I’ve always loved the idea of a road trip: the endless skies, vast landscapes and the long, straight highway stretching into the distance.
When I was at university, I wrote about the journey in film and literature and found it a fascinating subject. There are some amazing and powerful stories that take place on the road.
Road movies are full of symbolism and meaning, which is something I loved exploring whilst I was studying for my degree. In fact, I had to rewrite this blog post completely because the first version sounded far too academic!
In these stories, the characters are often outsiders or people who want to break away from the confines of society. Their journey is about finding themselves and being free. Often their experiences are heightened and they become fiercely alive. There’s a beautiful quote from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road that perfectly captures this idea:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
The idea that someone is burning with the desire to live and experience every moment is so striking and far above the mundane of the everyday. We all spend too much time dreaming about changing our lives but being afraid to do something. In the road movies, people embrace change, it gives them hope. They chase their dreams and their freedom, the prospect of adventure in the air.
The journey is about exploring the vast beauty of the landscape, but also seeking to understand yourself. It’s no coincidence that America is the land of the road trip; the landscape is just so endless and stunning that it inspires awe and spiritual epiphany, but also makes the traveller realise how small they are and how insignificant their problems are in comparison.
In my novel, Broken Things, the two lead characters take a road trip; although it isn’t on the scale of something like On the Road, I still wanted it to capture the passion and desire that defines a lot of similar stories.
It’s been a long time since I read Kerouac’s best known novel, but I think I want to crack it open again and absorb Dean and Sal’s crazy adventures as they hit the road in search of…life!