You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will – Stephen King.
Travelling abroad really does make you do things that you never thought you would such as skydiving or jumping off of cliffs or exploring a new city completely on your own without Google Maps. One of the things that I didn’t think I would do was drive 450 miles cross-country, on my own.
I drove on my own every day at home in England but only around my home town, and across the River Mersey over to Liverpool, sparingly. The longest period I had ever driven for I had my boyfriend in the passenger seat, and that was only a three hour trip tops. Not even that. So, for me to drive alone across a country that wasn’t my own was a pretty scary thing. It was a good job that in Australia, people sit on the right and drive on the left.
I had just driven from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road with two of my Melbourne bezzies and boy was that a road trip to remember, but more on that another time. It did boost my confidence a lot, reminded me that I could actually push the foot pedal and turn when I needed to, not that my passengers would agree with me…
When it actually came to it though, I wasn’t even that terrified any more. I said good bye (that has transformed into a see ya later as I am seeing them very, very soon!) to Dan and Alice and drove off with Google Maps on. It was as if a blanket of calm fell from the car roof and wrapped itself all around me, smoothing out any of the worry creases on my forehead. It’s incredible how when it comes to it, you just do it, like the Nike ad always says.
The first day, I drove from Adelaide to Port Campbell, which according to Google Maps is a journey of 665 km which translates to 413 in miles. Roughly, it takes seven hours and twenty minutes; however with traffic, a couple of rest stops, and making the wrong turn once or twice, it ended up taking just over eight to complete the full road trip solo. It was pretty much a straight run which was to the relief of not only myself, but my loved ones back home who I had been frantically stressing to via WhatsApp and Messenger the night before.
Honestly, I am so glad I did it. Driving on my own in the sunshine, through overgrown trees, passing massive patches of woodland, eventually seeing the sparkle of the sun reflect against the sea, and with the radio on; it was almost like those musical montages in films when the protagonist is finally realising something good, or heading toward their own happy ending. It was perfect. Experiencing it with friends was an amazing adventure, but doing it on my own was something else. It proved that I could do it, that I could take risks – no matter how big or small.
The next day, however, the rain came and it was a completely different escapade to the day before. It was scary. I had started driving along the Great Ocean Road as I wanted to experience it one final time during my working-holiday visa. Then, I decided that it was taking way too long and I really needed to get back to Melbourne. Side note: At this point, I thought the car was due back at 6pm, not 1.30pm… so I was definitely late, I just didn’t realise how late I was at that point in the journey which was a good thing really. Imagine the extra panic on top of driving alone, in the rain, up and down twists and turns. At one point, my paranoid brain thought that someone was following me. He/she/it wasn’t. Thank God.
During the majority of the second day, I just wanted to get back to the city, to hand over the keys and be done, but then I remembered how good the moments felt when the radio actually had signal and wasn’t making that awful crackling sound over Little Mix and John Legend. This was a once in a lifetime experience: I was never going to be 24 and driving along the southern coast of Australia on my own again. The second part of the journey – according to Google Maps – was a total of 230 km, but because I took the long way round, it was probably more like 300+ km which is roughly 186 miles. It took a lot longer than the intended time estimate of 2 hours and 40 minutes. But that’s the life of travelling solo and wanting to see some more of the winding roads and nature – taking a little bit of a risk.
Once I got closer to Melbourne, the sky started to clear, and once I hit the bulk of Princes Highway once more, it was pretty easy to navigate my way to the city. Again, it felt like freedom: driving alongside trucks, lorries and other cars, especially when they flew past sparingly.
The trickiest part of the entire journey was driving in the city: one way systems, multiple lanes, busy traffic and a constant throng of people crossing roads was a bit of a nightmare and one that I would not like to repeat, ever, whether in Australia, the UK, abroad or not.
I definitely enjoyed it, immensely, and I would urge everyone to do it during your solo travels, or just have a road trip with friends – more of that to come, definitely!
Tips For Driving Solo Whilst Abroad
- Make sure you are fully aware of the car rental costs including: how much you have to pay per extra mile/km; any late fees; petrol costs etc.
- Have plenty of water and food for energy, keep the music on, or sing!, and roll down the windows if you get a little drowsy.
- Don’t panic – you will survive.
- Keep an eye out for any wildlife that may be running alongside you on the roads; there were a lot of kangaroos in the area, most of the ones I saw were sadly already dead.
- Drive carefully: not only do you want to keep yourself alive, you don’t want to total the car or even chip it because the fees are astronomical.
- Enjoy it – you might only experience this once.
Have you ever driven abroad on your own, or for very long distances at a time?
Love, Faye x