When we travel, I like to be in control. Even before we set foot outside our house, I plan our outings with the precision of a military campaign, mapping out our activities and itinerary, as well as our route from origin to destination, and all restroom stops in between. After all, when you have a big family, a small window of time and a small budget, it's usually the best way to ensure that everyone has a great time.
I have to admit, though, that we've had some of our best experiences when we veer off the beaten track and wing it. Like the time we were in Las Vegas, decided to visit the decidedly un-Vegas-like Valley of Fire National Park, and discovered colors beyond our imagination, carved right into the mountainside. Or the time we made a spur-of-the-moment Hollywood detour on our way home from Disneyland, and ended up learning to shoot arrows and toss cabers. Or the time we gave up searching for the sledding hill I looked up on the internet (no smartphones or GPS back then), and ended up in playing in a snowy parking lot around some awesomely gigantic construction vehicles abandoned for the winter.
One of my favorite unexpected side trips was the time we drove to Princeton-by-the-Sea, a tiny harbor village just north of Half Moon Bay, to have some fish and chips. I assumed that after years of making this journey, Alfie would by now have learned how to get to the restaurant we normally went to, so I tuned out for a moment and let him navigate. Of course, I was wrong, and he took a wrong turn, sending us down a narrow street we had never been to before. It all worked out for the best, because at the end of street was Barbara's Fish Trap, which, as we've since found out, serves THE BEST Fish and Chips in the WORLD. I know that's a pretty bold statement, but nothing we've eaten in the UK, not even in the docks of London, has come close to Barbara's tender, meaty, fresh-off-the-docks cod. To think that we had been eating less than a quarter of a mile away, and Barbara's had been there all that time! It has become our Go-To place for fish and chips, and we never would have found it had Alfie not made that one wrong turn.
Maybe it's time to toss away the schedule and the map more often and take the road less traveled. You never know what you'll find! That's the spirit behind my inspiration for this post: the Exit the Highway Program, a new collaboration between Toyota and the National Audobon Society that encourages American to pledge to take the scenic route and enjoy nature. As Audobon President and CEO, David Yarnold, says, "Take an hour, change your routine, and spend a little time with friends and family outdoors. You may discover something that will touch your heart or teach you something new, and you'll find out who's working to save it."
More about the Exit the Highway Program:
Toyota and the National Audubon Society are asking Americans to Exit the Highway and pledge to take the scenic route and enjoy the natural beauty of our great land. For their efforts, those who take the pledge will be entered to win a new, fuel-efficient Prius v, an environmentally-friendly hybrid vehicle featuring more cargo space.
To start planning a nature adventure, take the pledge at ExitTheHighway.com, or Causes.com/Toyota. In addition to taking the pledge, the Exit the Highway website also allows travelers to:
- Earn bonus entries into the Toyota Prius v sweepstakes by sharing photos tagged with #exitthehighway via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts or manually uploading photos at ExitTheHighway.com.
- Explore nearly 100 nature destinations (70 of which are free to the public) along with a link to details and hours of operation.
- See itineraries that utilize Google Maps for point-to-point directions.
- Recommend favorite nature stops in your area to other nature seekers.
- Get personal recommendations from local leaders with a passion for caring for the environment.
Disclosure:I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.