Journeys are something that all novel characters go on, be it a physical one, mental or both. Road trips have featured heavily in literature and film and the end of the physical journey usually goes hand-in-hand with the characters' psychological transformation. America is the land most associated with road trips and I'd never really understood the appeal until I lived in New Zealand, where they featured heavily in our free time.
Luckily I was just the passenger so could really appreciate the scenery that we were driving through but it made me realise how being on the road surrounded by majestic mountains, wide open plains, peaceful lakes and roaring rivers was a very different experience to the mayhem on the M4. I suddenly got it. I knew why road trips were used in literature to symbolise more than a physical journey. Your mind is set free as you wind along empty roads, real life retreats into a shadowy background and the opportunities offered by the open space, and the ever-growing distance between you and your responsibilities, seem endless. I wanted to own a camper van, I never wanted the journey to end.
But end it did. And what psychological transformation did I undergo at the end of all those road trips? I learnt that you couldn't build a life based on scenery. As great as all the trips were and as beautiful as New Zealand is, I needed more. When the trip ended I wanted to be somewhere that had cultural beauty too, where there was always something new to see - a band, a play, a comedian - where history oozed out of the pavements, the walls and the air. So my journey ended with a return to the UK, where I avoid road trips if at all possible as the motorway service station can never compare to a picnic next to a waterfall overlooking a deserted beach, even if it does have an M&S Simply Food in it.