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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Road trips allow Tufts students to explore new places, experiences off campus

Weekend getaways by car or public transit can build community and manage stress.

Roadtrips from Tufts Graphic
Graphic by Bex Povill

As New England transitions from fall to another long, cold winter, the number of outdoor activities on the Tufts campus has started to dwindle.

For students looking to combat the Northeast’s notorious winter rut, a day trip or a weekend road trip off campus can be an opportunity to experience new places.

Tanay Nistala, a junior who grew up in India and later moved to New Jersey, took a trip to Acadia National Park on a rainy weekend in mid-October with friends to fulfill his “bucket list” item of visiting one of the United States’ national parks.

“I’ve heard from so many of my friends who have gone to one national park or the other,” he said. “Acadia is the closest we have [to Tufts].

As the only national park in New England, the drive to Acadia is 4 ½ hours, which Nistala split over two days.

“We stayed the first night near Portland. Driving all the way in one shot, in the dark especially, would have been not great,” Nistala said.

Upon reaching Acadia on Saturday afternoon, Nistala and his friends made the most of their weekend, despite the poor weather.

“We picked a brilliant weekend for the foliage, but we picked a terrible week in terms of weather, it was raining the whole time,” Nistala said. “Still, hiking in the rain, it was pretty fun.”

Although there are buses that reach the park, Nistala noted that transportation from Boston to the park via train is impossible.

“The furthest you can get is Brunswick, [Maine], on the train,” he said. “It just worked out that I was able to get my dad’s car.” It still takes 2 ½ hours to drive from Brunswick to Acadia.

Indeed, having a car to get around the park in mid-October has its benefits. Acadia has an intra-park bus service known as the Island Explorer. However, according to the park’s website, the Island Explorer only runs from June 23 to Oct. 9.

Luckily, Nistala noted that traveling around New England is possible without a car.

“Even if you don’t have a car, there’s a lot of places you can go, just because we have tons of trains and things here,” Nistala said.

This was true for first-year Alexandra Rachmat, who took the train for her day trip to Providence, R.I. For students who do not have access to a car, Providence is an easy trip to make through public transportation.

“It’s really convenient to go there,” Rachmat said. “It’s maybe 30 to 50 minutes there and back on the Amtrak.”

Rachmat explained that she visited Providence to see friends and check out the food scene.

“We had seen a bunch of places in Providence on TikTok, and … I also have friends who go to Brown University, which is located in Providence, so it made the most sense because I wanted to see my friends as well,” Rachmat said. “We went to eat lunch. We just ate pretty much all day, and then we went to go see cafés around the city.”

For both Nistala and Rachmat, their trips off campus provided a new experience away from Tufts, as well as a temporary escape from academics.

“It’s just a fun way to fill out a weekend, and not just be on campus doing homework,” Nistala said.

Rachmat expressed a similar sentiment regarding the benefits of taking weekend road trips.

“I think it’s definitely a way to get your mind off schoolwork,” she said. “For me as an international student, this is one of my first times being [in] the Northeast in general, so I’ve never really seen any of these places,” Rachmat, who is from Indonesia, said.

Beyond personal trips into the areas surrounding Boston, some Tufts clubs also offer opportunities to explore.

Rebecca Fowler, a first-year member of the Tufts Mountain Club, served as a coordinator for the club’s “POC-kend” — a weekend trip to TMC’s lodge from Nov. 3–5 intended for students of color at Tufts. Fowler said that her experience was a fun way to meet new people and explore. Fowler also participated in Tufts Wilderness Orientation, which was her first time camping and backpacking.

Fowler highlighted the social benefits of the “POC-kend” trip.

“It was a really fun way to meet new people, especially people of color, where an activity like hiking can be so predominantly white,” Fowler said.

The TMC Loj is situated in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, about a two-hour drive from Tufts.

“[The] Loj is really nice,” Fowler said. “It’s open to all Tufts people. Essentially, there are just a bunch of rooms with a bunch of bunk beds. You can sign up to go, and as long as you have transportation up [there and] pay a fee that covers the food that’s provided up in the Loj.”

TMC makes transportation up to the Loj easier with the club’s van, which members can borrow for their trip after being certified to operate the van.

“That’s a really nice resource because I feel like one of the main blockers of weekend trips is the transportation,” Fowler said.

Though weekend trips are a fun way to escape the potentially stressful and bustling environment on campus, Fowler emphasized that they are not possible without careful planning.

“I would say really commit to it and start planning earlier rather than later. Book out a weekend a few weeks in advance, and do your research,” she said.

Rachmat gave similar advice after taking her trip to Providence.

“Plan it out,” she said. “In most cases if you wait [until] really last minute to buy a [train] ticket, they’ll get really expensive.”

Nistala, though, provided a different point of view based on his Acadia adventure.

“I mean, you don’t have to plan too much,” he said. “I tried over-planning for the whole thing … just go with the flow and make sure you can get back in time.”

However, all three students agreed that for those who can, Tufts students should try to travel off campus and take advantage of what the New England region has to offer.

“Definitely try to take advantage of this if you can, the proximity to so many cool places, and the ability to explore them,” Rachmat said.

        

Fowler emphasized how TMC’s resources can help students get off campus, especially the club’s themed weekend trips.

“I would encourage people to get involved with TMC, a great way to start is to sign up for the big weekends, there’s a few every semester. From there, it’s a good way to see the Loj and get involved,” she said.

Nistala noted that New England’s geography makes it an ideal area for many different types of trips for a day or for a weekend. From its quaint towns to its rural mountains, New England has plenty to offer for Tufts students looking to explore somewhere new and get away from the stress of schoolwork.

“I think weekend trips are really an escape from everything that happens, the stresses and all the activity,” Fowler said. “It really allows you to reflect on your day-to-day life normally, and it allows you to take a break from all that.”