I was anxious and nervous as I waited for the guy from Hertz to give me my keys to my rental car. After all, I was taking off on my own driving around a foreign country for 3 weeks exploring the infamous winding, narrow back roads of Ireland. All of this was going to happen on the other side of the road than what my brain was used to. On top of that, the rental agency was out of automatics, so I would be driving a manual transmission. “Give me the smallest car you have,” I requested to the guy behind the counter. This wasn’t a budget request, this was a sanity request.
A Note on Being Brave
I know you all think I’m this brave, independent woman; however, I’m going to reveal that you are half right. I’m definitely independent – but brave is not a word I would use to describe myself (however feel free to keep calling me brave all you want). I grew up a nervous, fearful kid that flowed into the way I see the world as an adult. I have to actually force myself to be brave most of the time; and this solo road trip in Ireland was no exception. I literally had to convince myself to get in that car and drive. I knew it would be confusing, stressful, and I would have to do everything myself, but at the same time I knew I would end up loving it. It’s sort of like getting waxed – you know you will love it in a few hours, but you have to go through the hair being ripped out of your flesh first to get there. Ouch.
Driving Solo in Foreign Countries
A few months prior to deciding to do this solo road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland I asked my Facebook followers if they would take a solo road trip and I was surprised by all of the answers I received that were gushingly positive. It sort of made me feel like a wimp. Most people said they had and would do solo road trips in the US…and therein was the issue. For my fellow Americans, newsflash – the US is easy. You understand the driving rules, signs, and culture, but once you take that solo road trip onto foreign soil, it’s a bit more of a challenge in my opinion. And I’ve driven in a lot of foreign countries both developed and undeveloped – and as much fun as it is to say I did it, it was not a walk in the park.
Luckily Ireland is still pretty easy when it comes to roadtrips, after all I speak the language so that’s a plus in my ‘no problem’ column. However in the ‘I’m intimidated column’ I didn’t know how to drive on the other side of the road, I knew the roads would be super small and narrow, I didn’t understand the traffic rules, and everything was metric.
But here I was walking out to my very small red rental car about to take off and face those fears. And let me tell you – I had to do a lot of self-talk to accomplish that. Which side am I supposed to be on, stay in the middle, go slow, don’t panic, is this a turn lane, what does that arrow mean, am I going the right way, oh shit – that was a stop sign, am I supposed to be in this lane, don’t forget you need to push in the clutch when you stop, whoaaaa – where is my turn signal…the internal chatter/panic in my brain was endless – and I was just trying to get out of the airport complex!
But I was officially behind the wheel and on my way and that’s half the battle. My best solo road trip advice – just get in the car and drive.
Can’t view the video – click here to view on YouTube
A Driving Transformation
Here’s the weird and wonderful thing about tackling your fears and becoming brave – you come out the other side feeling better and more confident than ever. And who doesn’t want that? Over the course of 3 weeks I slowly changed. I went from giving myself pep talks and being terrified every morning to get into the car and start driving, to anticipating the day’s drive and being super excited to be on the smallest, craziest roads. I eased up on my white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel and actually got comfortable and let the blood flow back into my fingertips. I started listening to music and sang along at the top of my lungs. I waved at people on little back roads as if I knew them. I passed other tourists and scoffed at their timid driving ability. By day 5 – I was wearing a perma-grin and yelling at slow tourist drivers. (officially apologizing now if you were one of them and I dropped the F bomb at you)
I daydreamed about receiving the ultimate driving complement – people thinking that maybe, just maybe I was a local driver. By the end of 3 weeks I was driving faster and more aggressively than I ever had – I was completely comfortable. My solo road trip had been a transformative experience – which in my view – it means it was a giant success.
Stay tuned – I’ll be sharing much more on this roadtrip in Ireland, as well as how you can do it yourself. By the end you’ll be booking a ticket for your own road trip in Ireland!
Need More Reasons to Drive Solo?
How did I get all of that video footage while driving solo?
