Saturday, 12 May 2012

Roadtrip without a map: freedom to color outside the lines

My darling husband hates to waste money on things like road maps, when that money could very well be spent on beer. Thus we have taken quite a few roadtrips without sufficient maps. Not that I’m very good at paying attention and directing him when we do have maps, so maybe it’s for the best. Here are some benefits of and tips for travel without boundaries:

1. Most obviously, you will stumble upon interesting places you might otherwise have avoided. We once had the pleasure of driving through a pedestrian-only area in the Basque country in Spain because we couldn’t turn our rental car around in the narrow street that dead-ended at the harborside. Lucky for us, nobody cared because all the townspeople (including the children) were busy getting drunk and throwing talc all over each other for an unidentified local festival (probably celebrating the town’s 800th anniversary or something equally baffling).

2. Practice your French/Italian/etc. by deciphering road signs. Hopefully, you will have at least learned the terms for the cardinal directions. This can be particularly helpful when deciding which on-ramp to chose on the highway. Generally, heading south when you mean to go north is counterproductive.

That's just unfair.
3. Practice pretending to understand foreign languages when you ask for directions. This counts in other states, too. Massachusetts-ites prefer to give directions consisting of phrases such as “turn left where the old bank used to be.” Presumably if you knew where the old bank once stood, you might not be lost. However, it is rude to explain that the directions you have been provided make no sense; just smile benignly, drive the way the person pointed, and then stop again in the hope of finding someone who speaks your language. Or try tip #4, below.

4. Work on your memorization skills. Did you know that most petrol stations sell road maps? Instead of purchasing one, however, you can quickly run in, figure out where you are, and memorize a route before the clerk notices you lying on the floor reading the map. A fun game to play is to track whether you or your partner is better at this (you can measure the distance each of you can drive before having to stop at the next station to re-orient!).
Sometimes, maps are provided in key locations! Turn your trip into a free-map scavenger hunt, for an extra challenge.

5. Test your relationship. Perhaps the lowest point in my marriage occurred when driving to the Paris airport at 5 am in the rain after being at a (fabulous) wedding until 4 am, and my husband was drunk and snoring instead of helping me decipher the road signs to guess which way we should be driving. He’s still alive and we’re still married, so that really speaks to his other qualities.

6. Drink more beer! Be sure to unwind after a tense day of driving in circles with a cool beverage. After all, that was the point of driving map-less, wasn’t it? An extra tip for today: try to order your beer in the local tongue. In Basque country, this is not Spanish. You may be served half a glass of flat, warm beer if you ask for cerveza. 

p.s. it goes without saying that using a GPS is totally cheating. You also may only call your mom if you have exhausted the other options listed above.

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