Feel free to take the road less traveled. That’s the point.
According to the recent Ford Travel Trends Report, digital nomads are gaining ground as the New American Road Trippers. This new breed of “millennial wanderers” is a growing population whose behavior blurs the boundaries of business and leisure. In an effort to better understand the automotive needs of this emerging class of Road Trippers, we spoke to Ford’s Futurist, Sheryl Connelly.
“Let’s just see where the road takes us.”
A story from Sheryl’s childhood really sums up the essence of today’s digital nomad. It begins when she was two years old. Her parents were driving the kids to an amusement park outside of Toronto when they got lost. They ended up on a dirt road and decided to go with the flow of the mistake, saying, “Don’t fret, let’s see where the road takes us.” They continued down the dirt road which led to a cottage that was for sale. They ended up buying that cottage, which provided their road trip destination for many summers, and generations, to come. Now, Sheryl’s own teenage daughters go there for weekend getaways! Sheryl credits her parents for the mindset which resonates so deeply with today’s nomadic road trippers: Spontaneity and getting lost is more desirable than having a plan.
Sheryl’s road tripping eventually expanded beyond family trips. When Sheryl was a senior in high school, she and three other girls drove to Daytona Beach, Florida. In fact, she says she’s made that trip too many times to count. Sheryl recalls a trip several years ago when she and her husband took the kids there for Easter break.
“The thing about this popular road trip corridor is that you never quite know when you’re going to get tired and be ready to stop,” Sheryl explains. So they had no hotel booked in advance, and went from exit to exit finding everything booked up. They didn’t have the resources and tools at their fingertips to be spontaneous and unplanned.
Constant Connectivity Drives Today’s Digital Nomads
That same drive is very different today. Today’s road trip can be much more spontaneous, and constant connectivity makes that possible. With advances in technology and connectivity, and tools such as 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot capability, passengers can search for hotels and restaurants on their devices when the driver is ready to stop for the night.
Sheryl notes that the 2018 Ford Expedition and 2018 Ford EcoSport can accommodate up to ten devices on the in-car WiFi. Connected devices can be used up to 50 feet away from the vehicle. This allows the kids to be on their phones, tablets and laptops all at the same time. Full time charging and WiFi for multiple passengers mean everyone is happier and more productive on a family road trip.
“The desire to take to the road has really increased because you can really personalize it,” Sheryl explains, mentioning apps like Spotify, Yelp, and others conveniently connected through Apple Car Play.
Further Reading: Road tripping doesn’t just have to happen in an SUV. We took the Ford Fusion on the road
Why Have Navigation When You Want to Get Lost?
Optional in-vehicle navigation is a lifesaver when traveling in areas without coverage or cell service, so Sheryl advises having that feature and using it in addition to using route navigation through apps like Waze and Google Maps. Much to the delight of many impatient drivers, Waze can now connect to in dash screen through Apple car play. And finally there’s Ford’s Travel Assistant On Board, available through Ford SYNC platform, which connects with Amazon Alexa to give real time traffic info, updates, and weather reports.
The Rise of the “Bleisure” Class
Today, the boundaries between working hours and personal hours have become irrevocably blurred. Thus the emergence of a “bleisure class” – a term coined by the New York Times. According to the latest Ford Travel Trends Report, one third of American business travelers extended a work trip for leisure last year. Millennials are more likely to tack on days, combining a business trip with extra vacation days as tourist.
Whether tacking on leisure days or actually working on the road, the most desired tools for productivity include power/USB outlets, uninterrupted cell service, and uninterrupted WiFi or Internet.
Female Solo Trippers Happily Take to the Road
Today’s solo female driver, such as Sheryl, is feeling safer and more secure traveling by herself. Thanks to the tools of connectivity, she can locate local gas stations and hotels without having to ask strangers. Sheryl finds it especially comforting driving a car equipped with a hands-free 911 emergency assist system.
Women more than men appreciate ability to make unplanned stops and sightsee along the journey. The top use of technology for road trips is to take pictures and videos along the way, and today’s digital nomads have a great desire to share stories online. A connected vehicle makes this easy and enjoyable.
When renting a vehicle, Sheryl opts for any Ford vehicle equipped with SYNC. She can plug in her phone and it automatically feels familiar and close to what she is used to driving. Having the spotify app or satellite radio helps to keep things familiar when driving in unfamiliar areas.
I had to ask Sheryl if she has a favorite road trip theme song. She picked Pharrel’s “Happy.”
To learn more about Sheryl, check out why we think she may have the coolest job in the world.
The New American Road Trip: Go Ahead, Get Lost!
The road trip isn’t new, it’s been a vacation choice for generations. It remains the most popular type of travel for all ages. But today’s younger drivers tend to be more spontaneous and live in the moment. Seeking both the road less traveled and the road less trafficked, getting lost is as important as staying connected for today’s road tripping digital nomad.