as well.
When selecting a bag, consider that you want to be able to fit everything in there while also fiting the carry on limit. The Osprey Farpoint 40 is a good choice. It has a lot of room and some nifty features. You’ll also want a travel adapter for your electronics. European outlets are pretty weird. Most laptops have a power adapter, so you just need something to adjust for the different outlet. Make sure yours does though, or it might not work.
Nice hotels are expensive. You will not be staying in any. Instead you’re going to be looking at that time honored backpacker tradition: The Hostel. Here’s a search database to them. If you just want to have a roof over your head, and if you’re really lucky some wifi, these are going to be your best bet. Hostels are basically hotels where you stay in barrack style bunks. It’s a great way to meet other young people from all over the world, and one of the cheapest options for accommodations. Hold on to your valuables and you should be fine. A word of advice: be friendly and give people the benefit of the doubt, but always assume that if you leave anything valuable in plain sight you will be relieved of it pretty quickly. The typical price range for a hostel is between $20-$30 a night, which will quickly consume most of your daily allowance but may be unavoidable. In big cities like Paris or London, you really don’t have too many other options. You can also try couchsurfing, where you basically sign up to stay in strangers’ rooms. People do get murdered doing that, but not very often. So if you feel like rolling the dice it can be a good option. There’s also AirBnB, which can often have cheap rooms, but don’t expect them to offer rates much better than a hostel. If you’re visiting more rural areas and have a tenuous definition of personal safety, you might be OK just snagging some z’s under a bush somewhere. Obviously be careful, stay out of sight and away from busy areas, and don’t make a habit of it. Again, you’re rolling the dice here. You might face trespassing charges, robbery, or worse. Use your best judgement about whether an area is safe to sleep in before bedding down for the night. Generally if you’re going this route you want to follow a few rules. You need to be far away from a city, be somewhere without many people, and make yourself an unappealing target. You want to be hidden, and ideally someplace that’s kind of hard to get to. If you look like a filthy bum anyway, no one is going to assume you have much worth taking. If you are wearing nice clothes and have some nice gear, you might attract more interest.
Finally, if you’re going to be traveling by train, you can avoid the cost of a hostel by doing it at night and sleeping in your seat. By that same token, if you’re coming into a city late at night, go ahead and find somewhere to sleep in the airport, if you can stand the light and noise. Most are pretty safe since they are heavily populated and no one has any weapons. Just make sure you tuck your bag under your head and don’t leave anything in your coat pocket.
Europe is famous for it’s fine dining and amazing wine. As a penniless bum, you will find that this is one aspect of Europe you will have to skip out on. On the plus side, there is plenty of delicious cuisine to be sampled in Europe for little money. Here’s a rundown on cheap eats from Rick Steeves. Generally you will find that drinks in bars are expensive. Head to a local market for a cheap bottle of local wine. Like in America, markets will generally have cheaper food than restaurants. Pick up some groceries and keep them in your backpack. If your hostel offers breakfast, stuff yourself, and maybe pocket anything you can for later. Fast food is all over the world, including Europe. You might hate yourself for eating at McDonald’s when you’re in Rome, but it can be a cheap, fast option. Also, local bakeries in Europe are a great place to get a cheap pastry. In the worst case scenario you can stuff yourself with a baguette from a Paris bakery for a Euro. Tighten your belt, drink plenty of water, and you might find yourself coming back to the States a few pounds lighter but laden with great experiences. Generally, food costs about what it does here if not a bit more, so budget accordingly.
European cities have a lot of public transportation. If you can figure out how a metro works, it can be a great option to get around a city for a few Euros. Other areas have good bus systems. Do research before you leave on how public transport works; you might have a hard time navigating it when you don’t speak the language. Here’s a story to illustrate my point. When I was in Iceland I started using the bus because that was really the only way around. It was great. Clean, safe, and convenient. When I got on for the first time I just walked through the door and no one said anything to me. Awesome, I thought, free buses. As it turns out, buses are not free in Iceland. They cost about 4 dollars a trip. I didn’t know that until I saw other people getting on and depositing change. For some reason the bus driver didn’t seem to care if I paid the fare or not. I’m sure had I done a bit of research I could have saved myself a lot of money by getting a regular pass. Obviously I don’t recommend skirting the law, but if there are cheaper ways to get around then you should find out about them. Then, of course, nothing can beat your own feet for seeing a city. Walk as much as you can. It’s good for you, and you’ll experience more of the day-to-day life of Europe. Taxis are always an option, but generally not worth it if you can find any other way to get around.
