Phoenix, AZ to Santa Barbara, CA. 7 hours and 30 minutes. 469 miles.
When I turned 16, I spent my entire life savings on a used Chrysler Sebring convertible that I named White Lightning. Though the car ended up having many costly problems, it is still to this day the best purchase I have ever made. Having a car meant freedom. It meant that I could get a job. Suddenly, I was no longer reliant on my parents to take me to cheerleading and drama club practice, and I could leave my house if it got cramped and stressful. It was the first thing I ever owned outright, and it opened a door to the world.
The beauty of a road trip is that you are in control of the timeline—even more so when you go solo. When you’re tired, you stop and sleep. When you’re hungry, you stop and eat. When you see something incredible, you stop and take a picture. When you’re bored, you change the station or playlist. You do all of this without consulting anyone. That is freedom.