One thing that I always talk about is my experience of driving around Europe – four years later and the memories that I have are still my most cherished, and it was a serious eye opener. Most people question our sanity when we say that we drove to Europe in a 1999 Ford Fiesta that cost £50 and was dropping to bits, but we had some serious fun along the way, and here’s why you should consider the car sat in your drive instead of taking a plane!
That year for my 18th birthday I asked if I could be taken to Pompeii. My dad went away and did some research, and found that the price of flying to Italy in August was astronomical. He had bought a crappy car for £50, to work on as a project, and had the crazy idea of driving to Italy instead.
His friends thought he was crazy. And our family. Heck, even I thought that he was joking. Driving to France, yeah sure, but Italy?
On the way to Italy we stopped by in Brussels, Germany, the middle of nowhere in Switzerland, Florence, Lyon, Dijon, Asti, Dunkirk and so so much more. These were towns and cities that I may never have been if I had we not been driving past. Suddenly Southern Italy was not the holiday destination anymore, and these were not just stops on the way, the whole experience was the holiday.
Taking your car abroad can be extremely daunting. Some tips that I absolutely want to stress are:
- Question your driving. Do you have enough experience driving to subject yourself to long periods of driving, up to 10 hours a day? Can you handle the stress of driving in new conditions?
- Spend a long time planning where you will sleep between driving, we did not do this so well, and ended up sleeping in the car in a German petrol station, with no idea how we got there, because we were so tired. Dangerous stuff!
- Check the legal requirements of every country before you travel: France and Germany require you to carry safety objects that you do not have in the UK, for example a hazard triangle or a breathalyzer.
- Check the currency: Switzerland does not use the Euro!
- Does your insurance cover you to drive abroad?
- Plan your route by a well detailed map alongside a sat nav – the sat nav can get confused.
All things considered, yes driving to your destination takes longer, yes it can be more expensive, and yes it is extremely draining – but what you see along the way is worth every second.
The drive between Florence and Rome was an experience that I cannot describe. There were towns built into huge rock faces, and landscapes that looked straight out of a movie. Switzerland had mountains around every corner, and the tunnels in the area of the Swiss/Italian border are something else!
What I found more interesting when we were driving about was the differences in the cars people drove. Germans tended to drive large cars at high speed, and northern Italy had a wealth of amazing super cars.
A true eyeopener that I had – cheesy, I know – was that borders really don’t exist. Culture does not stop at a set line, and change when you cross it. People do not suddenly become different just because you cross a line on a map, saying you’re in a different country. Everything is a lot more blended, and I liked that.
After two weeks of driving we made it to Pompeii, and we had a wonderful week in Sorrento. And even though I was finally in the place that I had dreamed of, as a young budding Archaeologist, I could not shake the feeling that I wanted to move on already, to jump back in the car and discover some remote area untouched by tourism.
And that is what you get by taking your car to Europe. The chance to see it in the way that it should be seen – to see the food changes, the language changes, the weather changes, the landscape changes, but knowing that at the end of the way, people don’t really change that much.
Thank you for reading, Ness