The beauty of going on a solo road trip (or any solo trip for that matter) is that you don’t have to wait for anyone. You don’t have to liaise dates with someone, you don’t have to factor in stops or places you are not interested in and you can be 100% selfish. You can be selfish with your time, your conversations, where you go, where you do what, what you eat, what time you go to bed and when you get up. Contrary to what your mother has taught you, a bit of selfishness is good every now and then.
Perhaps I’ve been travelling alone for too long but there’s nothing I despise more than paying for a trip and not being able to enjoy it in the way I have imagined because of the actions and demands of a travel partner. Unless I know that I will get along with a road trip buddy really well – and that the road trip buddy is keen to do things by themselves from time to time – then I would rather opt for a solo road trip.
Tim Cahill said that “A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles.”
But I think with the miles (or kilometres) come the journey and with the journey comes the memories. A journey is best measured in doing whatever makes you happy.
In case I haven’t made it clear yet, I really love travelling alone. And no, I don’t get lonely. And yes, I have friends. Or I mean, I have a friend. Or is it a cat? Cats are friends, right? I mean, cat…
Hats off and cheers to everyone travelling with their families, spouses, kids and steadfast road trip buddies; in a way I often think that takes more guts, determination, sacrifice and planning than travelling alone.
10 Safety Tips for Going on a Solo Road Trip
Sliding into the driver’s seat and setting off on a long distance journey comes with a few responsibilities of its own. Stay safe and use a whole lot of that magical ingredient: logic.
1. Do a pre-road trip car check.
Do a safety check of your tyres (condition and pressure), oil, water, lights, wipers (and windshield washer) and petrol. Teach yourself how to change a tyre and have all the necessary recovery equipment like a spare wheel, water, warning triangles, wheel spanner, jack, flashlight and a first aid kit.
2. Have a rough plan
I’m all for going with the flow and seeing where the road takes me but with that said, I always study my route options before the start of my trip. I check possible roads to take, if I have to sleep over I see what type of accommodation there is (and whether it will be within my budget) and I look for the names of towns and fuel stations along the way. Have a map with you (be it a GPS, your phone or a physical old school paper map).
3. Insurance and Road Side Assistance
If something goes wrong, know who to call and stay informed about the terms and conditions of your car insurance if your ‘situation’ happened a few too many kilometres away from your hometown. Opting for additional road side assistance, like AA, can come in handy as well and it starts at only R112, 48 per month (and almost half of that if you are a pensioner).
4. Always tell someone where you are going.
Share your trip details and route plan with someone, check in every now and then with a quick call or a message.
5. Keep your phone charged
If you don’t have a car charger, at least have a battery pack.
6. Day vs Night
If you can, avoid night driving. Your concentration is just not the same, you have to rely on only your headlights (and hopefully the other cars on the road have working headlights), and there are more trucks on the road. Also be careful when you drive at dusk or dawn in an area where kudus are common.
7. Know your limits
Don’t over-stretch yourself; there is no one who can take over the steering wheel if you are getting tired. Make sure you get enough sleep before your departure, stop often to stretch your legs and revive. Set the position of your mirrors before departure and don’t mess with it again during your trip (if you don’t get the same view after a few hours on the road it means your tiredness is resulting in you possibly sliding down your seat and getting into a position too comfortable, rather get out and get refreshed). Also know the limits of your car; know how far a tank of fuel can take you, know your car’s power if you need to overtake and know how your car reacts to dirt roads.
8. Tune in to local radio stations
Local radio stations that focus on certain areas or provinces might not always play the best music but they’re certainly your best bet for information about the area you’re travelling in; tune in to find out if you need to divert your route because of accidents, road works, closures or possible protests.
9. Trust your gut
You know yourself. Trust yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable driving a certain road or at a certain time, go with your gut.
10. Enjoy the road
It is a road trip after all; enjoy your destination and all the kilometres leading up to your destination. Stop often, talk to people, have coffee and stay safe.