Staying away from GPS and navigating by maps in realtime. Hvalfjarðarsveit.
We think of romance as these grandiose things. It’s an event at the end of a film, a joyful montage in a rom-com, an extravagant proposal.
The intricacies of my memories are built into things that do not cost so much money —a walk in the park after coffee in bed. A meal cooked with the record player on, candles lit, and the good napkins out. And then there's one of my most cherished; a road trip in a new place.
When I say road trip, I don’t mean a family traveling to Grandma’s on Christmas. I mean one with someone you love. Buy a ticket somewhere you’ve never been, rent a car, and drive. I never thought I would be the kind of person to do that in different countries, but here we are.
Some of the times that pop in my head…
A mystical trip around Iceland —hiking a glacier, riding Icelandic horses, staring in awe of rainbows and waterfalls from icy car windows. Inhaling the otherworldly-ness of the changing terrain.
Iceland's mystical drive scape
Renting a car out of Athens to go on a tour of ancient civilization; seeing the Delphi ruins where the Oracle of Apollo spoke, and Meteroa’s cliff-hanging monasteries built into limestone rocks. After eating a lot of gyro along the way, dropping off the rental on the East Coast of Thessalonik to catch a flight to Santorini.
Abundant cliff views above Meteora in Greece
Heading from South Africa, Cape Town to where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet—at the pristine tip of Cape Agulhas. Stopping along the way at bucolic winelands like Stellenbosh and Franschhoek, and at a quaint monkey forest in The Crags.
Views and wine before a massage at Lanzerac Spa in Stellenbosch.
Here's a few things that are good to remember for planning a road trip, wherever you may go!
Road Trip Guidelines
for optimal pleasure
Make it longer than 2 days.
To really get to know this person, do a longer road trip. With a bit of research, you can find little places along the way to get excited about. I love all those apps where you can now share your ideas with each other. It's just as easy as creating a Google Docs, or a brainstorming program like Milanote where you can copy links to a board.
Make a playlist.
Curate música inspired for the trip to play each other. You can even research artists from the country, or create a theme. When researching one for Iceland, I discovered Icelandic reggae, and got really excited to share it. Here’s one I made for that trip.
Do a tailgate.
Find food trucks, farmer's markets or fruit stands along the way. Pop open the trunk, and have a cute tailgate picnic in a pretty parking lot or roadside. It can be as easy as fresh cheese and bread with a local drink from a supermarket.
Google a few interesting questions to ask each other.
Driving gives you an ease to respond in ways you might not do anywhere else. As someone who is constantly battling my daily existential crises, I find deep intimacy in speaking about life during a long car ride (my Aquarius mode activated).
Make sure someone can drive stick.
If it’s somewhere in Europe or wherever automatic isn’t the standard. Hopefully you can change the GPS to a language you understand. Little sister and I learned the hard way when driving up some unmarked roads from Avignon to a château we were staying at in Ferrassières (more on that adventure later).
Delegate what to do.
After getting off a train in Switzerland to meet a friend, she said something that changed the way I travel with people. She said, “for this trip, let’s split up what we’re in charge of. How about you direct us to the places we go, and I’ll be the one talking to everyone when we get there.” We were in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, going to a small village where most people didn’t like it when you didn’t speak their language (fair). Finding special places to go excites my deep satisfaction of making lists, and my friend is extroverted and knows a little French. We found things that worked for us. Harmony!
Bring a journal and a Polaroid camera.
Every night, write down 3 good things that happened. Save little pieces of the trip along the route, like receipts and dried flowers, in a tiny folder. Write down captions on each polaroid (or even better, take turns writing them with the person you went with). When you're unwinding, you can glue them on your journal. Better than an Instagram; you can have a tactile thing to share with someone you love.
Reward the end of your journey.
I love an epic lounge at the end of a road trip. After the drive around Greece, I booked a hotel in Santorini with a majestic balcony and pool. Meaning we didn’t have to move. I just could order meals to the room, and unwind with a sunset view. When I wanted to walk, I booked us wine tastings where friendly wine people just pointed to the cheese and vino to drink. It’s nice to celebrate your adventure.
On my final days in Iceland I did a similar thing: I found a secluded cabin near Akureyri, the North side of the island that touches the Greenland Sea. It had a geothermal hot tub on a porch, overlooking the stunningly icy Eyjafjörðu Fjord. Large windows and a cozy couch inside called for wool socks, blankets and mugs of coffees. Tranquil porch and window vibes are something I adore as an end to a journey.
The best thing about road trips is it’s not exclusive to a place. Many I’ve even done solo. I don’t believe romance is exclusive to a lover. That’s a tired trope.
Romance is about how you make experiences exciting where you are. It's prioritizing the torrid love affair you're having with yourself.
If you don't have the energy or finances to book a long ass foreign road trip, you can still make magic. You don't have to feel you're missing out because you can't leave. It's okay to be where you're at. There’s also day trips if you want to cultivate a change of pace. Think Phoenix to Sedona, New York City to Vermont, a star-gazing adventure during the new moon from Honolulu to the North Shore.
A romantic life is about irresistible moments anywhere you go, and bringing people along for the party if you please. It's celebrating where you are now. That's the adventure I'm always down for.