One night I was listening to the Lost Girls speak about their travel experiences, and nearly 200 hours later, I already had my own solo 6-week cross-country road trip planned.
Well, for the most part.
In the past few weeks, I've heard all of it, from the “you're absolutely insane!” to the “I'm so jealous, you're so brave.”
I get it. To most people, it does sound pretty daring, but to this well-traveled community, I'm sure it just seems like another exciting set of plans.
Here are the tools that helped me come up with mine:
1. The Calendar
For some, there may not be any time restraints.
In my case, however, I have a tiny little thing known as a bank account that won't keep me on the road forever.
So, I glanced ahead at mid-October to my alma mater's Homecoming weekend, made that the end date, and then worked my way back to the beginning of September.
2. The Atlas
I first narrowed down a little more than a baker's dozen of cities that I wholeheartedly wanted to visit based on specific landmarks or loved one's homes.
Then, I went to the map, drew it out, and figured out the other 12 or so that I'd have to stop at for the sake of my sleep needs.
I'll have my Garmin with me, and Google Maps certainly helped as well.
I've also heard that some people may prefer to plan their entire routes along a highway, i.e., I-80 for the North, I-10 for the South, and I-80 for most of the states in between.
3. The Lodging
It's entirely too early for me to truly set my places to stay in stone (besides the houses of friends or family), but I've already joined Couchsurfing to prepare for it.
It'll be my first experience with the international hospitality network, and I couldn't be more excited!
Not only will it be economical, but it'll also allow for more friendly interactions and new friends along the way.
To address the other options, I cannot afford to stay in motels, and I don't have the nerve to camp by myself.
4. The Car
I probably should have made this the first on the planning checklist, right? Ha.
Anyway, it is essential to have a vehicle that is in tip-top shape and highly recommended to have one that gets good gas mileage.
Luckily, I have both plus AAA. I don't know if my parents would let me leave town without it.
Renting a car and dropping it off at one end or the other is also a possibility for those over the age of 26.
5. The Sustenance
Since I will be the only passenger in that car of mine, I'll want to pack some food and drinks in addition to a bag of clothes and toiletries.
I am a foodie, remember?
I'm thinking of bottled water, dry cereal, granola bars, chewing gum, and maybe even a small cooler to fill with fresh fruits and vegetables that I purchase along the way.
6. The Itinerary
I am all for leaving days up to a serendipitous chance when I have the time to do so.
On this trip, I am not spending more than 48 hours is any place other than Syracuse and San Francisco, so I want to make sure that I make the most of my time in each one.
Still, I am not making my lists too strict with only about one museum, two restaurants, and possibly one more “bonus” activity like hiking.
Maybe in a few years I can come back and rent a party bus with friends from Limo Find to have a big night out.
My Macbook and iPhone will surely be joining me complete with a free Wifi app and GasBuddy.com home page.
As for the GPS-factor, I've already mentioned my Garmin. And a camera? Check.
Although, in all honesty, I'd love to get an SLR to bring my amateur photography skills up to par with the American beauty I'll surely be seeing.
There you have it: my amateur, un-tested, completely fool-proof-less planning tips.
In my mind, there are only three genuine opportunities for this kind of adventure: post-college, mid-life career change, and retirement.
And since I'm only at square one, let's hope that the number seven has some luck to it.