48 HR+ Roadtrip to Banff National Park

On a whim in the summer, we decided to drive to Banff National Park. Now that sounds like a nice plan. However…we are in Northern New Jersey which happens to be 48 hours away from that park.

Well, traveling across the whole United States of America is a big challenge but one we were willing to take in order to see that gatorade colored lake.

We packed our bags, shopped for all the snacks in the world, mentally prepared by researching long road trip tips(this is the longest roadtrip I’ve EVER done), and filled the gas tank to the brim.

The landscape changed every few hours. There were mysterious mountains and windy roads in Tennesee, followed by a pink and yellow sunrise we obviously stopped the car to watch. There were weird hills and giant fields of tiny yellow flowers in Canada. In North Dakota there was the longest, neverending road with ´middle of nowheré vibes. The sunrise on that road brought bright bright yellows and oranges to the horizon. The nightime on that road was scary though. At 1am we took a random exit in attempts to find a motel. We arrived at a town that only seemed to be inhabited by one small bar and a handful of half drunk men. We went into the motel and found noone except taxidermied animal heads on the walls. Although it was probably more dangerous than we realized, we slept in the weird motel’s parking lot.

We met a group on the Couchsurfer app to go hiking next to Moraine lake with. They were all either avid travelers or hikers, so I loved hearing their stories from around the globe. They wanted to climb an unmarked hiking trail that seemed much more vertical than we were experienced. It was full of tiny rocks that slid very very easily which made the hike dangerous but I couldn’t resist the challenge. We proceeded with the hike and were absolutely amazed by the view. The mountains looked like they were very skillfully drawn by the world’s greatest painter, the smell of the pine trees was enough to make it seem like Christmas in July, and the incredible color of the lake shined in the distance.

We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples on the middle of the mountain sitting on rocks. There was a moment when we had almost reached the top when my friend had a panic attack because we kept sliding and rocks kept falling. We were extremely vertical, and I began thinking about what branches to grasp onto if I fall. I was sliding on my butt and I made a mess of my yoga pants with the rocks. It was the most adrenaline and sweat I had ever produced on a hike. I loved every minute and do not regret it— even though it was definitely almost fatal(lol).

We drove to Seattle to meet our Russian friend who was visiting. With him, we hiked a steep and narrow path to a waterfall called Bridal Veils. The falls really did look like a part of a wedding day. The forest was different here, and a refreshing change of pace from the east coast foliage i’ve grown accostumed to.

Even with all the crazy moments we had, I don’t regret the trip and I would do it a million times over. The weird, scary stuff is what makes any trip better in my opinion. I wouldn’t want things to go perfect.

Why Road Trips are Necessary

 I am an avid believer of road trips.  There are a million reasons why but here are three reasons why they are necessary for you to be a happy, functioning human being.

  1. Planning a road trip ups your endorphin levels .

It’s easy to feel that even before you step on the gas pedal.  Dopamine,a hormone responsible for making you feel happy, is released when we are excited to do something new.  The moment that I started researching Banff National Park in Canada, my mood definitely elevated just at the mere thought of one day seeing the gatorade colored lakes in person.  When work was very stressful because of to the upcoming projects that were due, I did not let it get to me because in the back of my mind I was planning what states to drive through.  When you get stressed at work, sometimes you forget about the amazing world that exists outside our cubicles.

2. New scenery changes your perspective.

In the summer of 2017 we drove more than 50 hours just to get to Moraine Lake.   That drive consisted of many different kinds of scenery, depending on whetherppp’ we were in Canada or the US as well as if it was night or day.  It’s easy to think that everyone in the world lives like you and is surrounded by the same kinds of sights and people.  When you step out of your comfort zone though, you will see how others live and reevaluate your own beliefs and values.  Your mind loves when you present it new things.   Areas of the brain that allow you to pay attention are most activated when you try something new.  As you become more familiar with a task, your mind will start to wander and even daydream.  

3. Challenges on road trips boost your resilience.  

Road trips consist of challenges.  Those may come in the form of not finding an airbnb or motel to sleep in for the night(therefore sleeping at Motel Walmart parking lot), nearly running out of gas right when you reach a ghost town where the only sign of life is a bar with very creepy old men standing outside, or perhaps getting lost in the mountains when the wifi signal doesn’t reach you no matter how many times you refresh your GPS.  Those challenges and how you decide to react to them can change you and make you become a stronger person.  The obstacles you would once scream and or cry about are the ones you face with a calm breath and determination to overcome them.  

So, maybe road trips are not the solution to everyone’s happiness levels to soar but it’s worth giving it a try.  Even a two hour road trip can help you breathe some fresh air into your lungs.