Europe is renowned for it’s interconnected rail system. Your best option for getting from city to city is going to be at the train system. You can get an unlimited rail pass, or just pay as you go. Depending on your itinerary either could be cheaper. Do your research and if possible book online early for cheaper fares. Expect to spend about $40 to $50 per trip, and if you can get it for less than that be relieved.
Ultimately where you go is up to you. Visit the places that appeal to you. Generally Eastern Europe is cheapest and also has a great amount of history. Invest in a few guidebooks before you go to make the most of your journey. Always be on the lookout for new experiences and opportunities. Embrace the spirit of the vagabond. Keep things loose. The worst thing you can do while traveling is set a rigid schedule. You will constantly be pressured to change your plans as new things develop. If you’re stuck on the idea of keeping to the plan you will quickly find yourself becoming frustrated. What you spend on activities will vary. It doesn’t cost anything to go look at the Eiffel Tower for instance, but to go inside the Louvre will run you fifteen Euros. Generally assume about ten Euros a day and you’ll be fine.
So there you have it everyone. Your guide to backpacking Europe. What do you think? Did I miss something? Do you have any great tips or stories? Let us know in the comments.
Australia survival guide: Everything you need to survive a trip down under so you don’t end up 6ft under
Australia has a reputation for having a lot of dangerous wildlife. And that is probably deserved, seeing as there are over thirty different species of animals there, from jellyfish to venomous snakes, that will straight up murder you if given the chance.
Just ask this guy, who was bitten right on the dick by the deadly redback spider while using the toilet. I mean, that’s something nobody wants to happen, but you know, occasionally you get unlucky like that. So, not really that big of a story. But here’s the thing that really shows how dangerous the country can be.
About a week later, after having anti-venom shot into his member, the man went back to work, decided to use the toilet again, checked to make sure there were no spiders under the seat (as he will likely do for the rest of his life) and got bitten again, right in the same spot.
That’s some next-level hatred from mother nature right there. It’s like the continent has declared a personal blood-feud against the human race for having the gall to settle there.
That being said, Australia is a beautiful country with some incredible things to see and well worth a visit. So, how do you visit the land down under without ending up underground? Well, let’s do a quick rundown of all the animals in Oz that can kill you and how you can survive it. Finally, there’s a danger rating that rates every risk you’ll face based on how likely you are to encounter it, and how likely it is to kill you.
Let’s get this one out of the way, since you’re probably most worried about this one after that story. So, here’s the bad news: There are ten species of spiders that are venomous enough to kill you that call Australia home.
But here’s the good news: Only two people have died from spider bites in Australia since 1981. So, the odds of biting the dust because a spider bit you are astronomically higher than dying in say, a car accident. Most spiders don’t deliver a fatal dose of venom when they bite, and anti-venom is available for several of the most dangerous species. Here’s a little scenario to give you an example of when a spider would be dangerous and how you should avoid it.
So you’re visiting Australia and you’re on your typical drunken tear that always accompanies your trips abroad. You stumble around the beach in a drunken stupor, trying to find that girl you were talking to. She said she’d be back in a few minutes, but that was an hour ago. And despite you pitching woo in your exotic accent, she seemed more uncomfortable than intrigued. And her numerous references to her boyfriend and both his desire and ability to kick your ass was a bad sign.
As you wander around making threatening swipes with a beer bottle at frightened beach-goers, you see an old shirt nestled under a bush. You ask yourself, “Who would leave a perfectly good shirt lying out in the open?” You pick it up and push your arms into the tattered sleeves. After a few seconds, you feel a stinging sensation in your upper arm. It gets worse and worse until you rip the shirt off and throw it on the ground.
A small black spider with a distinctive red mark on its back crawls out. “Oh well, nothing a beer won’t fix,” you think. So you drink until you can’t feel the pain anymore and pass out on the beach instead of getting the appropriate medical attention.
Congratulations, you died drunk on a beach, just like you always promised your friends you would.
