The Evolution of Road Trips

We all love to road trip, but have we ever wondered about how they evolved? Here’s an attempt to condense centuries worth of history in one article!

In the August of 1888, something very peculiar happened. Spearheaded by Bertha Benz, the wife of a German engineer, the world’s first long road trip was a moment that history took note of. Partly an attempt to promote her husband Karl Benz’s patent Motorwagen vehicle, Bertha set out to prove the genius of her husband and successfully completed the 106 km road trip with her two sons from Mannheim to Pforzheim. The Motorwagen became the first patented motorcar.

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But what existed before Bertha Benz was the traditional method of travel – animal driven carriages and carts. They weren’t the plush vehicles that we know today (okay some carriages were), these made road trips possible, albeit exhausting.

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This is the evolution of road trips.

A lot of things are taken into consideration when planning a road trip – road conditions, the vehicle and the destination; and these very aspects have developed, evolved and dissolved with time. The idea of a road trip wasn’t the crux of this kind of road travel – medieval or modern, no man wants to entertain bumpy roads, after all.

Until the early 1800s, the use of carriages as vehicles for road travel was prevalent all over the world. These road trips were a little different – people/animals dying, passing through disease prone areas, unexpected pathways, and crossing jungles. Yet, the road trips were a constant without all the modern amenities of today.

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It was when the modern car arrived in the 1900s that road travel became more popular. The only and major glitch being that only the rich could afford to buy cars. During this time, Haratio Nelson Jackson embarked upon the world’s first long road trip in a modern car with his dog Bud from San Francisco to New York City in 63 days.

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Then came the 1950s.

The 50s made the cars affordable, the roads wider and made going on road trips with family trendy. Imagine a summer day with people dressed in colorful polka shirts and sarees, driving a (now vintage) convertible through a blur of green on simple roads; the 50s were something else indeed.

This change was prevalent especially in the American society, as family became an important part of the 50s way of life.

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And what comes after the 50s? The hip 70s, of course!
The hippie way of life highlighted the notion of freedom in more than one way. Road trips played an important part in the exercise of the nomadic way of life that the hippies preferred and indulged in. it was the freedom to pack up and leave at a moment’s notice, or to not leave at all for days.

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Iconic cars such as the Volkswagen Type 2 van in the USA and Europe, and the Ford Mustang in India ensured that the beauty of road tripping lived on.

And finally, let’s talk about the present.

Road trips today don’t need paper maps to find routes, Google pretty much does that job for us. Today, luxury cars, better infrastructure and technology have made road trips extremely accessible. It’s time we take those trips, with some detours of course!

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The nature of road trips has evolved; we do not even know which one of the aforementioned phases of the quintessential road trip is the best. Yet one fact remains consistent throughout – road trips will evolve with time, but their essence will always be the same.


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