Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

I find road trips to be unbearable. Sure, where I’m might be going might be enjoyable, but the phrase “the journey is just as important as the destination” holds little meaning and no accuracy. As much as staring outside for hours on end and seeing cars pass by, sounds appealing, I’m not sure many people can do that for hours on end. So what can you do to escape the doldrums of a long car ride? Here are a few tips.

In the age of smartphones and Bluetooth sound systems, there is no shortage of entertainment while your on the road. You could listen to music, watch a TV show, browse the internet. You could rent a movie, listen to an audiobook, play a mobile phone game. You could do just about anything. In a time when we’re already overly attached to our cellular devices, a few more hours on them couldn’t hurt. Right?

There’s a point where there isn’t anymore internet to browse. A point where television shows start to lose meaning. A point where the images on the screen start jumble together and sentences look more like snakes than coherent thoughts. It’s a point I’ve encountered all too frequently on my road trips, a point where setting down your smartphone, iPad, or Android tablet becomes more than just a novel idea – it becomes a necessity. There’s only so much information our brains can process. And when you’re on a smartphone in a car with nothing else to do, that limit is reached in almost no time at all. Most people call it burn-out.

So what can you do to save both your eyes and mind from overload? You could stare forlornly out the window at stretches of highway in the rain, but for many, that approach isn’t exactly going to cut it. You could take a nap, but unless your a brilliant sleeper, the imperfections in the road will make that nearly impossible. You could possibly listen to NPR, play a family road game, or contemplate life.

What I find most helpful to surviving a road trip is conversation. It doesn’t have to be about anything charged, say like Donald Trump’s recent comments or gun control, nor does it have be anything too boring, like the flight patterns of Canadian geese. But just talking about a topic, maybe something you don’t know too much about about, can lighten up a car ride and allow you to take a break from the digital world without descending into boredom. I find my favorite topics to talk about in the car include foreign affairs and physics. While I know only the basics of the former and almost none of the latter, just talking about them helps mitigate the the impulse to reach for my iPhone and fall into the rabbit hole of information.

Conversation is especially effective in the car, where there’s nowhere else to go. Normally, attentions are far too short to hold anything a conversation longer than a few minutes. But in the car, where distractions are far and few between, conversations are free to be as in depth as possible, without fear of interruption. There won’t be questions left unanswered, sentences abandoned mid-thought. It’s a double-edged sword however, so disagreements may result in tempers that may not be able to cool down due to close proximity. My advice would be to engage in topics that aren’t too heavy or controversial. Or else half the road trip might be made in tense silence.

So if you’re looking to avoid smartphone fatigue, conversation is a good start. What else? You could read an actual book, provided you don’t get carsick, of course. If conversation is not being held, the car is just the right environment to get caught up in an exciting new book. Quiet enough to read, but not so quiet that you can hear yourself think.

So on your next car ride, maybe you’ll strike up a conversation. Maybe you’ll read a good book. Maybe you’ll just use your smartphone until you fall asleep. Sometimes the destination is far more important the journey.

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