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Nothing beats a classic atlas on a road trip. GPS' and Smartphones have made these feel obsolete, but as a kid, when my family would make 28-hour drives to Florida, I'd spend hours staring at a Rand McNally atlas. Those hours made me thirsty to travel, and also gave me a pretty kick-butt understanding of U.S. geography (not to mention hundreds of fantasy road trips). Here's the Rand McNally atlas I used to create my 2011-2012 "Dream Road Trip" map and am using for my National Parks Road Trip map too! Get your own on Amazon.com for only $10 bucks!
2. Literary Inspiration
Traveling isn't just about physical escapes! What better to do while on a plane, waiting for the bus, or to meet a friend, than travel mentally while you're traveling physically!
I find a good travel memoir helpful to get me in the right mood for travel, be it remembering to open myself to new experiences, learning from others' growth, or simply being inspired by someone else's trip. Check out these books (and audio books) for your next travel or road trip!
Mikah's Top 5 Travel Memoirs (click the book for an Amazon link):
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (seriously inspiring, read it).
2. WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (resonated a lot with my own story)
3. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (so what if it's popular to hate it, it's a great story and Liz Gilbert writes the poop out of it)
4. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom (not exactly travel, but hits to the core of life lessons I've learned from traveling. It was also a recommendation from my mentor, my "Morrie.")
5. Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller (Miller's "Blue Like Jazz" is the book that got me to love reading, and this story--about a road trip pre-Blue Like Jazz fame--is a great addition for any "seeker.")
Mikah's Top 5 Audio Books:
1. Adventure - Any of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins! I paired Book One with an 11-hour drive from Dallas to Santa Fe and the arid vistas made it feel that much more real. Book Two was listened to while driving up the Pacific Coast Highway 1. The book's water setting was perfect for the ocean cliffs I was hugging with every curve! Book Three was heard while driving from Banff, Alberta, to Yellowstone, Wyoming--going through everything from snow to sun, which was perfect for the ever changing plot!
Bonus tip: *Pick an Audiobook that will match your driving scenery for an epic experience!*
2. Humor - Tina Fey's Bossypants accompanied me across the dry, high deserts of central British Columbia, and Fey's dry humor was a great match. A good laugh-inspiring listen!
3. Eat Pray Love - Haters can hate, but it's just as good to listen to as read. I actually switched between the book and audiobook on my travels, so have to recommend both!
4. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder - Holy bananas! Ya know how everyone says, "One day I'm gonna become super smart and powerful, but use it to help others and not at all for myself!" (and then most people end up buying a Mercedes and huge houses)? Well, the protagonist of this non-fiction biography, Paul Farmer, is EXACTLY THE PERSON WHO ACTUALLY LIVES OUT THOSE VALUES WE ALL SAY WE WANT. An incredible story of an incredible man and the country of Haiti he loves dearly.
5. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller - Ironically, the book that made me fall in love with reading. It's full of real-life stories that will make you contemplate your own existence, and what better place to do so than on a long drive!
Bonus recommendation: Don't forget music downloads you can use without internet access, an iPod or similar MP3 player, and good/comfy headphones. I was always a skeptic of Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones until they completely changed my air travel for the better--now I don't fly without them (PS - "Beats" headphones are overpriced and poor quality. Don't trust me, but my friend who teaches audio production and sound design at Howard University and told me so.)
Let's face it. We live in a Smartphone world. If you use your phone as your GPS as I do, then you'll need the constant power while driving. If you're traveling, you want to keep your phone fully charged whenever possible, in case you get lost or need it for restaurant searches. I recommend a good 12V charger to take advantage of your vehicle's power outlet, and this one has TWO USB plugs, so you and a travel buddy won't have to fight over who gets it the way my best friend Tom and I used to before I got one with two.
If you've read my post about my Mountainsmith backpack, you know I basically never leave home--and especially not town--without my equivalent of a purse. Let's face it, I've had the same Mountainsmith backpack for over 10 years and traveled to nearly every U.S. state and over 24 countries and it's still working! Check out any number of Mountainsmith products here on Amazon.com, and read my blog post if you still doubt this company's quality.
Not only have I used their products for over a decade, but they were also my national park trip's first sponsor!
Bonus: I personally like owning both a larger backpack for overnight trips or airline travel (you can count a backpack as a "purse/personal item" and take it in addition to a full-size carry-on with any airline as long as it fits under the seat in front of you) and also a small, urban daypack. Here's a small daypack I recommend and a slew of Mountainsmith products searchable below.
Often called "my comfort blanket," I don't go anywhere without my Nalgene water bottle. "Pee pale, sing clear" we say in music, as it's a sign your body is properly hydrated. While traveling, you might not always know when you'll next have access to clean water. This 32-oz bottle not only stores 1/2 your daily recommended water (though I recommend--and drink--more), but is also smart for camping, hiking, or traveling in unsanitary locations (public transport not to be excluded!). Its cap allows you to open it without touching the same place you're about to put your mouth! And its smaller opening keeps water from sloshing down your chest. Not to mention, Nalgenes are basically indestructible!
6. Cell phone safety
Only two U.S. states don't ban cell phone use in some capacity while driving (Hey there, Arizona and Montana), so you'll definitely want to have a hands-free option to still talk to your friends on long drives. I recommend (and use) this Plantronics Bluetooth for simplicity of design, ease of charge, and battery life.
Practical and cool, nothing saves you from having to squint like some sunglasses. A mega fan of anything 80s (especially the music), I'm currently all about retro shades like these.
8. Carry-on Luggage
Whether for a weekend getaway, an overnight trip, or an escape from airline checked-baggage fees, a carry-on bag has been 2nd only to my Mountainsmith backpack over the years. I've used a Delsey recently, but there are many quality ones for cheap on Amazon.com (search link below) with options like 4-wheels, expandable storage, and convertible for suits/as a backpack. You should pick based on your personal preference and specific needs.
9. Money/Passport travel belt
You might laugh, but whether you wear it around your waist under your clothes, or simply put it in your backpack, it is so comforting to know all your important items (money, passport, credit cards, tickets) are in one location you can grab quickly. No need to go extravagant on this utility product, so I recommend this Ody Travel Gear option for only $10 bucks.
10. An Open Mind
Gotcha! Not everything can be purchased, for everything else there's MasterCard...just kidding.
For real, all these above products mean nothing if you are that tourist screaming slowly at the European waiter because they don't have ice. Remember, you're visiting another culture and that's exactly what it is: another culture.
"Don't say 'weird,' say 'different'," my sisters told me growing up.
First and foremost, respect others' differences, and secondly, immerse yourself in them. You are traveling to experience something new: open your mind to it! It might not be your thing, but better to say you tried than just watched from the sidelines.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!