Driving left reminded me to drive right
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My parents had invited the whole family to join them on an excursion to Ireland in September for the first family vacation in over a decade. Our family of five has grown to eight with spouses and significant others added to the mix (no little ones yet, sorry Mom and Dad). This required us to rent at least three vehicles to handle the various locales we would be exploring and the luggage we insisted we needed along with us. While rental vehicles in these United States have become exclusively automatic-only, Europe still prefers to row its own gears and charges a premium otherwise. I nominated myself to tackle driving on the wrong side of the road with a manual shifter in the wrong hand to save a few Euros. This (selfishly) allowed my wife and me to have the vehicle to ourselves the entire trip for our own sightseeing.
When I finally awoke from my heavily medicated comatose of a flight and 4:00 am bus ride from Dublin to the west coast, I was handed the keys to a little Opel Astra hatchback. Perfect. I reviewed the road map that evening in our B&B and proposed we stay on more major roads as we headed north from Galway due to flooding along the coast in Connemara (rain in Ireland can be expected any day that ends in "y").
However, the so-called major roads were nothing more than back country roads, no wider than a lane and a half to us Americans. We've been spoiled by the sprawling infrastructure of our nation's interstate highway system that cuts through mountains and valleys, all in the name of transit efficiency. While this has greatly reduced travel times between large metropolitans, it has also robbed us of the joy of the drive. What was once a two-handed battle between man and pavement has been subdued to a cruise-control hypnosis only to be interrupted by your cousin tweeting about the latest episode of The Bachelor.
I was alive again on the winding asphalt that wove its way between stone-bordered farmland and small villages spread across the countryside. My left hand and foot were always ready for whatever lay in wait beyond the next hill or curve, whether it be a curious cow protruding through the fence line or a kamikaze sheep-herding dog who (somehow) mistook our silver five-door for a wooly mammal. This was a reminder of another approach to life. Why save a few minutes when there is so much to experience along the way?
The Emerald Isle awoke the kid inside me who saw the adventure in every drive. He's a little older and wiser now (despite my best efforts), but he hasn't gone anywhere. I still resist the urge to follow the crowd, rather trying to blaze my own trails. I will keep turning right for the adventure of the back road instead of the dirge of the highway. Will you join me?
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