How to avoid it:
Don’t go around sticking your exposed skin into places that might conceivably hold a spider. If you’re outside and you leave some clothes or shoes sitting around, stomp on them before putting them on and shake them out, this should kill any nesting spiders inside.
Other than that, the odds of getting bitten by a spider are very remote, and the odds of that killing you are even more remote.
If you do get bitten by a spider, try to catch it in something you can secure and take it with you to the hospital. This will let the doctors decide what kind of anti-venom to give you. Most likely, they’ll just give you a tetanus shot and some antibiotics and send you on your way.
Like spiders, snakes are a threat that inspires more fear than is fitting given the risk they present.That being said, there are 21 of the 25 deadliest snake species in Australia. That includes one of the most dangerous snakes in the world, the inland taipan, which can deliver enough venom with a single bite to kill 100 people. But, again, deaths from snakebites are very rare, and the inland Taipan has actually never been responsible for a recorded death.
Slightly more dangerous is the eastern brown snake, which, while less venomous, is more likely to strike and far more common near inhabited areas. Luckily, the mortality rate is only 10-20% because they usually don’t inject venom on a first strike. They typically only use a lethal amount of venom when they are antagonized into striking more than once, which would be an epically stupid thing to do.
Let’s see what that would look like, shall we?
You’ve come to Australia on a working holiday visa, seeking to reinvent yourself after a nasty breakup with your girlfriend. You managed to get a job on a local farm, only to find that the other ranch hands tease you mercilessly about your penchant to stop working every few hours to write in your personal journal with your pink gel pen in loopy handwriting, your “i’s” invariably dotted with hearts.
The other men banish you to clearing brush by yourself since your frequent crying jags have started to really bum them out. Burning with embarrassment and love-sickness, you begin clearing a heavy pile of sticks. As you pull up a large log, you see a brown snake coiled into a threatening “s” shape. Deciding that catching this snake would really show the other guys how tough you are, you reach out to grab it by the neck. It strikes you instantly with its fangs.
Angry and hurt, but still desperate to redeem yourself, you reach out again. It strikes you two more times and slithers off. You stumble back towards the ranch before collapsing on the ground, losing control of your bowels in the process.
Your ex chooses not to attend the funeral.
How to avoid it:
Most snakes are more likely to flee than to strike you, so if you do see one, just back away slowly. And if you are bitten by a snake, place a compress on the wound. Keep it clean and dry and don’t try to suck out the poison or cut into the wound. Both of those things are myths and will do more harm than good. Once the venom is in your blood you can’t really get it out. Don’t try to catch the snake, since you are unlikely to be able to do so without getting bitten again.
Do try to remember what the snake looked like since this might help doctors choose what anti-venom to give you. Be careful when exploring near wooded areas where snakes like to hide and wear high-ankled boots.
The best way to avoid snake bites is to avoid snakes. But the odds of being bitten are generally pretty low.
Australia’s coasts and saltwater estuaries are often home to crocodiles, which can be deadly if you end up in the water with them. A saltwater crocodile can grow up to 28 feet and can easily kill you with its death roll, which is when it grabs your limbs in its jaws and spins in the water, tearing off your limbs or drowning you.
In fact, just last year a woman was killed by a crocodile while swimming at night in a remote national forest.
That being said, the odds of running into one are slim if you’re careful about where you swim. Don’t just jump into any body of water that looks appealing, like this guy is about to do in our scenario.
Worried that your poor grades and lack of intellectual aptitude are dooming the possibility of you ever learning a skilled trade, your parents have sent you to Australia to visit your uncle, who is a chicken farmer on the edge of the Outback. It is their hope that you can eek out a meager living while they cut their losses on you and blow through your inheritance with a series of exotic vacations.
Your uncle, frustrated by your inability to even feed the chickens correctly, has nearly given up hope when he discovers your skill with an ax after walking in on you working out your frustrations on a tree you are pretending is your emotionally distant father.
He assigns you to slaughter the chickens, which you begin to excel at, as you resent them for the smug superiority you see in their beady little eyes.
One evening, just after you the day’s slaughtering, you decide to jump into a local estuary to wash off the copious chicken blood and feathers. In the twilight, you see the reflective glare of reptilian eyes as the crocodiles converge on you in the water.
The next day, your uncle begins to pen a letter advising your parents on what happened to you but decides not to bother since postage to Greece is so expensive.
