The joys of solo travel

By: Kath Heiman

Kath revels in the rare privileges of travelling solo.

The joys of solo travel
What made my recent trip unusual was that I was entirely alone in the vehicle

I was driving to Bathurst, NSW, on a Friday afternoon to catch up with my husband and daughter who’d made a head-start on a trip away. I’ve always enjoyed driving to Bathurst. Indeed, I feel a hint of nostalgia because Bathurst is the place where my husband lived when I first met him.

But my recent trip was unusual because I arrived feeling fresher and more alert than when I’d left home three-and-a-half hours earlier. And I couldn’t help wondering why. 

Driving has always been a pleasurable activity for me. Before my husband and I had kids, the open road was a great place to reconnect either individually or as a couple, uninterrupted by phones or other distractions. We’d have long chats about things that mattered to us, sing songs from our favourite CDs or simply enjoy the view. It’s often been said that the gauge of a good relationship is the ability to sit together and say nothing at all. And I think my husband and I sealed our relationship on the road in many of these comfortable silences.

What made this recent trip unusual was that I was entirely alone in the vehicle. So I had the rare privilege of listening – from beginning to end – to hour-long commentaries on the radio. I also decided when, where and for how long my driver-reviver stops would occur. I’ve always enjoyed this sort of independence. Importantly, when I turned on my CDs, I got to sing as loudly and badly as I liked. And, as I did so, the residual stress and anxiety from a week at work drained away as my brain responded by pumping endorphins around my system in celebration.

Think about it – how many of us sing nowadays? Or even whistle? Concerned that people might think us odd if we do so in public, most of us limit our singing to those spaces where we know we won’t be judged. For some, that might be in the shower or around a campfire. For others, our vehicle may be our last bastion for singing – the place where we let loose our primal urge to belt out whatever tune we like. The benefits to our mental, physical and social well-being are well documented. 

On reflection, I think I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the freedoms inherent in vehicle ownership. I have to admit that many of the privileges of solitude and independence have been curtailed now that our daughter’s on board. While I love her dearly, at five years old she’s either talking incessantly or attempting to prescribe the playlist from her chosen genre of Wiggles and pop-rock bands. She then attempts to dictate who is allowed to sing which songs (if any) while she dominates the sound waves, latching on to the catchy lyrics and pumping them out at full volume. 

Cute? Yes. Revitalising? No. My husband and I often find ourselves too fatigued to welcome the respite offered by her periodic car naps with a burst of adult conversation.

Those of you who grew up in the 1960s will remember the ‘Cone of Silence’ from the comedy Get Smart  – a running gag involving a plexiglass bubble that would descend over two speakers so that their conversation couldn’t be heard and spied on. Some of us still use the phrase ‘Cone of Silence’ to refer to closed door conversations that we might have in the office or at home.

After my Bathurst trip, I’m thinking of coining a new term the ‘Cone of Serenity’ to refer to a vehicle’s cockpit. Just like its comedic predecessor, the Cone of Serenity doesn’t always function correctly. Often there’s static and interference that creates malfunctions. But, now and again, when you’re in there by yourself or with a trusted agent, it really works well and you can come out of the experience revitalised and refreshed.

Check out the full feature in issue #103 June 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.