What sets a road trip apart from any ordinary commute is the fact that the journey matters as much as where you are headed.
During the hours you spend in the vehicle’s cabin with your travelling companions, you get to give one another your undivided attention. You swap stories, share music, pass snacks around, take turns at the wheel, and basically just spend some quality time with everyone on board.
The reality, however, might well be everyone in the car connecting with their devices rather than one another, especially with data roaming rates being affordable these days. Nevertheless, during lulls in whatever form of “in-car entertainment” chosen, I like to gaze out of the window, looking mindlessly at the natural and man-made landscapes that pass us by.
Without fail, my wandering gaze is soon followed by a wondering mind, and I inevitably find my imagination going into overdrive.
With every glimpse into a home and the activities going on in it – whether it’s a kampong house in Perak, a suburban home in Vancouver, a multi-million dollar mansion in Los Angeles or a ranch in South Australia – I start visualising what those people’s lives are like.
Who lives in that home? What do they do for a living? Are they enjoying a happy moment or fretting over something? Are they usually at home and doing this particular activity at this hour, or did I happen to catch them on a day that is not like their other days?
Often, I also end up trying to put myself in their shoes and picturing what it would be like if I were to live their lives for a day.
Sometimes, instead of looking into people’s homes, I also catch a fleeting glimpse into other cars that we pass along the way. Then I start to wonder: Is this a family on a road trip just like us, or a couple out on a date? Perhaps a parent doing the school run, or someone off to an appointment?
Occasionally, our gazes meet – two strangers from different worlds, passing along the same route, and who are almost certainly never to meet again. But for that very brief moment, we connected.
In her book Ordinary Life, Elizabeth Berg made reference to the extraordinary moments and events that make up ordinary life. For me, these road-trip snapshots offer insights into the untold stories which lie within those homes and cars, turning them into little treasure boxes of extraordinary experiences that make up my ordinary life.