Traveling Solo – The Sleep Deprived Traveler

As some of you may or may not know, last year I decided to do a little nomading (I made that word up). My plan was to travel across the US of A via the four wheel method. I departed Northeast Pennsylvania on July 29th 2011 with my frequent travel pal Bill and we were bound for Columbus Ohio that night. After that, we ultimately headed for the Teton’s in Wyoming before parting ways for a few weeks. Once we separated, I was left to my own devices for a few weeks. You might ask, what does one do to stay awake and sane while driving so many miles solo. Well, I will certainly share with you, what I have learned from my experience.

Don’t Drive Way Too Late! –
Nothing will make your struggle to stay awake harder than driving well into the night time hours. Plan ahead, and make sure you have an area to rest at a reasonable hour. Nothing is worse than trying to find a place to pitch your tent or park your car after dark. Planning ahead will help to make sure you have a place to get much needed rest.

Stay Caffeinated –
Now not everyone can handle caffeine, but on the other hand, some people can’t function without it. Personally, I lie somewhere in the middle, so when I feel drowsy on a long drive I make sure to have at least one cup of coffee. Now you aren’t limited to cofffee here, tea or soda, or hot chocolate will work just fine too.

Fresh Air, Fresh Air –
A good ole’ blast of air to the face works wonders when you are feeling heavy in the eyes. Typically when it is dark out, and you are sealed up in your car, it is easy to be lulled to sleep by the monotony of the night time scenery. Having the window opened helps to keep you alert by introducing some air movement into your ride.

Stop early, Stop often –
Remember how I said to stay caffeinated? well unless you have a coffee pot plugged into your car (Bad Idea!) or a cooler full of sodas, you are going to have to stop to stock up. Plan to do this a bit earlier than you think you will need to, especially if you are traveling in the western states or anywhere less than populated. Nothing is worse than getting into the middle of the desert and having a hankering for a coffee then finding out that the next exit is 50 miles away.

Rock Out, or Nerd Out –
It really doesn’t need to be said, but i’ll say it anyway, A good road trip needs a good sound track, it’s pretty much the lifeblood of the road but it also is essential to keeping your eyes open and mind alert. I find it is easier to stay awake when I am interacting with something, therefore road trip karaoke is a great stimulant. That’s right, sing your heart out, those truckers won’t laugh too much at you. Of course if you want to nerd out instead, a podcast also works great too.

Call A Friend –
Sometimes when I find myself on the road alone for long hours, I use that time to catch up with people I don’t get to talk to often. Sometimes jumping between time zones can help or hurt this tactic, but give it a try, you may be surprised at who is an early riser or a night owl.

Stimulate Your Mind –
When I was driving through the mountains of the cascade range, it was never difficult to keep my mind active, such beautiful scenery was out  every window, but not every road will lead you to beautiful or interesting scenery. As beautiful as the rolling hills of Kansas may be, things can get a bit repetitive, so find something to stimulate your mind. I would count how many people passed me with out of state license plates, or how many of a certain brand of car passed me. There is no end to the games you can come up with to keep your mind active, be creative!

Just Stop. –
If all else fails, stop! it is not worth crashing, or plunging off a cliff into a canyon while you are sleeping like a baby. There are many places you can stop for a few hours rest, often, just getting out and stretching your legs will recharge your batteries enough to go a few more hundred miles. Best thing I can recommend is to use your judgement, if you can’t keep your eyes open, it is probably time to call it quits for a while. Stay safe, and keep others safe.

This is just a short list of  ideas that helped me through long hours on the road. There is something a bit relaxing about traveling alone. Spending time alone with your thoughts can often be self medicating and also some of the most creative time you will get. I have cooked up so many ideas while driving down the highway all alone.


Do you have a travel tip or recommendation? drop it in the comments or email me: Patrick at

Daily Photo –  The Sleep Deprived Traveler

When I got back from my cross country trek last year, I spent a lot of time experimenting with photography and playing with my remote flash triggers. I decided that I wanted to cook up a photo that payed homage to all the hours and miles I spent alone on the road, and really represented how I looked/felt at times. After firing off many shots, I finally arrived at this gem of a photo. Enjoy!

2011 Patrick Gensel - Creative Commons Noncommercial

By | 2017-12-16T19:34:26+00:00 March 27th, 2012|Travel School|0 Comments

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