Sunset drive (Photo by Gaby Sainz-Medina)
Sunset drive

Photo by Gaby Sainz-Medina

Driving: A Figurative and Literal Escape

November 2, 2020

During this oh-so-tragic time of isolation, with hours of time spent attending school through a computer screen, everyone needs a way out. We need to escape — from our bedrooms, our relatives, and from seeing the same four walls every hour of the day.

So, I am more grateful than ever for a simple 2-inch-by 3-inch laminated piece of cardboard: my California driver’s license. 

I have been driving to school alone since last year. Those early mornings on the dark empty roads felt like a great escape from the cycle of school and home. But with COVID-19, going to school moved out of the picture and everything I do occurs within these four walls, so driving went to the back of my mind. After a couple of months, though, I felt so frustrated and overwhelmed that I thought, if driving worked during in-person school, why won’t it work now, too?

Obviously, my mind went straight to the fact that I had nowhere to go, no one to see, and no money to keep paying for gas. But, I decided to give it a try anyway. And that was the best decision I probably ever made for my mental health. 

Simply the fact of being able to see new sights stimulated my mind again. 

I soon realized that I turned to the road whenever I needed a break from the world. If school was overwhelming me and I needed a

A night drive from a couple of weeks ago. (Gaby Sainz-Medina)

getaway, I drove for hours. If I felt myself descend into a depressive episode or anxiety attack, I went for a drive to pull myself out of my head. Driving was a win-win in all situations. 

Now, every lunch break, I climb into my car and drive until I know I’m going to run out of gas. 

Where do I go? Nowhere. And everywhere. No directions, just driving and driving. I play games with myself, taking myself to a random location and figuring out how to return home without asking directions from Google or anyone else. Driving has kept me sane when it felt like the world was going more insane every second. 

I started thinking about the entire culture of driving. California cities are known for their traffic, the endless rows of bumper-to-bumper cars on highways and at stop lights in towns.  Some of that driving is practical — errands and trips to work and so on. But a lot of it happens because people use it to escape.

We are lucky to live in a country where anyone can go anywhere, any time. As kids, when we first earn the freedom to walk to the corner store alone, we can’t get enough of it. We want to go again and again. Soon, we realize the vastness of the world, and we want to continue exploring. And then, we discover the passion for driving, our ticket to start exploring the entire world.

The appetite for freedom keeps growing — we can never get enough. When you see a woman driving to work, think about when women weren’t allowed to work, let alone leave their houses, let alone drive. In some countries, life is still that way. 

I will forever be grateful for being able to drive during these unprecedented times. It is my escape from the world and from this overbearing COVID-19 pandemic. And it is my statement of resolve: Driving is my way of saying that nothing, not even a global pandemic, is going to keep me from living my life.

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