As the warm weather finally arrives, I’ve got holidays and weekend getaways on my mind.
I don’t know why, but the novelty of being able to just jump in the car and drive away for a few days has just never lost its shine for me. I relish the chance to fill my car with toys – my road bikes, my hiking boots, my runners, my cat (he’s not a toy, though) – and hit the road for an adventure.
I am often flying solo on these journeys, and this can have its pros as well as its cons. Although driving alone can be an awesome chance for quality ‘you’ time, I think ultimately I prefer having company to not only make the actual trip itself seem shorter, but to help me stay concentrated, alert and safe on the road.
So on the occasions I am driving without a wingman or woman (although let’s just say my cat does make his presence known, quite audibly in fact), I am really conscious of making sure the trip is as smooth but also as stimulating as possible.
Here are some tools and tricks I use to stay fresh and alert when driving long-haul.
My day doesn’t start without coffee, and nor does any significant driving trip. I am sure it’s just a placebo these days, but heading off with my coffee in the cup carrier gets me in the right frame of mind straight away. A friend of mine once drove non-stop from Perth to Melbourne, eating coffee granules the whole way. There is so much wrong with this that I am not sure where to begin.
Along with the coffee I also pack a bottle of fresh tap water and I just robotically make sure I take small sips throughout the trip. I think keeping hydrated with water is probably actually way better for mental concentration than drinking coffee. But I didn’t just say that aloud, did I?
Avoid Fake Food
I am a healthy eater at the best of times, but there is something about highways and packets of chips that can tempt even me… That said I prefer to pull out of home with some pre-packed goodies to keep me sustained for the journey. Mixed nuts are especially good. Not only are they a lot healthier than chips, but I think the crunching factor helps keep me concentrated.
See also: Our top tips for 4WD first timers
When possible, I like to choose the right time to drive. Things don’t always pan out so perfectly, but for example if I can, then I like to head to work early so I can leave early, and then avoid peak traffic out of the city. I also avoid driving at night; I am a bit of a Nana at the best of times and just tend to do my best work when the sun is out. I also have a very real fear of hitting animals in the night or right on dawn, when they are often most active.
I will also often return home first thing in the morning when I am super fresh. This is probably not ideal – it means I lose a day adventuring – but I prefer to get home whilst my head is still clear and not at the end of a big day out gallivanting around the countryside getting myself physically tired.
Nothing says road trip quite like a quality playlist. If you commute with a trusted list of favourite radio stations, be prepared to lose reception to most of them once you get far enough out of town. I like to have some of My Greatest Hits ready to roll the moment I hit the highway, so I can enthusiastically punch out some massive ballads and keep myself well entertained. Others like to press play on e-books or podcasts. I don’t mind the odd Ted Talk audio presentation, either.
I am a fan of making hands-free phone calls when I know I have three, four, five hours of driving ahead of me. It’s a sensational chance to catch up with friends and family and have a really good natter. I possibly over-plan this, but I like to organise my calls so that I can fit as many in as possible – e.g. start first thing in the morning with early calls to mates overseas before they hit the sack, and then move onto domestic calls once it’s a more civilised local time.
The Right Temperature
I am really no good in the cold – I love the heat. But a warm-to-hot car cabin temperature is not in my mind conducive to safe driving. It just encourages you to roll up in a ball and get sleepy. So when I travel long-haul by myself I usually set the temperature to less than what is ideal for me. Opening the window and blasting yourself with cold air is also a great way to throw your mind right back on-topic. If it’s hot, then of course I will either keep the windows down the whole way, or if it’s absolutely stifling then I will turn on the air-con. But it’s really got to be melting for me to do that.
Working Out, Without Hardly Moving?
Who’d have thought driving on a highway was an opportunity to work out?! There’s all number of Pilates exercises that can be done without hardly moving whilst you’re seated and driving. Working on your core, bum and legs is all possible and definitely helps keep the muscles pulsing and active, which I think plays a big part in encouraging mental alacrity.
And if you really are feeling drowsy, then stopping in a safe place – like a roadside picnic area – and doing some stretches or going for a quick walk can really work wonders.