On the next road trip, turn off the GPS and take the road less traveled

An armed forces memorial in Arcade, Ga. (Photo by Todd DeFeo) An armed forces memorial in Arcade, Ga. (Photo by Todd DeFeo) Photo by:

JESUP, Ga., Aug. 22, 2012 — When it comes to taking a trip, far too often the GPS rules the day.

We turn to this little electronic device as though it’s some sort of omniscient power that will guide us and watch over us. We override our gut instincts and blindly follow a device with outdated maps that might actually lead us off the side of a cliff.

But, we will make great time in falling off the cliff.

In a way, it makes sense; it’s hard enough to break away from the office, and smart phones keep us connected in real time on a 24/7 basis. Traveling has become all about finding the quickest route to the final destination so we can maximize the amount of pool or beach time.

What if, for a moment, we took a literal and figurative detour?

While it might sound cliche, there is something to be said about that age-old adage: “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Or, as Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

Making a journey a little more the experience and a little less the journey isn’t that difficult; it just takes stepping back and re-thinking what it means to travel.

With that in mind, here are five tips for making the most of any journey where time isn’t of the essence:

If the GPS offers up two routes: one with interstates and one without, take the one without. Back roads are the backbone of this country; there are a thousand stories waiting to be discovered, and they aren’t along the interstates.

If there is a random roadside oddity — i.e. a field of concrete corn, a surplus Titan I missile from the Cold War or a cobra attack helicopter mounted high above a war memorial — stop and explore.

Read the monuments scattered throughout town or on the courthouse lawn. Chances are, they tell of interesting stories that helped shape the town or the local heroes who fought in wars in faraway lands.

Don’t be afraid to wander into that locally owned roadhouse and order outside of your comfort zone. You might actually enjoy the eats.

If the waitress in the locally owned eatery says to try the fried chicken, try the fried chicken. It’s a good bet she knows what she’s talking about.

Experience the country from the back roads, and make unexpected detours through small towns.

As the late great Levon Helm once said: “I never subscribe to the stay-at-home policy. I’m not sick of the road or sick of eating in good restaurants around the country. I like to travel.”

That’s a philosophy we should all follow.

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About Todd DeFeo 1626 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.