Between July and October 1947, Jack Kerouac hitchhiked east from New York to Los Angeles and then back again with his friend Neal Cassidy. This ‘search for God’ as Kerouac described it, formed the basis of his best known book, ’On The Road’.
Although many people have been following in his footsteps since, with the advent of the internet, it’s entirely possible to pay homage to Kerouac and his road trip on a budget – whilst still absorbing and learning about the cultures of different American cities and states.
Before you set out on your own road trip then, in addition to deciding how much you want to follow and how much you want to deviate from Kerouac’s, you might want to do a bit of a planning beforehand to ensure it is as cheap as possible.
Shop for car deals
Contact plenty of car rental firms beforehand as part of your planning; their terms and conditions will vary – some of them, for instance, require you to return the car at source, whereas others merely require a destination end point. Consider how big a car you need, and also look at fuel efficiency; if you’ll be travelling for months, you don’t want something that will be expensive to refill. Many car hire companies also offer car rental discounts if you book ahead, so shop around online to ensure you get the best deal.
Plan for the road
Consider the time of year and pack appropriate clothing – you don’t want to get caught out by extremes of temperature and have to pick up extra gear. Pack plenty of non-perishable food and drink and a cooking stove so that you’re not eating out all the time. Take a tent and join ‘couchsurfing’ websites so that you can pitch up by the road or at a couchsurfer’s home for free – this cuts down on the cost of paying for motels every evening and fits into Kerouac’s Beat Poet ideals!
Now it’s time to make a note of the key places you wish to visit. Kerouac went to Los Angeles from New York taking inChicago, Davenport, Des Moines, San Francisco and Madera amongst others en route. What are you interested in? Food, history, nightlife? Decide what you want to get out of your trip. Always remember to factor in the spontaneous and unknown though, that way you truly will be embracing the spirit of Kerouac!