A summer drive to ride out the economy

Robert Reich

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: Summer time means vacation for most of us. Hanging out with family, standing in line maybe at the airport, or hitting the open road for destinations unknown. That's where commentator Robert Reich is heading, down the highway.


ROBERT REICH: This summer, road trips are back. Mainly because most of us can't afford to fly anywhere for a vacation, let alone pay for a resort hotel or a trip abroad.

But in my book, road trips are just about the best form of vacation ever invented.

In a few days I'm heading across America on my own road trip, driving with my eldest son, Adam, and his huge mongrel of a dog, Herb.

It's not a vacation, exactly. Adam needs another driver. But when he asked, I jumped at the chance.

First of all, I love driving across America. Done it six or seven times now. You can't see anything of this country from five miles up. But on the road, especially when you get off the interstates, you can see it in all its beauty and craziness, its crassness and its charm. And you can't help but understand it just a little bit better.

The other thing I like about road trips is you have a chance to talk. After all, your favorite CDs or public radio can carry you only so far. A long road trip lets you hang out with someone and bring up whatever's on your mind, and let's them do the same. Something about going a long distance as driver or front-seat passenger, eyes staring straight ahead, that relaxes the mind and the tongue. And it's also OK to be silent for long stretches, which can be its own kind of intimacy.

I don't want to minimize the bad consequences of this lousy economy. Too many Americans can't even afford a road trip, let alone a fancier summer vacation. But in many ways, the economy is causing us to slow down, and that's not all bad. There are pleasures to be had, for example, in taking a few days with your kid and maybe a big dog, and doing nothing all that special except listening to music and talking and looking at the country.

RYSSDAL: When he's not behind the wheel, Robert Reich teaches public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

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