A road trip is unlike any other type of travel. By its very nature, a road trip is packed with surprises, unplanned diversions, and a particular feeling of freedom that you just can’t find in the air, on a train, or aboard a boat, since you’re in control starting from the moment you pack your car. And although you might have a final destination in mind, how you get there is up to you — making your own path is the whole point.

A woman and man sit blowing bubbles in the bed of a pickup truck

When we think about some of the most incredible road trips we’ve taken in our lives (sitting in the back of your parents’ minivan, riding shotgun in a friend’s ancient VW camper van, making a solo expedition behind the wheel of a new-to-you hatchback headed for the first semester of college), what we remember is the feeling of infinite possibility: There’s no telling what natural wonder you might spot through your open car window, what roadside attraction you might stumble across, or which kitschy-cool diner you could end up eating breakfast in. Even if you meticulously plan every stop (we see you, Type A’s), a road trip will always offer up something unexpected.

Despite the fact that we’re living in the age of Google Maps and GPS apps built into our wrist watches, there’s always that tiny waterfall, community farmers’ market, or salt and pepper shaker museum (yep, that’s a thing) that the internet failed to tell us about. In a world where we’re so tied to our tech, it’s kind of awesome to let the IRL landscape surprise and inspire us.

One of the best things about road trips is the fact that they can be done on the skinniest of shoestring budgets. If you have a friend with a car and some camping gear, a summer road trip is the cheapest adventure you can have. Snacks can be made ahead of time, groceries can be bought along the way, and some of the best meals ever can be cooked over an open fire at whatever campsite you happen to land at that night. (Pro tip: S’mores totally count as a meal when you’re road tripping.) Not a fan of sleeping under the stars? There are inexpensive hotels and motels along basically every freeway in every state.

A woman and her dog stretch their legs by her RV

In a country as big as this one, it’s awesome to think that you can drive to the other side (or simply over the state line) and experience a completely different culture or climate without a passport or an expensive plane ticket. Even cooler: Without ever leaving a state like Texas, you could start out in a flat, humid, subtropical place like Dallas and end up in the El Paso desert, surrounded by cacti and enjoying a view of the Franklin Mountains. Watching the scenery change as you drive is part of the thrill — and something you miss completely if you’re flying. (And don’t even get us started on airplane food or, these days, the utter lack thereof.)

The diversity contained within the borders of this vast country is unmatched — it’s what REALLY makes America great. So whether your destination of choice is a music festival or an outdoorsy expedition or taking a foodie Michelin tour, we totally recommend getting behind the wheel this summer and letting adventure find you.

What’s the most memorable road trip you’ve ever taken? Tweet us about it @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)