Well, it was quite a balancing act at times as I drove and took my own footage out the window! But I mainly used a gopro, an XShot selfie stick, and a smart phone holder – check them out for your own solo adventures!
Note: My website can contain some affiliate marketing links. That means that I get commission paid if products and services I write about generate sales. And it means you are helping to support this little blog of mine – THANKS!
My editorial content, however, is not influenced by merchants nor by affiliate partnerships.
By Shelley January 8, 2015 - 11:50 am
Sherry, that video was terrifyingly amazing! I guess the trick is taking this trip before the road is jammed with tourists. It’s definitely on my list now. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs (and lefts and rights). Just spectacular.
By Kelly Paik January 9, 2015 - 2:09 am
I’m just curious, if you went on the rickshaw run last year, shouldn’t this drive have been a piece of cake? Learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, the manual transmission, and especially navigating the crazy traffic should all be familiar territory, right? Or are there other factors that make this road trip completely different?
By Sherry January 9, 2015 - 11:53 am
Hey Kelly – good question – yes I did the rickshaw run but there are a number of things that made that different than this road trip. But mainly just becuase I drove a rickshaw across India doesn’t mean that I’m fearless in any driving situation! Every time you learn something new I think there’s a learning curve. The rickshaw run was definitely challenging and I was super nervous about driving there. However -some differences between a rickshaw in India and driving in Ireland is that you can’t really get up a lot of speed in a rickshaw – so it was a slower pace in general. It was like a motorcycle – so the clutch and gears were totally different from a car. I’ve driven a manual transmission my whole life but all of a sudden sitting on the other side of the car and shifting with my other hand made me feel like I was re-learning everything. After a few days I was fine – but the first few days was hard. I did the rickshaw run with another person – so that made navigating much easier. And in India even though you drive on the opposite side of the road it never felt like it as no one ever drives on the right side of the road anyway! The lack of rules in India made it feel different – but in Ireland it’s a country with rules and I felt like I had to know how to follow them. I know that sounds weird – but all I can tell you it was different…very different.
By Mary @ Green Global Travel January 12, 2015 - 10:25 pm
I’m all for empowering experiences! Glad your road trip was such a success 🙂
By Saiful Islam Khan January 17, 2015 - 1:27 am
Wow it’s great adventure tour! I like the video you shared & got a test of solo trip. Thanks for sharing such awesome experiences 🙂
By Collagen January 17, 2015 - 2:05 am
Great adventure tour. Your video is wonderful. Thanks for awesome experiences. How can i follow you via twitter and contact with you?
By Stephanie - The Travel Chica January 18, 2015 - 5:14 pm
I love road trips, but it is nerve-racking to drive in a foreign country, especially on the other side of the road. I just wrote about about driving in Jamaica, and I honestly don’t know if I would do it solo.
By Dan January 28, 2015 - 12:48 am
I agree that it can be daunting driving in a new country. For me its the unknown of how aggressive the locals will be on the road. Ireland would have been a little easier to handle because I’m used to driving on the left 🙂
By Randy March 12, 2015 - 2:04 pm
( stay left, look right ) over and over and over. OT.. How did u do in Viet Nam ?
By Sherry March 12, 2015 - 3:31 pm
Randy – in Vietnam I just told myself I was driving in a school of fish…then it all made sense. They drive on the right in Vietnam when they actually decide to follow that rule.
By rashi April 3, 2015 - 8:15 am
This post really boosted my confidence . Want to know 2 things – can this trip be done in 2 weeks ? Are the roads deserted and is it safe to drive these distances alone ?
By Sherry April 4, 2015 - 9:29 am
I don’t think you could do the entire thing in 2 weeks, but you could do like I did which is do certain peninsulas and then take some of the main roads in between instead of JUST driving the WAW. 3 weeks and you could do the entire thing though.
The roads are safe and they aren’t deserted really, but most of it is back country roads that aren’t traveled much except by locals. Traffic probably depends more on time of year that you go. Summer will be a bit more populated. Hope that helps and I really hope you go!