Covered Bridge

Ever since I got my driver’s license, getting in my car and driving around randomly has been the best way for me to clear my mind and process things. If I don’t have a lot of extra money for gas, or time to go far, I drive to a nearby park or parking lot and just sit (without the radio on and without playing with my phone). While I don’t suggest that you get in a car and drive if you’re feeling super emotional, sometimes when you drive around aimlessly, it’s soothing. It can also have benefits that go beyond just taking the time to unwind.

What does driving around aimlessly mean?

When you drive around aimlessly, you’re driving around for no reason. You have no destination in mind, and no time set for when you need to be somewhere. You’re just driving because it’s relaxing.

Where I’m from they used to call this “going for a Sunday drive”. (Now that’s what we say when someone is driving super slow. “They’re out for their Sunday drive” Haha.) No matter what you call it, it can be fun, and stress relieving for a lot of people. It’s much the same for them as when other people go for a jog, or go shopping to do some “retail therapy”.

Why do people like driving around aimlessly?

1. It’s like a mini vacation for your mind.

When you’re on vacation, you don’t often worry too much about the time. (Unless you’re a planner. =) This is why vacation is so relaxing for most people. If you’re driving around for fun, rather than just because you have somewhere to go, you can choose which direction you head, and you’re not so worried about how long it will take. You’re simply seeing where the road leads.

2. It’s a useful time to process, solve problems, and listen to your intuition.

When you free your mind from having to make so many decisions about where to go, where to turn, and what to do next, it frees up space for creative solutions, problem solving, and finding things that you really enjoy doing.

3. It’s a good stress reliever.

Not feeling like you have to go the fastest way everywhere you go relaxes the body a little more. It removes that hurried feeling that we often have in our fast-paced world.

I used to have a job that was about 25 minutes away from my house. There were two different ways that I could go to get back home after work. One way was through the city, and crazy traffic, and onto the interstate. The other way took me through a park area that was wooded and had a river running through it. The path through the park was longer, but I took it as often as I could. If I had extra time, I would stop and sit next to the river and watch the water flowing over the rocks.

Trees in front of a river with a bridge across it. Drive around aimlessly and explore.

Taking the longer way around sounds like a waste of time to some people, but for me it was always nice to have a few extra minutes to relax and enjoy the views, instead of being stressed out by traffic all the way home. This in turn allowed me to arrive at home less stressed out, and ready to enjoy the rest of my day.

4. You get to see things that you might not normally see when you’re rushing around from place to place.

This is especially true when you drive through places you’ve never been before, or through places that you generally rush past. Always pay attention to the road first and foremost, but as your driving, see if you can spot flowers that you haven’t seen before, the color of a front door you never noticed, or someone’s yard art.

5. For people who live in a house with several others, driving around aimlessly might be one of the only times they get to be alone.

This can become a good form of meditation or self-care, where being at home with a lot of other people might make these things a lot harder. If you don’t want to drive too far, there’s always the option of going to a park, or a parking lot somewhere and sitting for a little while.

If you do this, please be safe. Choose a busy, well-lit parking spot, always lock your doors, and never sit in a running car for too long.

6. On vacation, it can be a good way to explore the area without having to stare at a screen for maps.

My husband and I do this a lot when we’re on vacation. We start driving down a road and then one of us will say, “That looks interesting, let’s go that way,” and we do. Doing this we have found all kinds of interesting things that we otherwise never would have seen. We’ve found a light house that we didn’t know was there in Cape Cod; a beach in California that had some interesting cairns; and a train museum in Pennsylvania.

Lighthouse - Drive around aimlessly and explore
Lighthouse in MA
Cairns on the beach - drive around aimlessly and explore
Cairns on the beach in CA
Train - drive around aimlessly and explore
Train museum in PA

7. Sometimes you actually find a quicker route to your normal destinations.

When I’m early for an appointment, a lot of times I’ll drive around the area just to see things instead of going in and sitting in a waiting room. There have been numerous times when I’ve ended up finding a quicker route to and from where I’m going for the next time I’m there.

8. You never know what you’ll have the chance to see or experience.

On the way home from dinner not too long ago, we decided to drive around and explore a little and got stopped by a train. (I know I’m one of the very few people that gets excited about being stopped by a train. I enjoy the time just to sit and take a “forced” break in the day. Also, I love trains and the graffiti that ends up on them.)

As we sat there and waited for the train to pass, several other people came and parked behind us. They had been taking photos over at the train station. When the train stopped, they realized it was the perfect opportunity to get an even better angle for their pictures. They could stand in the middle of the road and not have to worry about traffic. We all talked, took pictures, and had an impromptu little party.  None of this would have ever happened if we hadn’t taken the time to drive around, stop for the train, and take in the scenery that we generally just pass by.

Train sitting in front of a building. Drive around aimlessly and explore.

If you need a little more direction and a little less random, try flipping a coin:

This is a little game that my husband and I sometimes play, when we want to drive around, but we don’t want to think too much about which way to go. It’s a lot of fun!

Get a quarter, or whatever coin you may have, and pick a starting point – the end of your street, the restaurant parking lot, or where ever you happen to be – just make sure you are somewhere that you can turn left or right.

While sitting at your starting point, flip the coin. Heads you go left, tails you go right. Then start driving in that direction. Every time you come to a stop sign, or an intersection with a red light, flip the coin to see which way you will go. Let this be your guide and see where it takes you.

You may have to adjust things a little depending on where you live. Some places have a lot more dead ends, or places in town that aren’t so safe to drive through. Ideally, the passenger would flip the coin, leaving the driver to drive safely. If you’re driving alone and playing this game, just be mindful of your surroundings when you stop to flip your coin.

Sometimes you will end up going in circles, or at a dead end. At that point you can either make the circles part of the game, by finding something new each time you circle around, or seeing who can predict how many circles you’ll go in before you change direction, OR you can pick another starting point close by and start again.

This game makes exploring somewhere that you have been before a lot more fun. It has the added element of the unknown, so you may end up somewhere that would be more fun than if you had made plans.

That’s the whole thing, if you take the road less traveled you never know what you will find, who you might meet, or what you might discover about yourself.

If you live in the city and don’t really have a good place to drive around, or don’t even have a car to drive, just trade driving for walking. Walk around aimlessly, with no real destination in mind, or flip a coin and see where it leads. It’s the same concept either way. Be safe, and aware of your surroundings of course, but otherwise, just let you mind wander and see where your feet take you.

Cemetary in the middle of the road
Geese walking on ice
Road sign

You may find a cemetery in the middle of the road. You may see geese walking on water. (They were really walking on ice. =)) Or you may find the end of a road you didn’t even know you were on. Haha!

Post updated 8/9/21