Travel is a learning curve, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t think there is such a thing as a good traveller, more one who is adaptable and always changing their way of doing things depending on the situation. It’s about being flexible in the face of problems, so that what could be a huge crisis, doesn’t matter so much anymore. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that travel gives you a really huge dose of perspective and that no matter how much of a calamity you feel like you’re in, it could always be much worse.
I won’t lie to you and tell you nothing bad happens when you travel, that you’re always completely safe inside your little bubble, I’m just not that kind of girl. I’m someone who believes in the power of preparation and good planning, someone who knows how valuable it is to face your fears and any danger along the way because it helps to shape you as a person. Guess what – when we struggle and things are hard, that is how we learn and it isn’t always comfortable, sometimes it is downright painful but that is the only way we can grow. Take it from someone who has been in several near-fatal car crashes, who has been abandoned on the side of the highway, threatened with a knife and almost robbed. I’ve survived all of this and more by keeping my wits about me, and so will you by doing the same.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
I always remember a teacher at school was obsessed with that quote and it has always stayed with me every since. I’m an organiser at heart and I love getting ready for a big trip – whether it’s a voyage to the other side of the world or a road trip over the weekend. You all know by now how much I love a good road trip and ever since I learned to drive I have been taking trips all over the UK, Europe and even Australia. I love the freedom of the open road and the beauty of travelling on your own timescale and completely within your own means. But with travelling by car/van or even living in one, comes a lot of responsibility and you have to make sure your vehicle is both roadworthy and suitable for the journey. Why? Well, trust me, it’s not fun when road trips go wrong.
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Here are some of my worst road trip experiences:
That time the wheel fell off
I was with a group of travellers on Australia’s West Coast and we were driving from Perth up to Darwin, no small task with over 4,000km to cover. My friend had taken her car for a thorough service and check-up before the trip to ensure it was safe, but the garage must have forgotten to screw on one of the bolts for the wheel. We were driving through Carnarvon when, with an almighty clank, the wheel suddenly fell off and the whole car was lop-sided. Thankfully they had been pulling into park instead of driving at 100kph so no-one was hurt, but it could have been very dangerous.
When the engine went up in smoke
My poor boyfriend was driving up the West Coast to meet me in his van – we were planning to drive the rest of the road trip together living in the van. But it wasn’t meant to be as spookily, again in Carnarvon, the engine suddenly started flowing with black smoke and refused to go any further. Not only did he have to get towed back to the town, but he ended up having to trade his van for a car – but we still finished the road trip and loved that car.
The trip that stopped before it started
When I was road tripping Bulgaria with a bunch of mates, we had just picked up our hire car and parked it up so we could grab a bite to eat. Five minutes later we returned to see our vehicle was clamped. Luckily the fine wasn’t too bad but we did end up wasting a lot of time.
Breaking down on the M25
This one was hilarious but a total pain in the arse. I was with an ex-boyfriend and we had spent our anniversary weekend in Brighton but were heading home on the Sunday. It was a hot and sunny day, rare for the UK, but we were making the most of it in his convertible as we cruised down the M25. Because of the wind, we couldn’t hear the noise at first but after a while we noticed the grinding, scraping sound of metal and we had to pull over. Thank god we did because when I looked under the car, the entire exhaust had fallen down and was dragging under the car. It was a mess and we were stranded for ages while we waited for the recovery service to pick us up and patch up the car so we could drive it home. Still three hours from home, we ended up having to drive the rest of the way home at 40mph along the motorway and it ended up being the longest Sunday of all time.So how can you prevent this from happening on your next road trip? Be smart, be organised and follow this checklist I’ve created of all the things you should check on your vehicle before any long journey. Spending a bit of time doing this before each trip could save you hours of standing by a windy motorway waiting for the AA man to show up after his Sunday roast.
Top checks to perform on your vehicle before you hit the highway:
- Schedule regular check-ups for your car/van and make sure you get any concerns checked out. Don’t like the sound of that noise? Have it checked before you go.
- Basic maintenance – top up the fuel, the oil and even things like brake fluid and window washing liquid, plus make sure your brake pads are still okay.
- Make sure you have a comprehensive insurance that covers you for all situations.
- Don’t leave your lights on – always make sure the engine is fully off and don’t let your battery run down.
- Tyres – so important. Check the rubber for any bulges or tears, drive carefully and avoid broken glass. Also, make sure the tread is still within the legal requirement.
- Pack for emergencies – on long trips it is smart to pack a torch, first-aid kit, blanket and some basic tools, plus water and extra snacks in case you get stuck somewhere.
- If you’re planning a long trip, it can be helpful to have a navigation system and not to just rely on your phone. Garmin are good, I always used mine for long trips. But it does help to keep a back-up map in the car in case of emergencies.
- Don’t overpack the car. Extra weight of overpacking places extra strain on the vehicle and can use a lot more fuel. Pack smart and find ways to reduce the amount you take. If you’re road tripping long-term and have a roof rack full of stuff – arrange is carefully to be as streamlined as possible – trust me, it makes a HUGE difference to how much fuel you consume.
- Plan your journey ahead of time and be smart about your travel times, avoid hitting traffic or rush hour and you could save a lot of fuel and wasted time. Travelling late at night or early in the morning is great, open roads and not a soul in sight.
Most importantly, once all the checks are done – relax and really enjoy every second of your trip! Make it the trip of a lifetime and heck, even if things do go wrong, it isn’t the end of the world, it just means another funny story to tell afterwards. The most important thing you can pack when things do go wrong is perspective. Take a deep breath, take care of it and then sit back and wait until you’re on your way again. And if something happens that is not your fault, don’t forget you could be entitled to compensation – find out more here.
What was your worst road trip experience? Can you think of any other important car checks before a road trip? What was the best road trip you ever did?