Imagine being in a box just big enough to sit in. Now imagine sitting in that box for an extended period of time. That, in a nutshell, is what road trips are like. And yet, it’s something that a lot of us are compelled to do.
Yes, road trips are often just a means to an end. A way—often the easiest, most economical—to get from point A to point B. And yes, for much of the time, road trips are kind of like banging your head into a locker, with your only relief being an old burrito from a gas station in the middle of nowhere. But when you look back on a road trip, there’s often a longing feeling that makes you want to do it again.
Why is that? A few reasons, I think. But perhaps none are more influential to the allure of a road trip than the feeling of anticipation it brings. When you’re in a car for hours on end, one thing you always have, no matter how far away or how close you are, is the idea of the end destination and what awaits you there. It’s what gets you through the long, monotonous hours on the interstate. It’s what makes driving through crazy, crowded downtowns a little more tolerable. It’s what gives you energy even though you haven’t been able to sleep more than a few hours over the last day and a half. And it’s what makes that old gas station burrito more delicious than filet mignon.
This certain power of anticipation isn’t limited to road trips, either. Take school, for instance. Whatever level it is—high school, college, graduate school, etc.—there’s always an underlying feeling of anticipation. Anticipation to complete a test, or a class, or a program, so you can move on to something better, whether that’s more school or finding yourself in a position to get paid. And it doesn’t stop there. This feeling of anticipation, this source of motivation and excitement, is in everything we do. School. Work. Social life. Road trips. Whatever. It’s what makes us work harder, study more, check the clock 86 times during the last hour of work, prepare a checklist for that trip to Europe seven months in advance and maybe learn French too, and more.
And that’s because we’re perpetually excited about better days. Better job. Better salary. Better relationships. Better conversations. Better car. Better life. It’s human nature. But it’s not just the end destination we’re excited about. We’re excited about the idea of the end destination, and the belief that whatever it is is going to be better than what we’re doing right now.
Here’s another example. It’s the last hour of work. You’re in a meeting. It’s kind of pointless (that’s not to say all work meetings are pointless, just most of them). And to make things worse, it’s dull. But, after the meeting you do get off work. And after work you do have the co-ed slow pitch softball championship that you’ve been looking forward to ever since you beat the Chiseled Koala’s in last week’s semi-final. Needless to say, the anticipation is all but killing you at this point. As such, you spend an entire hour daydreaming/visualizing possible scenarios the evening could take. All of them ending with you as the hero, of course. Maybe it’s a walk off grand slam—yeah, probably a walk off grand slam. Or maybe it’s a heroic catch in center field that nobody else could have made, definitely not David, who claims to be the best player on the team. Or maybe you do both at the same time. You’re not sure how that’d work, but you could probably pull it off. And then, just like that, you look at the clock and see an hour has passed and the meeting is over. It flew by. You even had a good time, too!
The anticipation of getting to where you’re going brings excitement—hope, even. It makes everything better. Both tough times and good times alike. Now, will the softball game live up to its lofty expectations? In this case, almost certainly not (David’s just too good not to be the hero; the guy goes to the batting cages on his lunch break, for goodness sake!). In others, hopefully. No matter how the end destination plays out though, one thing is for sure: anticipation always adds to the life experience. Without it, days would be a little duller, people would work a little less hard, and life, in general, wouldn’t be as exciting. And that, in my book, is a win.