Driving me round the bend

Thinking about a self drive holiday?  Maybe somewhere overseas.  Mmmm – you might want to think about that a little more before you commit.

Now I know some people are quite happy with getting on a plane and flying into the Great Unknown, picking up a car rental and heading out into the Tarmac Universe.  These people have my utmost admiration.  They are fearless warriors.  They deal with toll roads and signs in Cyrillic script with equanimity.

I have had clients who have done that “idyllic” trip to Tuscany travelling in a beautiful convertible luxury vehicle while popping in to visit unique wineries and rustic restaurants. There was nearly a divorce along the way.  You see the only problem was the navigation.  Maps can be interpreted in different ways depending on which way up you are holding it and how good your Italian is.  Sometimes your spouse (who is doing the easy part – driving) doesn’t quite understand the challenges of the navigator.

Shut up Dear – I am concentrating on the map

Even if you can read the road signs sometimes the rules of the road are quite different and even though Canadians are getting used to roundabouts the ones found in the UK can be baffling.


There is no doubt however that depending on where you want to visit sometimes the convenience and independence of having a car trumps even the threat of divorce and nervous breakdown.  Many of the little villages of Ireland, Cornwall or Portugal could only be discovered in your own vehicle and there is something really special about finding that spectacular spot where you can park and eat your Cornish Pasty or fish and chips.










Picking up a car at a major international airport in a strange country is something you might want to avoid.  You will find yourself suddenly plunged onto a motorway along with 18 wheel trucks driven by maniacs.  Exit signs flash by while your wife tries to read the map the car rental company kindly gave which bears no resemblance to anything around.  The windows start steaming up because everyone is getting agitated.  You have no idea how the controls on the dash work and this is all beginning to feel like the punishment you deserve for all the bad things you have ever done in your life.

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. My husband and I drove all over Italy for a month and had our best holiday ever. We had down-loaded current maps onto our GPS and took that with us. They are also available for rent along with your rental vehicle. You do have to be prepared to drive quickly and maybe miss the odd round-about but it’s all part of the adventure. Love your blog


    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement. We drove around Ireland once and had a few “domestics” along the way. Mind you we didn’t have a GPS and that would have been amazing. Better than a marriage counsellor! Thanks for reading my blog – so glad you enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing it. All the best, Lesley


  2. We also bought the European maps for our GPS and away we went. So much more fun to drive around Europe, stop where you want and when you want. You get to meet more local people along the the way and see the most incredible sights. A GPS will allow you to pick the quickest route, most scenic, no toll etc. Our most memorable moment was on a drive from Geneva to Zurich. Coming to the bottom of a mountain we came across a pasture filled with Swiss cows complete with bells. We pulled over and just sat listening to the beautiful sound for quite a while, taking in the most incredible views. Sometimes it just takes a bit of courage and adventurous spirit to get so much more out of a vacation than all the usual tour spots.


    1. How lovely Claire – definitely a memorable moment. You have described that so well – I almost felt that I was there. Switzerland is so beautiful and easy to get around. Very organised. When travelling by train in Switzerland we had 3 minutes between connections. I made the mistake of asking the Station Master in Zurich what would happen if our train was late. He looked at me as if I was a complete idiot. Yes – Switzerland runs like a Swiss watch.


  3. When planning a trip to England/Scotland friends would ask: How will you get around? We said Oh we will rent a car at the airport! They, being more well travelled said; You will do what??!! So after an over night flight, jet lagged, never having driven on the “other ” side and no experience with round abouts!! We did it. White knuckle all the way!! Terrifying at first but after 3 weeks we were still married(close call at times) and saw lots of things we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Go for it!! Fun blog.


    1. Well done Irene – yes the first day out of London on the motorway with all the “lorries” can be nerve wracking. You certainly had experiences to remember and obviously have a rock solid relationship. Well done!


  4. GPS’s must be used with a grain of salt. In Croatia, where the roads are amazingly good, our British GPS voice would use terms like “take the slip road”. Did she mean the Split road? The she led us up a narrow steep road, with stone walls on one side and cliff down the other, that dead-ended. A young man came from nowhere to tell my husband to get out, had me flip the mirror in so we wouldn’t scrape it on the stone buildings, and he backed down for us. Using GPS in Thailand was also challenging as we kept finding ourselves going down lanes that got more and more narrow….. We never failed to entertain the locals!


    1. Oh Liala, I would have loved to have been a fly on that stone wall. Talking about the British GPS voice…. our GPS here in Canada just cannot get the hang of my husband’s South African accent – often with hilarious results! Technology is great but nothing beats a handy local to help out.


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