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Over spring break, I — like many Penn students — made the trek to New Orleans to catch beads and eat beignets at Mardi Gras. However, unlike many of my peers, my trip did not consist of a brief two-and-a–half-hour flight out of Philadelphia International Airport. Rather, I was part of a select group of individuals that decided to make a road trip out of it.

On the Friday morning before break, my alarm woke me at an hour I had not witnessed in quite some time. As I zipped up my suitcase, waiting for my best friend’s car to pull up to my doorstep, I felt a twinge of nervous anticipation. With more than 1,000 miles and two days of driving each way, it suddenly seemed that a lot could go wrong en route.

When we set out, I certainly had my doubts about my group’s decision to not purchase plane tickets. And yet, I found the journey to be quite — dare I say it — blissful. I had never spent this much time in a car, but it was certainly an eye-opening experience. Ten states and 40 hours of driving later, I’m a road trip convert.

I was fortunate to be able to travel with a group of friends that I was already close to. This drive, however, allowed us to get to know each other even better. We shared childhood memories and little-known personal anecdotes. We stopped to visit family and friends along the way. Together, we became connoisseurs of southern fast food at Bojangles’ Famous Chicken and Biscuits, Cook Out and Waffle House. We sang together to our iPod playlists as we watched cities turn to country from our windows.

There are many clear benefits that come from taking a trip this long. Bonds between friends are strengthened. “We have so many stupid little inside jokes now, especially from spending so much time together,” said Engineering senior Erica Harkins, who also drove to New Orleans. “Now, I feel like I know my good friends better.”

For College junior Dylan Aluise, a road trip provided the easiest way for he and his nine housemates to get to Mardi Gras simply and affordably. “My group of friends had never done a road trip before, so I think that’s part of the appeal,” he said. Although they faced four breakdowns between two cars — including one that forced him to leave his dead car behind in Alabama — “the best part for [him] was the stories that came out of it.”

My instincts tell me that there’s even more to road trips than strengthening friendships and making good stories. We’re part of a society that is determined to do everything in the fastest way possible. Many of my fellow Penn students scoffed at my group’s decision to take the long way to New Orleans.

We’re always looking for the short cut. We want to know the way to make everything more concise. After all, why walk when you can drive? Why pick up the phone and call when you can text? The bottom line is we’re busy people. We don’t have time to waste.

But on a road trip, we’ve resigned to taking the long way, and it’s okay.

The road trip is one of the last remaining vestiges of our ability to make a detour, to take the time to truly appreciate the ride. Many Penn students who made the drive to New Orleans agreed. In addition to saving money on flights, “we wanted to travel and see more things than being on an airplane,” Harkins said.

On a road trip, there’s more than a starting point and a destination — there’s a journey. It may take us a little longer, but the experiences and stories that come with the adventure are often unforgettable.

Sabrina Benun is a College senior from Santa Monica, Calif. Her e-mail address is Last Call appears every Friday.

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