The Case for the American Road Trip

Andrew_McCarthy
Andrew McCarthy’s book, “The Longest Way Home,” is one of my favorites by a travel writer.

A few years ago, I read Andrew McCarthy’s piece entitled U.S. Road Trips: Into the Heart of America, and I couldn’t agree with him more about getting into your car and going. He begins the piece with this sentence:

There’s nothing wrong that a hundred bucks and a full tank of gas can’t fix.

I heartily agree, Mr. McCarthy.

One of the most special things about taking road trips, in my humble opinion, is not just getting there and seeing what you want to see, but also the ability to get lost and see what you didn’t expect to see. That’s it in a nutshell. Sometimes the best surprises, or those things that have the most impact or create the best memories, are the things you didn’t expect to stumble upon.

Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 4.00.35 PM
Gotta love a hidden treasure with great prices and delicious food.

Take, for example, Mariachi’s restaurant, in Manning, South Carolina. My family and I set out for Savannah, Georgia, last year before we vacationed in Hilton Head. As we were driving, we all became hungry, and we stumbled upon this hidden gem of a restaurant off of I-95. You can get a dinner special for $3.99 all the way up until 4 p.m. I mean, that is a crazy deal! We don’t have many places that have prices like that in Maryland. Anyway, this place gave us lots of laughs and we were all shocked at the amount of food for the price, not to mention it was some good Mexican food. So what did we do this year when we headed south? We stopped at Mariachi’s. You see? We made some memories there.

Road trips also allow you to take a wrong turn and run into a beautiful street, waterfront property, wooded area, or a little pleasant picnic area or park. Road trips offer you choices: you can stop, get your butt out of the car and see what you’ve encountered, or you can drive right through it. The best part about this decision making is that you’re at the wheel and the choices are yours.

Life is all about choices, after all, isn’t it?

I love finding hidden gems, and sometimes, as we’ve done for last few vacations, we’ve tied into the trip a visit to a small town I’ve read about over the years in travel magazines. What good is reading about a place if you don’t get off your duff and go see it?

Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 4.03.29 PM
Bumped into this gem in Beaufort, SC.

Road trips allow you imaginative freedom that we all need sometimes from work, from responsibilities, and from life in general. Roll down the windows, put your favorite music on, and allow the road to guide you.

You just may be delighted by what you discover.

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Proud of My Travel Writers

The students of travel writing class. So proud of them!
The students of travel writing class. So proud of them!

* * *

The semester is over, and now the students are taking final exams. I have completed teaching a Special Topics in Local Travel Writing course in our Business Communication department at Stevenson University, and I have one thing to say.

I loved it.

As any form of travel is wont to do, a true travel experience tends to have the ability to open our minds—and our hearts.

My students were posed the task of traveling like a travel writer, spending two days in their selected place of choice, and then writing about it. I have to say, the topics were varied and interesting. Each student put his or her own spin on it, and the articles reflected who they are as both travelers and people.

When you take the time to travel (with travel being defined as “stepping outside your own door”) and experience your surroundings and cultures in a way that you interpret it, you have tackled a form of sophisticated travel writing.

Although the course is titled “Local Travel Writing” because they embarked on local travel for their assignment, we also critically analyzed noteworthy international travel writers throughout the semester such as Paul Theroux, Andrew McCarthy, Pico Iyer, and even Elizabeth Gilbert. A travel writer can travel—and can observe—but then he must assess the travel and put it into a context that reflects his thoughts, visions, and experiences. This type of introspection makes for some fantastic writing (and reading), as we uncover not only our spot of travel, but also something intrinsic to our own being.

Of course, there is one downside to teaching such a 400-level course: It makes you want to travel somewhere, anywhere, or everywhere.

But in the end, I guess that’s not too much of a hardship.

* * *

I am very proud of my students and want to share their writing with you. To read our travel magazine site, visit More Than Maryland by clicking this link.

Above All Else, It Takes Optimism

Dear Readers,

I enjoyed my break from blogging, but am now eager to come back. While I won’t be posting as often as I used to, I am at least going to commit to one post a week. I couldn’t wait to write this post, as I’m excited for the beginning of the semester next week. Best of luck to all returning and new college students, and to all those going to school to learn and grow. Have a great fall…

Stephanie

Optimism&TeachingYesterday, I attended Stevenson University’s fall faculty/staff meeting. I always get a lot out of those meetings because I inevitably learn something that I didn’t know before I stepped foot into the theater as we march through the day’s agenda.

The key word in that sentence is LEARN.

One must be an optimist to want to learn.

The key word in that sentence is WANT.

Filling one’s head with new information, taking in new techniques or ideas, or formulating one’s own hypotheses and organizing class structures and components are skills that are founded on one principle alone: optimism. One can choose to be optimistic or not…you have to want to be so.

For how can one teach and not be optimistic? If there is no optimism, it’s difficult to be an effective teacher.

In my humble opinion, optimism comes with a caveat: one must like not only to teach, but one must also want to learn along with the students in order to find great satisfaction in the occupation.

Andrew McCarthy. Photo Credit: StarPulse.com http://www.starpulse.com/Actors/McCarthy,_Andrew/gallery/SGG-038481/
Andrew McCarthy. Photo Credit: StarPulse.com http://www.starpulse.com/Actors/McCarthy,_Andrew/gallery/SGG-038481/

For example, just the other day while formulating the syllabus for a new course I’m teaching this fall, Local Travel Writing, I came upon articles written by Andrew McCarthy. Yes, indeed: I am speaking of the very Andrew McCarthy who is the actor famous for such films as “Weekend at Bernie’s,” “Pretty in Pink,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” and “Less Than Zero.” I was a huge fan of his growing up, and now, many years later, have become a fan in a new way.

You see, he’s an accomplished travel writer.

His article entitled “U.S. Road Trips” got me thinking in ways I had not thought before. In reading his somewhat poetic article, I discovered something not just about him, but also about myself.

I love that word: discovery.

I find that through discovery one can become optimistic. And through optimism one not only teaches, but also learns. I can’t wait to open up discussions in class and hear what students think, how they reacted to reading a piece, and ways in which that particular piece of writing made them look at the world and themselves differently.Teaching

The bottom line is I love to learn. Along with my students, we will be uncovering new readings, perspectives, journeys, trials and tribulations, and new ways of thinking and seeing the world.

I’m highly optimistic that this year’s curriculum will not only (hopefully!) make my students’ lives richer, but I am confident that my own life will be richer for the experience of being with them, as we discover and learn together.