To infinity, and the road. Er, beyond.

If you want to get to know somebody, you spend time with them. If you really want to get to know somebody, spend six hours trapped in a car with them. And if you really, really want all the gory details, spend twelve.

That’s my personal philosophy on travel. (And maybe on people, too, but this is a travel blog.) It all started for me six years ago, when my at-the-time-boyfriend-now-husband and I decided to take off for the weekend and visit a friend in Chicago. Twelve hours away by car. In the middle of winter. What could possibly go wrong?

To my surprise, almost nothing. (What did go wrong is another story altogether.) We got in the car on a Friday afternoon, after I got out of class early, loaded down and prepared to haul for the next twelve hours straight. What happened next were twelve of the most memorable hours of my life. I had expected to spend long hours in awkward silence when we ran out of conversation, but we never did. We crossed entire states and outran snowstorms. I braved (and enjoyed) fast food exotic to my home locale and had my very first White Castle burger. And when we finally arrived at our hotel well past midnight, I wasn’t even ready to go to bed. Home, and the afternoon we had left behind may have happened centuries before. We were adventurers, explorers, warriors on a legendary quest, and we were capable of anything we set out to do. It was then and there that I realized the thrill and freedom of the great American road trip. I was hooked.

In the years since then, my husband and I have opted to drive to our destination whenever possible. Lovers of adventure, outer space, and regional fast food chains, all we need is the open road ahead of us and a car to get us there. Our travels have taken us far and wide throughout the eastern United States, and roadtripping has simply become a defining part of our life and our relationship.

But why travel by car, you might ask? In this age of airplanes and convenience and speed? My reasons are simple:

If you want to get to know somebody, you spend time with them. If you really want to get to know somebody, spend six hours trapped in a car with them. And if you really, really want all the gory details, spend twelve.

Sure, if you spend twelve hours in the car with a traveling companion, you’ll learn more about them than you ever wanted to know, but besides that, you’ll get to know the places and people of the country you live in. Home is a comforting, but sometimes confining microcosm. Taking the slow road and traveling by car will introduce you to the world you live in in unexpected and wonderful ways. Watching the landscape change around you as you cruise down the road is thrilling. Even more so when it’s in a place you’ve never been before.

In a more practical sense, roadtripping can be less expensive than other means of travel. You can bring along your own meals instead of eating out. You’ll never be charged for overweight baggage. (Unless it just plain doesn’t fit in the trunk.) While gas prices are always a bit of a gamble, if you plan well, you can travel for prices equal to, or in some cases, less than the cost of plane tickets. That’s always a selling point to me.

Driving as a mode of travel grants you the freedom to be the master of your own destiny. Let’s just admit it; flying can be awfully stressful. Between worrying about arriving on time, to dealing with layovers, or kids being kids on the plane, to worst of all, lost luggage, (let’s not even mention TSA screenings and trying to get your personal items safely through the gate) there’s a lot to put up with just to get to your destination. The stress is a trade-off for convenience, but quite honestly, I prefer the calm quiet of my own car to the madness of the airport. Unless, of course, the silence is broken by this year’s custom-made roadtrip playlist. That’ll do nicely, too.

There’s no other way I’d choose to see America than by car. Traveling at my own pace, the open road is mine to see, explore, and interact with in ways I’d never see if I simply flew over it all. One thing I know for certain; roadtrips are a beautiful gift and a dangerous curse. Experiencing the world as you pass through it can be like seeing entire new colors in the spectrum for the very first time, but once you’ve started, you’ll never be able to stop.