How to avoid it:
Again, the most important thing when it comes to avoiding crocodiles is to stay out of the places they live. Limit your swimming to well-populated beaches. If you do find yourself in the water with a crocodile, try as hard as you can to get onto land. Crocodiles are slower on dry land than in the water. And outrunning the animal is really your only option.
Crocodiles usually kill their victims by drowning them. If the crocodile bites you and starts trying to drag you underwater, your best bet is to start striking it in the eyes and on the nose. These are the most sensitive parts on the crocodile and your best chance of making it let go.
But again, as long as you avoid swimming in remote estuaries, the odds of running into a crocodile are extremely remote.
Surprisingly, the jellyfish is probably the most dangerous animal on this whole list. Not only is it the animal you are most likely to encounter, with huge blooms of dangerous jellyfish washing up near the shores of Australia’s tourist beaches every year, but it is also among the most venomous.
The box jellyfish is the most dangerous species, and its venom can kill an adult man in minutes. And it’s estimated that twenty to forty people a year die from box jellyfish stings. It’s also not an easy animal to avoid given that they spawn in large numbers every summer and tend to end up in places where people swim. Add to that the fact that jellyfish are inherently hard to see in the water and it’s easy to imagine how someone could get stung by a box jellyfish. Like so:
It was always your husband, Gary’s, dream to go to Australia. And over 30 years of work as an electrician, he’s finally ready to retire. His eyes aren’t as good anymore, and his back hurts, but the money is saved up, and the tickets booked. The two of you are finally going to visit the land down under.
But three weeks before you’re due to leave, he has a massive heart attack while shoveling snow. He never wakes up. Wracked with grief, you hold the funeral. “Mom,” your adult children say, ” you should take that trip. It’s what he would have wanted.”
You decide to honor your late husband’s memory by traveling to the place he always dreamed of and scattering his ashes into the pacific. Once you get there, you wade out into the water with a small tin filled with Gary’s remains. As you pop the top off and dump the contents into the waves, you feel a deep feeling of peace settling over you.
You weren’t sure that there would be life after Gary, but now you think about how strong you are, and how you’re going to get through this. You turn back towards the beach to begin your new independent life.
Just then, you feel an intense stinging sensation in your leg, as though someone had jabbed a white hot knife into the muscle. You stumble back through the waves onto the beach. Within minutes, cardiac arrest sets in as the fatal dose of box jellyfish poison courses through your veins. You die (in a moment of cosmic irony) clutching your chest.
How to avoid it:
Box jellyfish tend to spawn near beaches, and many beaches have signs that warn of the threat of jellyfish. Make sure to pay attention to these signs, and don’t go into the water if there are jellyfish.
If you do get stung by a jellyfish, vinegar can help deactivate the stingers that might remain. Wipe away any tentacles left on your body with a towel, not with your skin. Tentacles can still sting when unattached to the jellyfish. Pay attention to signs like swelling or nausea as these are symptoms of poisoning and if you do contract those symptoms, seek help immediately.
Finally, you can avoid many stings by swimming in a wetsuit or even pantyhose, since the stingers in the jellyfish’s tentacles are activated by the chemicals on the skin.
So, as you can see, there is a lot of stuff in Australia that has the potential to kill you. But the reality is that for most people it’s not really all that dangerous to visit. After all, people have been living and co-existing with these creatures for thousands of years.
You’re far more likely to die in a car accident at home than you are to be killed by a poisonous spider or crocodile. So just keep your wits about you and be careful about obeying all posted signs and warnings and you’ll be fine.
How to (safely) have a romance abroad
Traveling abroad is a romantic undertaking. In every sense of the word.
Traveling abroad is a romantic undertaking. In every sense of the word. Why would people do it if not to see if the place they dreamed about can live up to all their romantic fantasies and there are certain places that lend themselves to the inter-personal kind of romance as well.
And as great as traveling alone is, the warm, streetlight-illuminated nights on the Pont Neuf and strolls through the crowded markets of Bangkok are always better with someone there that you care about.
Not only that but all those new friends you make as you travel are bound to result in the occasional romantic attraction. So, let’s say you get lucky and meet the person of your dreams there under the towering spires of Barcelona Cathedral, or along the winding, busy roads of Tokyo, or indeed, even the gross unisex bathroom of a hostel—you fumbling with the lock on your travel bag that your mom insisted you use, and they wrapped up and shivering in an old towel.
