by Cassia Reynolds
Have you ever felt the sudden urge to throw together an overnight bag, pull on your favorite hoodie, and take off for a weekend? No particular destination mapped out in your head, just visions of the open road and an unyielding desire to rock out to your favorite jams? Or even if you had a destination, have you ever wondered what it would be like to not plot out a direct route and just see what happens along the way? And did that moment pass because you hesitated, unsure where to even begin not-planning, and instead went back to your Netflix marathon?
Well, I’ve been leaping from one travel adventure to the next for two years and I’ve come to believe that with wanderlust, the more freedom and the less planning, the better. But I also learned some things the hard way and have gotten myself into misfortunate situations that could have been avoided with a basic understanding of the do’s and don’t’s of spontaneous travel.
We all love crazy times, but we also want to live to tell the tales. So here’s some advice that will help keep you wild and free without the extra stress of “oh God I’m going to die right here, right now. Why do I make so many bad life decisions?” (Full disclosure: this is a direct quote from my life.)
1. Music is Love. Music is Life.
Don’t even think about turning your key in the ignition without first checking that you’re stocked up with at least several hours’ worth of kick-ass tunes. This is a road trip necessity as crucial as gasoline. You don’t want start driving, decide to take the two-hour-extra-long scenic route through a particularly beautiful mountain pass, and realize ten minutes in that you only have two of your old high school CDs and radio static to entertain your ears. The “wait, I remember this, oh no, is this whole mix just Bowling for Soup, Gwen Stefani, and Soulja Boy WHAT HAVE I DONE?!” moment is pretty soul-crushing and can transform your personal vacation into the wrong kind of Highway to Hell.
Another mistake you don’t want to make is throwing together your tunes. Playlists are golden. You don’t want to be hitting the “next” button on Shuffle for seven hours straight. I set my playlists according to time of day/activity. Here’s some examples of a few of my recent lists for your inspiration:
Grooving on Long Hauls
- “1998” by Chet Faker
- “Wine and Chocolates” by Theophilius London
- “Orange Crush” by Daft Punk
- “Gooey” by Glass Animals
- “You & Me” by Disclosure (Flume Remix)
- “Action Bronson” by Baby Blue feat. Chance the Rapper
- “Air Valley” by James Welsh
- “New Dorp, New York” by SBTRKT feat. Ezra Koenig
- “Girls Your Age” by Transviolet
- “Wicked Games” by The Weeknd
Coffee, Yoga, & Early Morning Drives
- “Do You Realize??” by The Flaming Lips
- “Girl” by Jamie XX
- “Holocene” by Bon Iver
- “Youth” by Daughter
- “Easy Easy” by King Krule
- “Lonely Press Play” by Damon Albarn
- “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheehan
- “Don’t Wait” by Mapei
- “Follow” by Tom and Laura Misch
- “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel
‘Fuck Yeah’ Jams for the Interstate
- “i,” by Kendrick Lamar
- “Fuckin’ Problems” by A$AP Rocky
- “212” Azaelia Banks
- :”Monster” by Kanye West
- “No Role Modelz” by J. Cole
- “Novacane” by Frank Ocean
- “PARTYNEXTDOOR” by Recognize feat. Drake
- “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi (Steve Aoki Remix)
- “IFHY” by Tyler the Creator
- “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West
Laid-Back Tunes for Backcountry Roads
- “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen
- “Snow” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
- “Out of My League” by Fitz and the Tantrums
- “London Thunder” by Foals
- “Gold on the Ceiling” by The Black Keys
- “Colours” by Grouplove
- “When I’m Small” by Phantogram
- “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala
- “Bambi” by Tokyo Police Club
- “Do the Panic” by Phantom Planet
2. Apps are Awesome
Here are two travel applications that I adore and that can change the way you look at your journey into the unknown:
Ever felt that itch to explore but unsure where to start? Roadtrippers can be your muse. You just type in your location and magical pins drop on the app map, laying out everything from quirky restaurants to scenic overlooks to strange tourist attractions. All the pinpoints are rated and you can read user reviews before you take your time to visit a spot.
When you’re roadtripping without a specific destination, it’s great getting lost in the scenery for a little while, but you definitely want to make sure you can get back on track. Maps.Me is perfect for those looking to go off the grid for a bit, especially down backcountry roads where mobile data just doesn’t reach. It’s a GPS guide that works without an Internet connection. I’ve used it in Laos, Vietnam, and America, and it’s never failed to put me back on route to civilization.
3. Always Pack Light
I know, I know, you’ve heard it countless times from every travel blogger and backpacking extraordinaire. And, as yet again you kneel over your overstuffed suitcase, realizing you can’t possibly fit one more piece of clothing in it but you haven’t even packed your socks yet, you throw your hands in the air and cry out to the gods-of-all-things-travel “but seriously, what does packing light even mean?”
I’ve been there plenty of frustrating, mind-boggling, stressful times. And I’m here to help.
When you prepare to pack, ask yourself this question: how many places will you visit where it won’t be be possible to do laundry? And why are you bringing anything that can’t be worn twice without washing (underwear excluded - I usually overpack on those)?
Balance is key, especially when you’re preparing for travels into the unknown. You’re not totally sure what you’ll need, what weather you’ll encounter, and what kinds of activities you’ll end up partaking in. So you have to take a cold, calculated look at the amount of space available and ask yourself this: is it worth carrying with me? And if it’s not, leave it.
If you do have to prepare for several seasons, bring clothing that’s durable and packable. (And that doesn’t mean you can’t be chic!) Thin cotton tank tops and shirts are perfect for layering, as are denim and flannel button downs. A good button down can double as both a shirt and a sweater. And of course, if you’re into hiking, there’s (my personal favorite piece of travel gear) yoga pants. Light, non-wrinkly, comfy-as-all-hell, and strangely fashionable at the moment. Seriously, I’m so into the crazy print yoga pant fashion trend. It’s changed the game for backpacker ladies, everywhere!
If you have to leave everything else behind, bring the following items (in order of importance): water, a GPS device, sunblock, bug repellent, a portable charger, some sort of camera, and an extra hoodie.
4. If You’re Headed into Nature, Bring Extra Water & Snacks
Some of my favorite high-energy hiking snacks include: cashews, instant coffee, Clif Bars, pre-packaged tuna-and-crackers packs, Quest Bars, and dried mangoes. Keep hydrated, stay smart, and make sure you don’t get into a situation where you pass out alone on a less-traveled mountain path.
5. Last But Not Least: There are More Good People in the World than Bad
This is not an excuse to do stupid shit, like hitchhike alone at night or get blackout drunk with a group of total strangers that you meet on the road. It’s just a reminder that there’s no reason to be paranoid or scared of stuff you really don’t have to be. A smile or kind gesture can go a long way when you’re alone in a foreign place. Never be afraid to ask for help and always keep an open mind when traveling. It’s this kind of new-experience-craving mindset that leads to the most incredible, unexpected adventures.
So take backroads, greet strangers with smiles, try out the mom-and-pop restaurants, and don’t make yourself more of an outsider than you have to be.
Cheers folks! Make sure you never miss out on another spontaneous adventure, whether it’s a day trip tooling around a part of town you usually don’t venture through or a weekend getaway with a destination chosen at a whim.