After a road trip through Uruguay, Greg Dickinson discovers the joys of self-drive.
Alright, hands up. Fuel is pricey, driving abroad is stressful and travelling long distances by car is damaging to the environment. You may as well just do what you always do; book up some flights, buses and trains and be done with it.
But before you do that, remember that a road trip can be a seriously fun way of travelling, offering that rarest of commodities: total independence. What’s more, it doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank, and for eco-conscious travellers, there are ways of mitigating your carbon footprint while on the road.
It’s time to make a mixtape, don some leather driving gloves and pop open the boot, people. Here are six reasons you should choose a road trip for your next big adventure.
Wonder what’s down that winding dirt track? Go check it out. Want to make an impromptu detour to the beach for a mid-afternoon swim? Why the hell not. Fancy blasting out a thousand miles in one day? Well… maybe that’s not such a great idea, but at least you could if you really wanted to.
Unlike relying on public transport, on a road trip you have the luxury of being able to be as spontaneous as you like – giving you the freedom to travel from A to whichever letter you damn please.
Car rental isn’t cheap, but there are a few hacks to make it that bit more affordable. The first is to go on a road trip soon. Like, now. Fuel prices have recently tumbled across the globe, so wherever you go you’re likely to feel the benefits when travelling long distances.
Another easy trick is to run a trolley around a supermarket at the beginning of the trip and stock up on food and drink – then use your car boot (trunk) as a larder for the duration of the trip, saving on the expense of eating out all the time.
And one final thing to remember: the more friends you pile in the car, the more ways you’ll be splitting the cost of everything.
While travelling by public transport ties you to the timetables of bus, flight and rail companies, with your own set of wheels, you can set the pace.
This means no more waking up at 7am to catch a coach with carpets on the ceiling (why do they do that?). No more eye-watering waits for the next loo break. No more back-breaking overnight journeys. With your own vehicle you can devise a travel schedule that suits you, and after years of travelling with public transport that can be something quite liberating.
Any seasoned traveller will know it’s hard to get properly off-the-beaten-track while using public transport. But with a car, anywhere is in reach.
By keeping away from the well-trodden traveller routes or tourist trails, you will have the rare opportunity to see a more authentic side of a country. From remote villages to one-horse towns, it’s these unique, undiscovered places you’re going to want to write home about. Although you might struggle to find somewhere to buy a postcard...
Need we say more? Flick on the radio, crank up the volume and embrace whatever the airwaves are pumping out.
Now, travelling by car isn’t traditionally seen as a “green” mode of transport, but there are some ways of minimizing your road trip’s negative impact on the environment.
One option is to choose an electric or hybrid car, rather than a petrol or diesel motor. These eco-friendly cars will normally come at a higher price, but the planet will be eternally grateful.
Another consideration is to avoid flying at all. If you plan a road trip that starts and ends at your front door, you’ll be sparing the atmosphere from the astronomical amount of jet fuel that is emitted when flying long haul.
And one final option, if you’re this way inclined, is to load up with camping gear and go off-grid for the duration of the road trip – using the stars as your entertainment and a running stream as your shower (and, ahem, a bush as your bathroom).