Ahhh, that’s real love for you. Vulnerable and soaking wet.
But what now? How do you proceed?
Well, your old friend Men’s Trait, as a renowned expert on awkward international woo-pitching, is here to give you some practical tips that will have you holding hands with your new summer fling as you walk along the Champs Elysee, instead of sullenly sitting on a bench and cursing the other happy couples as they walk by.
For your reading convenience, we have broken this up by gender. Feel free to read both sections, as the insight into the other gender’s situation will give you a valuable tactical advantage in the war of love.
How to Have A Safe Romance Abroad (for Girls)
That’s really the name of the game here. Safety. It will permeate every interaction you have with a stranger in another country, or it should.
As a woman, there will be specific safety concerns that should be obvious. And having grown up as a woman in a world where sadly, you likely had to learn about these safety concerns, even in your own country, there is little reason to get into them specifically, other than to say that extra care should be exercised abroad. While, depending on where you are, the average man is no more likely to victimize you than in America, the fact that you are a foreigner will make you an easier target. People looking to take advantage of you will be aware that as someone who does not speak the language or know the area, you are less likely to go to the police, and that if you did, little would likely be done about it.
Thus, the burden of safety will rest more heavily on you than otherwise. That doesn’t mean the idea of romance is off the table, though. It just means some extra precautions are needed.
So let’s say you run into a guy on the street. He’s charming, tall, cultured. He asks you to let him show you around the city. Obviously, you should take the basic precautions you would at home. Don’t go anywhere where no one can see you. Don’t go out at night. Don’t get into a car. All the basic stuff you no doubt already know about. Now add to that concerns that are specific to this situation. Be concerned if he frequently meets up with other men in your presence and seems to be talking about you in another language. Be concerned if he hangs out with less than reputable looking people.
Ask to see his Facebook page, or search the internet to see if he has an online presence. Give it a few weeks before you agree to go anywhere alone at night with him.
Above all, just don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Trust your gut and know how to say no. If he is the kind of guy worth getting to know, he will respect it.
How to have a safe romance abroad (for guys)
If you’re a gentleman, you might be thinking to yourself that you don’t really have to worry that much about safety. I mean, it’s unlikely that the nice girl from Ohio you met on the street in Rome will drug and rob you.
But that doesn’t mean that safety is something you should discount entirely if you are a man. It means your safety will still be important, both for your sake, because that nice girl from Cinncinatti might still be after your kidney, you never know, and because now her sense of safety needs to be important to you.
That’s not just because you should be the kind of guy who wants the person you’re with to feel safe, though you should, but because if you want her to keep seeing you, you need to make sure she feels like she can trust you. Otherwise, she won’t go out with you. You can refer to the previous section for the reasons why.
That means that empathizing with the object of your incipient affection’s sense of security is both an issue of romantic decency and mundane pragmatism.
When you first meet someone, particularly if you’re into girls, their guard will be up higher than it would normally be than at home and it will likely stay that way for some time. You need to learn to be both ok with this and aware of it.
Don’t extend invitations that could make her feel uncomfortable. Don’t ask her to go somewhere alone with you. Be okay with her inviting friends along. Give her the kind of support she needs to feel safe and accept that it might be awhile before she is comfortable trusting you. Don’t invite her to go out at night or to somewhere she is unfamiliar with. Take it slow, essentially. Consider how you would feel in her situation and how she would want you to proceed.
And we’re back together now for the finish
Otherwise, everyone should act how you normally would. As a regular Men’s Trait reader, we can assume that you are intelligent, charming, and likely an above average lover. Just follow your instincts, don’t be afraid to open up, and take the necessary precautions, and your next trip might include a romantic experience you remember long after your memories of the surroundings fades.
And if you enjoyed that, tune in next week for the follow-up piece: “So the wonderful person I met abroad is now unemployed and living on my couch.”
Why millennials don’t road trip (and why we should)
Perhaps a road trip is the best way to travel and this recent generation have just forgotten how wonderful going on a road trip can be. The question then becomes, why have millennials forgotten about road trips?
