One of my favorite routes in the Bay Area is the Pacific Highway west of San Francisco. The blinding ocean and wind-swept trees flash by your windows as you wind through rugged cliffs. The drive is the perfect reminder that a journey can be as enjoyable as the destination, and that roads really are the lifeblood of human civilization.
Many famous roads like the Silk Road or Oregon Trail changed the course of history by connecting people and places. Some roads are famous destinations themselves: Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Scottish Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and the curvy, flowery Lombard Street in San Francisco.
Our roads reflect the culture of the time period we live in. A popular running joke in movies and TV shows – from La La Land to SNL skits – makes fun of the way daily traffic jams have reduced urban Californian roads to rage-inducing battlefields. While the shared misfortune gives frustrated commuters something to bond over, it’s a sign that highway infrastructure in many areas hasn’t kept up with increasing population. We also have the uniquely modern problem of dodging fellow drivers who have their eyes glued to their phones.
Roads require trust: in the builder to take you to the right destination, in maps to lead you in the right direction, and in other travelers to not interfere with your journey. You rely on engineers to take you on railroad rides and captains to steer boats on rivers, the watery equivalent of highways.
Roads can change your life, if you follow Robert Frost’s lead and take roads less traveled. It takes courage to ramble through untrodden territory, but the reward is a chance to see things you’ve never expected (maybe someone roaming with mules). Even better, you get to reset your perspective and evaluate if your life is traveling in the right direction.
Let’s hit the road, shall we?
This post is part of the Alphabet Project, where I write an article for each letter of the alphabet. It was inspired by Ash Huang’s Alphabet Meditations.