Road trips are a pretty integral part of anybody’s surfing career. I think that surfing attracts a certain type of person – usually one that likes the idea of packing up and taking off with their face towards the sun and a roof full of surfboards. But that same mindset – the one that loves packing up and taking off – is also pretty good at forgetting to plan things. Like gas money. Or where laundry’s going to get done (I have a friend that will tell you that underwear can be worn four times and be clean each time: right side out, inside out, backwards, and inside out and backwards). Or breakdowns, robberies, broken boards, Montezuma’s revenge, accidental pregnancy, hangovers, and anything else that can possibly go wrong when two or three or four ill-prepared, Spiccoli-types hop in a beaten up old vehicle and point it south. And while I don’t have all the answers, I may have few. And while I may have a few, they may be wrong. And while I may be wrong, if used properly, they might be entertaining (for bystanders).
1. Take your time.
One of the worst things you can do on a road trip is rush through the whole thing. Having a destination in mind and a date you think you HAVE to be there means bypassing places that must not be bypassed. I think a better way to look at it is to plan it according to old adage: it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Adventure! It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. Sure, have a destination, but have a bunch of other mini-destinations along the way. Otherwise you’ll drive by some of the most beautiful places without even knowing it. If you can swing it (which most people can’t) don’t even put an end date on it. Just drive. Just stop. Stay in places until you’re sick of them.
2. Stop for road pirates.
Seriously. Depending on what country you’re in, stopping for that guy on the side of the road wearing one shoe, no pants, and holding the cardboard sign reading “ANYWHERE BUT HERE” could be the best thing to happen the whole trip. Of course, there’s also potential for it to be the worst thing, but you’ll never know until you pick him up and find out. Often times, hitchhikers will either tell you the best stories you’ve ever heard and give you a couple of tips on where to go to do something great that’s not in your outdated Lonely Planet book. Then again, they might murder you and steal your car, but it’s a beater anyways, right? Hey, you’re on an adventure!
3. Stray from the beaten path.
The beaten path sucks a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of cool stuff on it that you should probably see, but I’ve found that, for the most part, it’s only worth a very small amount of time. The really interesting things are under the logs of life. Roll that shit over and get your hands dirty. Get yourself in situations you’re not sure about. See that turnoff with no sign telling you where it goes? Take it. Take it and find out what the sign would say. Look at a map as little as possible. Getting lost sucks, but half the time it turns out you’ll find something better than where you were going in the first place. I got lost in the dark on a motorcycle in Nowhereville, Nicaragua with no shirt, no shoes, and no headlight. You know what I found? Some weird old man in a tiny shack surrounded by chickens and dust who gave me directions in broken English, a cold glass bottle Pepsi, and the best laugh I’ve ever heard. I got home late, but late for what? Bed? That weird old man made my night.
4. Push yourself.
If you get to a wave somewhere and you think it might be a little too much for you, go out anyways. If you die, don’t come back to haunt me, though. Regret is the worst thing ever. It’ll ruin the next hundred miles, especially if your friends went out and rub it in your face the whole way. Paddle out, paddle on, and if you don’t make it, at least you know you tried. And you know what? Chances are, you WILL make it. You’ll make it and get spit out and scream and grab your hair and thank God (or me!) that you went out. Exciting! Email me your success story (or hate mail) at email@example.com.
5. Don’t go with jerks.
That’s obvious, you say? You might be right. But how well do you really know that guy sitting four inches away from you for a month in the back seat of a metal sweat box? Does he love Conway Twitty and get gassy when he eats burritos? Does he have a never-ending obsession with the oh-so-entertaining game of Punch-buggy? Will he cry and mope and make puppy dog eyes at you when he misses his girl or dog or parents and ruin everything? How bad do his feet smell? You really need to know these things before you sit in a car with someone for seemingly endless stretches of highway. Because really, there aren’t many things that are worse than a guy with smelly feet singing Conway Twitty and punching you in the arm every time a Volkswagen drives by. Go with people you know you can handle. Go with people who you know well enough to know what annoys you about them. Because at some point, they will annoy you. At least this way, you’ll know what to expect. And it won’t be Conway Twitty and blue cheese feet.
Congratulations to last month’s Call of the Wild Series Winner, Jordan B., for this tip: “Bring lint from your dryer (sounds crazy but trust me) makes a fantastic fire starter. Free and packable. Try it out.” We will. Now enjoy your Howler Gear!
What’d we miss? Add your best tip for the ultimate surf road trip to win a badass prize pack from the kind folks at Howler Brothers: Heed the Call!