Five Reasons to Take the Scenic Route

One sure way to slow down and connect more with your environment is choosing to take the scenic route. Whether you’re driving cross-country or simply driving home from work, choosing the slower and more picturesque route causes us to take our foot off the accelerator and notice what’s around us.

Take the Scenic Route
Taking the scenic route is rarely (if ever) the fastest way from point A to point B. But speed and efficiency shouldn’t always be the driving factor (no pun intended). We are always racing from place to place, hurrying our days away, as if the point of life was to get as many chores as possible done before we die.

I would argue that we get more out of noticing the world around us, finding meaning and peace in the everyday and the mundane, whether it’s the sight of a doe suckling a fawn or the slant of golden light on a hillside of trees.

Rather than sticking to the usual highways and expressways, exploring the quieter byways allows you to embrace the beauty of nature, discover hidden gems, and create lasting memories. Here are five great advantages to opting for the scenic route:

1. Natural Beauty & Serenity

Taking the scenic route can send you through breathtaking landscapes, such as mountains, forests, coastlines, and rolling countryside. Major highways and interstates often avoid the most scenic areas simply because they are more difficult to traverse. Winding through mountains, hills, and canyons takes time and money, and the point of these highways is efficiency. Get me there fast!

By choosing the quieter and more circuitous routes, you can immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds you. Focus on noticing the small details, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how many interesting things you’ll find, even on roads you may have traveled many times before. The serene atmosphere, fresh air, and stunning vistas can provide a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

2. Discover Hidden Gems

Scenic routes often lead you off the beaten path, taking you through charming towns, picturesque villages, and lesser-known attractions. These hidden gems might be easily passed on major highways, but they offer unique and authentic experiences. You can stumble upon farmer’s markets, important historical sites, local eateries, and other hidden treasures that add depth and color to your experience.

Here is just a partial list of interesting adventures I've stumbled across on lesser traveled routes:

  • Restored wetlands full of wildlife
  • A parade of slow-moving sheep
  • A painted gypsy wagon surrounded by horses
  • Stunning vistas of mountains and seaside
  • A golden sunrise on two deer fawns

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"

Take the Scenic Route
Sunset Country Road

3. Cultural Exploration & Authentic Experiences

Scenic routes often pass through regions with rich cultural heritage. As you travel, you can explore diverse cultures, traditions, and local customs. You may encounter roadside art installations, museums, markets, traditional architecture, or cultural events that provide insights into the local way of life.

The real life of the countryside takes place off the main roads. The farms, villages, sites of historical interest, and local celebrations won't be found on the interstate highways. By taking the road less traveled, you leave yourself open to experience and have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the places you pass through.

4. Flexibility & Freedom

Unlike busy highways that prioritize speed and efficiency, scenic routes offer a more relaxed and flexible travel experience. Slow down and immerse yourself. Watch for wildlife, meadows of wildflowers, or roadside fruit stands. You have the freedom to stop, explore, and take detours whenever something catches your eye.

Allow yourself to get a little bit lost. You may discover that you find yourself when you lose your way. I always find that those unplanned and spontaneous side-trips turn out to be the clearest and fondest memories of every trip. Whether it's a scenic viewpoint, a hiking trail, a roadside picnic spot, or a vintage diner, you can pause and enjoy the journey at your own pace, creating memorable experiences along the way.

5. Reduce Stress

Taking the scenic route can significantly reduce stress and make your journey more enjoyable. Instead of navigating congested highways, you can travel at your own pace and savor tranquil and picturesque surroundings.

Forget the tolls, the stalled traffic, the diesel fumes, and the sterile, lifeless medians. The slower pace of scenic byways allows you to breathe deep, appreciate the beauty of your surroundings, learn more about the people and cultures of the areas you travel through, engage in meaningful conversations, and bond with your travel companions.

Next time you embark on a journey (or even a simple trip to a nearby town), consider taking the scenic route. Embrace the advantages it offers by immersing yourself in natural beauty, discovering hidden gems, exploring diverse cultures, enjoying flexibility, and experiencing a more relaxed and enjoyable trip. Remember, the journey itself can be the destination.