It's an odd question to ask - especially in the headline - considering that driving is probably one of the most hazardous things we ever do in our daily lives. But it was an article by Alex Goy on Drivetribe which posited the question to readers on when they last went for an aimless drive.
Aimless driving is what I live for. Some have referred to "soul food" as the main pastime they do in their lives that reinvigorates them. For many, such soul food is dining with good friends. Others might instead prefer walks in nature. Some might like shrieking at the latest plot twist on the TV show they're watching before they plaster emoticons and spoilers all over social media.
To each their own.
For me, it's getting into the car and leaving the obligations behind and disappearing for a while. Naturally, with a family this kind of hedonistic delight of mine needs to be pre-arranged and approved before I grab the keys and bolt, but that twist of the key and promise of the unknown recharges me in ways that a single malt or a binge Netflix session ever would.
My previous job was working with Fleet in a major organisation. Each and every day I would be chatting and talking to people about their cars, their requirements and the efforts to make the vehicle fit for purpose. On each occasion, they would relate their jobs to me, the destinations they needed to reach, and they indicated the distance of driving they would perform each month.
And I was stuck in the office, doing the paperwork so that others' can get out on the road.
It was a bitter pill to swallow that the Fleet people were the ones who seldom actually drove cars.
There were those rare occasions where I would be given keys to a vehicle and instructed to take them places, sometimes off in regional areas of Australia. On those days, I cherished each moment on the road - even if it wasn't necessarily "aimless" driving. It was as though the stops had been pulled out, and I was free to rail off wherever I could. For a few hours, it was me, the machine and the road.
Photo by Alex Mares on Unsplash
At times, when out on the road, I feel that Shower Principle take effect (sometimes referred to as Shower Thoughts), the din of the car's tyres effectively creating a kind of sensory-deprivation chamber, where my mind was free to make realisations about problems, or to have a moment of inspiration.
All while still being alert about my surroundings on the road, of course.
While I feel that there is some good in using driving as a way to find a sanctuary from the chaos and grind that most people call "life", it is probably a stretch to suggest that driving is "good" for you - especially in an age where it is profane to do anything that creates pollution, let alone creating it for something as indulgent as driving to nowhere in particular.
The French had a word for the act of aimlessly wandering, mostly for the purposes of observing society: flânerie. Although what I am suggesting is kinda the opposite, in where one escapes society for the purposes of thinking inward. Unflânerie if you will.
But I'll stop there, for fear of appearing pretentious.
Sometimes it can seem like the world is travelling a million miles per hour. The pressures of life can seem overwhelming, so the ability to take some time and claim it as your own could surely be considered somewhat healthy. To dismiss the aimless drive as an exercise in environmental irresponsibility is to be ignorant of the potential benefits of that escape to the individual - a micro holiday in a car.
The aimless drive, personally, is one of the few luxuries I afford myself, and it is one indulgence that clears my head, and sorts myself out for new challenges ahead. For me, the aimless drive is the best soul food.
(with thanks to Alex Goy for the idea for this article)