On Monday I was given a nice little gift: A new Ford Focus was dropped off at my front door with a full tank of gas and the ability to go wherever I want for an entire week!
So, I’ve been driving around town, going to the shops, picking Pat up from the station, going cruising to places like Palm Beach and Leichhardt and wherever else I have had the desire to go. Driving is such a freeing experience, and I do miss it at times being here in Australia and being a little on the poor side (I couldn’t afford a car full-time here in Oz – no way). Having grown up in a place where public transport is minimal, where most people have a car at age 16 and where I have actually been behind the wheel since the age of 15, driving is a part of grown-up life that I have chosen to bypass in order to save money for the ultimate goal of travel, not to mention the ultimate flexibility also for the same purpose.
Having said that, there are a few things that have crossed my mind so far this week, both about driving here in Australia and also overseas.
Universal Driving Rules?
As much as I love the freeing nature of driving, there are many reasons why I choose not to do it in many parts of the world beyond the money factor. For one, I feel like the rules of driving should be universal – like you should be able to take your driving knowledge that you learned from your high school course and then effortlessly drive at any location around the world. However, I don’t believe this is so. In Australia, you not only drive on the opposite side of the road, but you also don’t have that right turn on red rule we have the USA (or left turn on red Down Under). In fact, this is only legal WHEN there is a sign telling you so, but what happens when you come to a stoplight and there is no sign?
I’ve also been doing lots of driving here on the North Shore and finding lots of little confusing streets, lane changes, lane merges and the like that I only know part of because I ride with Pat often. At the stoplights heading into the Wahroonga town center area (near the station), there are two lanes of traffic at the stoplight, but on the opposite side of the road there is only a single lane of entry. To make it more interesting, the right lane can only turn right at certain times of the day. In other times, both lanes if going straight have to merge into one lane basically in the intersection…. which is obviously not cool… especially since it is not marked that way. UGH.
In America, I feel like driving is just much more straightforward with clear lane markings and standard rules. Other parts of the world, like Italy or Turkey or Kyrgyzstan… not so much. I have no desire to deal with the headache that is driving in those destinations, not even in the slightest.
Other drawbacks of driving:
Big City Driving Sucks
I highly recommend a road trip in Australia, but I recommend those on the outskirts of big cities in the more rural parts of the country (which is basically anywhere outside of the major cities). I had no problems driving the east coast of Australia starting up in Cairns, but when it got to… oh… Brisbane, I was a little flustered, and in Sydney city my knuckles were white. I am much too anxious to deal with big city driving. However, the suburbs of big cities (like Sydney) are also a little bit of a nightmare to get around, which I have discovered this past week.
I guess I’ve always been this way. Whenever I headed up to Chicago by car, I was not a happy camper, and well I don’t understand Italian or European driving rules on those crazy narrow lanes where Vespas whip in and around wherever they please.
Perhaps I’m just used to the stop and start logic of a stop sign? I’m always apprehensive that the person before me forgot to signal properly, or that the next lane might not pay attention and go while I’m on the roundabout. Just a little annoying I do think so.
This goes along with big city driving. The other day I went cruising with Nicole down to the Royal National Park, but I had to pick her up from Leichhardt On the way to Leichhardt it only took me about 40 minutes, but on the way home, that same distance took me 1.5 hours! Ugh, traffic you kill me!
Parking in big cities is a nightmare because of the rules, the lack of spaces and the price you have to sometimes pay. I have found that the price for parking stretches well out into some of the suburbs and if you ever want to park near a beach. Just the other day, I drove up to Palm Beach and stopped off at the beaches along the drive. To park at the Newport Beach, it was a $4.00 payment for the first hour and $2.40 for every hour after that during the week. The parking lot had like 100 empty spaces! The parking at Bondi Beach is more like double that.
If you’re looking to park I the city of Sydney, some parking decks will run you about $30 per day, sometimes more depending on the parking deck and the location in the city. And, airport parking is also a little bit of a nightmare with long-term parking at the Sydney Airport coming in at around $122 for a week while Edinburgh airport parking, Liverpool airport parking, and Glasgow airport parking, for example, come in at half that rate, even when converted from the pound. Sydney, you kill me!
Driving is Good Sometimes
I’ll say it again… I love driving, and I do miss it dearly at times. Having the car this week has been a totally freeing experience for both Pat and I as it seems like we have our own lives again instead of being stuck in our out-of-the-way temporary home situation. Now, I get to spend extra time with him in the car as I drive him to and from the station, as we make decisions to go to dinner or to the shops without wondering if there will be transportation conflicts.
On the other hand, I often don’t drive – anywhere in the world – not only for the money saving ability, but also for the peace of mind I get from not having to simply drive!