Yesterday, I wrote about how we experience a heightened sense of emotion at night. Today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite nighttime activities. Wink wink.
On Sunday nights, usually in an effort to stave off the blues, I like to go for a long drive and listen to music. I’ve been doing it ever since I got my license, and it remains one of my favorite things.
I figured out early on in my driving career, cruising around in my green 1995 Buick LeSabre, that being lost is largely a state of mind. I’d take a left even though I’d never taken that particular left before, and while it was a little unnerving, more often than not it led back to somewhere familiar. Since then, I’ve always reminded myself that as long as you keep driving, eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.
Still, I have a hard time articulating the value of night driving. It’s difficult to explain unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. Ultimately, it’s a source of catharsis, which grows out of the combination of factors I mentioned in yesterday’s post. I’ve always loved to drive, but driving at night is even better. There’s no traffic. You’re not rushing to get anywhere. Everything looks different in the dark. Your neighborhood becomes an entirely different world.
I have a particular route I use when I go driving at night, and it’s comprised mostly of places I don’t otherwise visit anymore. Past my high school, old friends’ houses, the local reservoir, roads I remember from when I was a little kid in the backseat looking out the window. It’s like I’m driving past a series of memories, little vignettes from earlier years.
Usually, this nostalgia actually causes me to reflect on the present. I think about people I don’t talk to anymore, which makes me think about and appreciate the people who do have a place in my life now. It’s very soothing and rarely fails to fill me with joy.
Travel and motion has long been associated with a calming, restorative energy. That’s why parents often take a crying infant for a ride in the car. When Neil Peart’s daughter and wife died, he got on his motorcycle and travelled 55,000 miles from Quebec to Alaska, then south through the United States to Belize. Because of this four-year journey, he was able to come back from the brink of moral collapse.
When you combine the night’s heightened state of emotion with the soothing qualities of driving, you get an incredibly cathartic activity. There’s a feeling of freedom and excitement for life. Everything’s beautiful. With an empty road, the right album, and nowhere particular to go, you can find great comfort.
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