Over the past 30 days, we have mainly utilized public transportation in the form of planes, trains, bus, and boats to travel between cities. Once we reach a new destination, we tend to do most of our exploration on foot, supplemented with rides on a city’s well developed public transportation system (buses, trams, or subways). It is nice to allow someone else to do the driving and navigating. You do not have to worry about which exit to take off the roundabout or if the GPS is going to lead you for miles down a single lane dirt road!
When deciding on Scotland as a destination, we did research and received recommendations from friends (thanks Kevin & Dawn for the wealth of information) to explore the countryside and not just restrict our visit to the main cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. So, we expanded our horizons and found lots of little towns and activities to add to our itinerary. Unfortunately, we had to limit our selections and arrived at a counter-clockwise loop around Scotland starting and ending in Edinburgh. The most cost effective and timely way to reach our list of destinations appeared to be via car, and so, we rented a car to explore the countryside.
Renting a car is generally pretty simple and typically a non-event for me. Having traveled for work and driven hundreds of different cars over the years, I find it relatively easy to adjust to different cars. However, I am not a fan of driving a manual transmission. I know how to drive them, thanks to my skating friend Kendra and my high school boyfriend Nate, who each took time to teach me (in their cars) back in high school. However, about 12 years ago, I had a bad experience with Kevin’s Jetta and since then I refuse to drive them! (Backstory: I took his car to the store and had significant issues with first gear. After a horrible two-mile round trip, the exclamation point was that I ended up dropping and breaking a glass bottle unloading the car.)
Most rental cars in Europe are manual transmission. Automatics are available, but at a premium rate—nearly triple the rate for a manual. Needless to say, we proceeded with the manual transmission under the agreement that Kevin would be the chauffeur and I would be the navigator. As some may know, I am not always the best car passenger. Let’s just say I can be a bit jumpy. I prefer to drive and if I’m not it’s usually best if I am in the back seat, preferably distracted (e.g. phone, scenery, music, talking to others). That tends to yield the best results for everyone involved.
When we picked up the car at Edinburgh airport, let’s just say that I had a little anxiety about the driving situation—Kevin would not only be driving, but driving an unfamiliar car on the opposite side of the road; he would be driving with a manual transmission and shifting with his left hand; he would be driving in the pouring rain; he would be sitting on the right side of the car. It was an all around unfamiliar situation so one can imagine how fun the hour drive was from Edinburgh to St Andrews. We made it in one piece safe and sound to our destination. The car ride was quite colorful and I am thankful that no one was there to hear our bickering.
In an attempt to minimize conflict about speed, anticipation and traffic laws, we’ve established some ground rules. When I am uncomfortable, I raise my hand. Kevin takes notice (and may or may not make adjustments.) The non-verbal queues help remove any tones or inflections that may cause undue alarm and it has helped reduce our disagreements (and the voice levels) on our road trips.
In the end Kevin did a great job (only stalled once) and did not run us off the road (even though I thought he was close on more than one occasion). The journey has just begun and hopefully, the next two weeks driving in Scotland will be smooth sailing!