Driving Ourselves Crazy (And Back Again) On Southern Jewish Road Trips

As ISJL Education Fellows, we spend a lot of time in the car, driving to our communities. More to the point, we spend a lot of time alone in the car, driving to our communities. We’re always excited to arrive at our destinations after hours of travel. Hour by hour, here’s what that looks like… let’s call it driving ourselves crazy (in a good way):

1. Hour 1: B’reishit (In The Beginning). Feeling GOOD. CDs are laid out. Still within range of familiar radio stations. The sun is shining, the cell phone is fully charged — this is going to be a piece of cake!

2. Hour 2: Positively Podcast. Favorite CDs have all been played. Luckily, podcast pre-planning means it’s still all good. Time to put on the first podcast.

3. Hour 3: Feed Me. Hunger sets in — but if you can push through just another hour, you’ll reach a food mecca… but right now, nearby fast food is starting to sound kinda good. You’re starting to think that some fries dipped in radioactive cheese would really hit the spot. “No, no!” You tell yourself. You push through.

ISJL Fellows = Road Trip Experts
ISJL Fellows = Road Trip Experts

4. Hour 4: Grub Hub. Options galore, at last! You pull over at a local food eatery. (Or really just Panera and/or Chipotle – good enough). You allow yourself a half hour to bask in the joy of stretching your legs, and then hop back in the car to begin the fifth hour.

5. Hour 5: False Hope. You’re recharged! But you shouldn’t kid yourself – it’s a false sense of hope. Your Chipotle burrito is threatening to bring on the food coma effect. So you phone a friend (hands-free, of course!) — maybe someone you haven’t spoken to in a bit, or a relative who feels obligated to talk to you while you drive. Talking with another human is a nice change from the conversations you’ve been having with yourself.

6. Hour 6: Show Tune Showdown. You’re tired. Back aches, leg cramps — but you’re not there yet! Here’s when the show tunes come into play. Full volume. Now that you’re weary of having someone talk at you (podcasts), or with you (three family phone calls is plenty), it’s time to be the star of your own car. With cameos of Tracy Turnblad, Jean Valjean, and Elphaba, of course.

7. Hour 7: The Amateur Comedy Hour. Mazel tov – you’re now a comedian. Your journey has been chock full of funny and weird experiences, which you have yet to be able to share with anyone since you’ve been in a metal box alone for the past seven hours. You start to curate your experiences so they’ll produce the maximum amount of laughs from friends. You figure out a way to make some Jewish connections to the Southern road trip stops. Maybe you practice the stories aloud. Eat your heart out, Amy Schumer!

8. Hour 8: Self-Love and Positive Encouragement. “You are almost there!” “You can do this!” “Just a couple more miles.” As the end of the drive draws near, pat yourself on the back for a drive well done. It’s a sweet, sweet moment when the destination is upon you. Yes, you’re hungry, you NEED a bathroom, you’re desperate for human contact, but it’s all okay because THE END IS IN SIGHT.

When we arrive at our community after a long drive, we are relieved to be greeted by wonderful hosts. We’ve successfully made it through the Eight Stages of Driving Ourselves Crazy, and we’re excited to share Shabbat with the great people in the town awaiting our arrival. As we sit down to a delicious Shabbat dinner, we tell our perfectly curated stories (from hour 7, remember?) and revel in the joys of human contact.

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