There is something exhilarating about a road trip. No matter where you go in the world, traveling across a country brings with it a sense of freedom and excitement, coupled with the uncertainty of exploring the unknown. One of the best countries to road trip through is the United States. With its mix of interstate freeways and state highways, and an abundance of attractions from the kitschy to the breathtaking, an American road trip is certainly something that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
We recently met up with travel blogger and LeafCanoer, Dan McElroy, who runs the travel blog, Searching For Your Zen. Having spent the last two years backpacking through Europe, teaching English in China, and traveling through Asia, Dan is currently on an American road trip. We sat down with Dan to talk about his travels, his blog, and his tips for doing an American road trip.
What’s the meaning behind “Searching For Your Zen”?
“Searching For Your Zen” was the result of a quarter-life crisis. I had just jumped into the “Corporate World” of the US with aspirations of climbing the ladder and being successful. When I lost my job unexpectedly and with no warning I was forced to re-consider my life and my own definition of “success.” After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that it was time for a change in my life. I was tired of chasing society’s dream and decided I wanted to travel. It was in the moments leading up to a solo 3 month trip to Europe that I started “Searching For Your Zen“. I was on a new adventure in life and my only goal was to be happy again.
What do you look for when you travel?
My ideological answer to that question is, “I’m searching for that place where time ceases to exist.”
In other words, I am looking for those moments in life that are so engrossing that nothing else matters. Those moments when time seems to slow down and life just seems simple for a moment. For me, I find those moments most often when I’m wearing a backpack in a foreign country and meeting strangers in hostels. People have a funny way of becoming their “best self” on the road and that is ultimately what I’m looking for. I want to be my best self and I seem to run into him more often while traveling.
What’s your American road trip goal?
Jess (my girlfriend), Barney (her dog) and myself are hoping to see the US as it was meant to be seen. This country is huge and it seems to demand a slower pace to truly experience it. Like anywhere, the US is just as much about the people is it is about the sites. We want to see the famous sites and we will, but in the meantime we’re talking to people from all over and hoping to get a glimpse into their lives. Our goal isn’t just to see the US, but to actually experience some of the sub-cultures.
What has been your favorite travel memory so far in US?
We are only 2 weeks into the road trip so far, but our favorite experience was when we spent a couple nights on a farm outside of Missoula, Montana. We used CouchSurfing.com and “surfed” with some really cool people! In the mornings we helped out a bit around the farm and then we went swimming and boating in the afternoons. It was a great experience and we met some really good people out there. Montanans are super friendly and the scenery in the entire state was incredible to experience first-hand.
What leafs can we expect next from you?
Because we started our road trip in Montana and Wyoming, we have front-loaded our road trip with national parks! As a result, my first 2 leafs were about Glacier & Yellowstone. In the future though, I would like to cast light on some of those places that don’t always get as much attention, cities and towns with unknown adventures and excitement! I’m more of a city-guy than a country-guy, so the next couple leafs will move from the country and focus on some of America’s greatest cities!
In the end, I am an adventure traveler on a budget. I am always looking for adventure and when I find it, I will share my experiences (along with some budget-saving tips as well).
Travelers like Dan and Jess are not the first to go on an American road trip. And they certainly won’t be the last. The allure of the road will always call to travelers, and for good reason. From the amazing sights you see to the interesting people you meet along your journey, embarking on a road trip continues to be one of the best ways to experience a country.
To follow Dan’s leafs and for more road trip ideas and inspiration, download the LeafCanoe app.