It’s 9pm on a Sunday night. You’ve barely moved for hours and you see the glowing neon sign flashing open in the 7/11 window. You get out of your car with stiff legs and Cheetos crumbs stuck to your jeans. You and your friends stretch your legs, buy a bottle of water and pile back into the car.
Everyone knows road trips can be long and grueling. You eat too much junk food, fight about what is the fastest route to take, and face a constant battle with boredom. Yet time and time again, long distance travel by car is portrayed in history – and Hollywood films – as one of the most iconic forms of travel. One could even argue that road trips are a defining aspect of American life. The question is, then: is the road trip a dying icon, or does it just need a rebirth of some kind?
As far as the “millennial generation” is concerned, the road trip appears to be dying. Although millennials are seen as a generation who love to travel, we are mostly traveling outside the United States. According to Boston Consulting Group, millennials are 23% more interested in traveling abroad than other generations. So perhaps we’ve forgotten just how enlightening and satisfying it can be to visit places close to home. One doesn’t have to spend $1200 on plane ticket to Europe in order to get adventure, see beautiful places and form connections with new and interesting people.
Let’s assume that American pop culture history got it right. Perhaps a road trip is the best way to travel and this recent generation have just forgotten how wonderful going on a road trip can be. The question then becomes, why have millennials forgotten about road trips?
First off, millennials aren’t buying cars. While most can remember counting the months until getting their first driver’s license, the fact is that people old enough to drive just aren’t getting their licenses. A Washington Post article, “The many reasons why millennials are shunning cars,” gives three reason why millennials are driving less. Essentially, one is that gas is too expensive (although it is down significantly since the article was published), two is that technology has made it possible to get a ride without owning a car (Uber, Rideshare, etc), and third is that millennials are choosing to live in more “walkable” places. The way millennials think about cars have changed which this means less interest in road trips.
Perhaps another reason why millennials aren’t taking road trips like older generations is because technology has changed our concept of patience. Because millennials grew up in the age of the internet, we have trained ourselves to easily jump from Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat in a matter of seconds. A conflict thus arises, as anyone who has gone on a road trip before knows that it requires some level of patience. We require finding ways to entertain ourselves – there’s no free wifi in the middle of Route 66 – and trying out new ways of interacting with others in a small space. Technology has let millennials avoid both being patient and interacting with others in everyday life. Look around any public space – the bus or shopping malls – do you see anyone interacting with one another without their phones in their hands? Road trips don’t mean that you have to leave your phone behind, however after 9 hours in the car and there is nothing left to scroll on Facebook, playing the license plate game in the backseat might seem a little more inviting.
Technology has also made millennials addicted to instant gratification. We can get food delivered to our door or picked up by Uber in a matter of moments. This becomes a problem because there is nothing instant about a road trip. A road trip takes persistence, patience and the willingness to be flexible in the face of new obstacles. Maybe you run out of gas in the middle of Big Sur or maybe you hit rush hour going through Las Vegas, just as your air conditioning goes out in 105 degree weather. All you can do is relax, enjoy the journey and the people you’re with–something millennials seemingly don’t have a lot of practice with.
Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, The Lost Coast, Route 66. Millennials are forgetting about these places when we are addicted to our technology, flying to Europe and not buying cars. We are forgetting the reality that there are unique and beautiful places only hours away from them. The mindset of focusing on places abroad rather than at home can also be detrimental to the support America needs from its young people. More than ever, America is in need of passionate, educated people, and if millennials aren’t interested in the people and places around them, America will lose the full support and energy of a group of important individuals. Gaining interest and appreciation for one’s own country is one of the many benefits of road trips and why road trips should see a rebirth among the millennial generation.
The most confusing thing is that, when looking at the millennial generation, we seem like a generation that could potentially love road trips. Yes, we are reliant on technology, but what better way to find the best place to eat on your way to Yosemite then using your phone to scan Yelp? Millennials are a generation of creative, driven and enthusiastic individuals. We just need to be reminded of “older” forms of travel and just how rewarding they can be. Reminding millennials of how unique road trips can be has the potential to provoke more interest in the issues and beauty close to home. This could bring people together and challenge them to interact on a more personal level, be creative and problem solve together. Road trips should not be lost forever, they just need to be reborn. Perhaps millennials need to be reminded of the child who stuck their head out the car window fascinated with the rocky desert or bright blue ocean flying by.
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