Why I love long car rides

Photo of a man driving down the coast
Tenasan/Creative Commons

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I would say that I have had my fair share of long car rides. Through dozens of road trips throughout the United States, bus rides back and forth from Seoul to home in South Korea and taking an 11-hour flight every time I travel to and from the United States, I’ve gotten used to long hours of sitting in a moving vehicle. I used to dread it, looking for things to do the moment I settled in my seat, but now, I’ve come to love long rides. An 11-hour flight across the ocean gets shorter every time.

Outside of a moving vehicle, there always seems to be something I have to do, if not something I can be doing. I constantly feel like I’m running out of time to do everything I want to achieve. However, on a car or plane, I am physically constrained from doing anything. All I can do is just sit, maybe work on one of these car activities to fill the time, but nothing that really checks off my long checklist of to-do items. I used to easily get bored, but now, I’ve learned to just sit and be. Let my thoughts run. Look out the window and listen to music. When I normally feel like I have so much to do, the idea of having nothing to do makes me relax. Long rides have now become a time of rest and healing for me.

Not doing something “productive,” aka anything that checks an item off my to-do list, has always felt like I’m not achieving my full potential. The thought of just sitting and doing nothing for an 11-hour flight was dreadful to me. What is “productivity” though, not just as a student or worker, but as a human? Can productivity be passive, not just active? Can resting, reflecting and passively finding inspiration be “productivity” too?

I used to think that resting was a waste of time. But slowly, I am learning to accept rest, sleep and mindful wandering as part of a productive, effective routine. Rest is what helps us function. Rest is complementary to productivity. Sometimes you need to let go to refocus yourself. And long car rides helped me realize how good rest feels and how beneficial it is to my overall health, happiness and productivity.

I am learning how to fully relax even when I am not in moving vehicles. I stopped looking at my long checklist of to-do items as a reminder that I am behind where I want to be, but rather as a source of excitement for where I can be. I am leaving white space in my colorful Google Calendar. Taking time in the morning to savor a cup of coffee. Sitting on the Memorial Glade with no particular purpose. Allowing myself to lie down on my bed and aimlessly scroll through my phone. Relaxation has made me more productive, more in sync with myself and has given a clearer objective to my goals.

Contact Eunkyo Jo at [email protected].