Road trips are good for the soul. Spend hours, days or even weeks behind the wheel, far from the familiar and alone with your thoughts, or with someone close to share them, and you will sort a lot of your personal stuff out. The landscape has the power to inspire you as well, unfolding like a non-stop epic film in 360 degrees of 3-D realism, along coasts, through mountain passes and deep into small towns and big cities teeming with life and newness.
I love the speed of planes, the romanticism of boats and the passive ease of trains, but if you have the time to spare, nothing beats a road trip. It is the transportation of choice for travellers who want to go at their own pace and choose their own adventure.
I have driven across the United States six times, so far, and have done it alone, with girlfriends, in tandem with a friend in another car connected by walkie-talkie, with my brother and a lifesize cardboard cutout of president Bill Clinton, and once with a fish as my only companion (I found him to be a good listener and a conversation starter in restaurants). Each time across I took a different route and although I have my favourite highway (Route 40) there are fascinating things to see no matter what roads you take. We are kicking off BBC Travel's Road Trip Week with the story "Top 10 US scenic drives" to inspire you to see some of the prettier stretches of America yourself. Later in the week we have two other US stories, one on an "From Warhol to Wright: An arty trip through Pennsylvania" concluding at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and "Trick of the light: A California road trip" from the BBC's Top Gear magazine.
Of course, the US does not have a monopoly on road trips - we also have stories this week on seeing Bulgaria and Lebanon by road. If you are extra adventurous or perhaps suicidal, you might be inspired by this week's photogallery on the "World's most treacherous roads".
My most epic road trip was abroad and also flirted with danger. My then-girlfriend, Kate, and I bought a Citroen hatchback, semi-legally, in London and drove it across England, Scotland, Ireland, France (with a sidetrip into Belgium), Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, northern Italy and Austria. The most harrowing bits were driving though Casablanca, Paris and finally Poland where a car accident along a snowy stretch of highway near Auschwitz left our car totaled and cut the road trip prematurely. I actually cried as we said goodbye to our beloved car and travel companion, which we had named "Sophie" (because she was made by a French car company). We enjoyed a freedom in travelling on that months-long road trip we had not experienced before, nor since. We even got engaged on that trip and now Kate and I have new road trip adventures together, including across Jamaica and along the Fairytale Highway in Germany, with our toddler daughter in the back seat.
As a bonus to this week of road trip stories, we are also kicking off a new column called Travelwise, written by Suemedha Sood, that takes a deeper, analytical look into different travel subjects. She put together a highlight reel of US cross-country trips in "Iconic road trips in film and literature" if you want to follow in the footsteps of, say, Jack Kerouac, Thelma & Louise and the Muppets. And finally, road trips may be good for the soul but are not necessarily good for your health. Days and days of driving can lead to a dependence on fast food takeout, greasy roadside diners and processed junk as you go, go go. So Ms. Sood also wrote "How to eat healthy on the road" to help you strategize an eating plan on the road.
Have fun, drive safely and come back all week for more road trip stories from BBC Travel.
Monday -- Top 10 US scenic drives, Travelwise: How to eat healthy on the road
Tuesday -- Lebanon in a week: The ultimate road-trip guide and World's most treacherous roads photo gallery
Wednesday -- Trick of the light: A California road trip
Thursday -- Bulgarian road trip: Sofia to the City of the Tsars and Travelwise: Iconic road trips in film and literature
Friday -- From Warhol to Wright: An arty trip through Pennsylvania