Lyndsey McKiernan outlines her experiences with road trips and where it can be considered as an alternative travel choice.
The archaic road trip seems like a distant memory in a world concerned with cheap, time-conscious travel. Why drive for hours when you could fly there in a fraction of that time? I have only been on one road trip outside of Ireland, and that was from Toronto in Canada to Chicago in the States (through Detroit). I was only about twelve years old, so music and car games like I Spy could entertain me for a solid chunk of this two day trip. I couldn’t read for long without car sickness setting in however, and the passing countryside was incredibly monotonous. Exciting highlights of the trip involved driving through the border at Niagara falls where my family endured an intense round of questioning, stopping in some quaint and remote American towns, and of course driving into downtown Chicago. When the majority of the journey is in fact boring and the roads in question are barren and unchanging, it can be difficult to remember why you chose this route at all. In this case, the destination is all that matters and not the journey you take to get there.
Road trips do have their upsides - you can plan your journey however you like and at your own pace, and it also leaves you with a means of transport after you’ve arrived at your destination which may save you some money in the long run! This freedom afforded to travellers can manifest itself in the form of bathroom and snack stops, changing routes to spontaneously stay in previously unknown places, and even meet new people if you’re brave enough to pick up a hitchhiker (though I think the art of hitchhiking has already seen its last days unfortunately). Let’s not forget about the luggage constraints when travelling by air or rail; when road tripping you can quite literally take everything and the kitchen sink if you like!
The road trips I have taken in Ireland on the other hand, shed a new light on the joys of exploring while still in transit to your destination. Sure, much of the roads connecting the main cities in Ireland are grey and drab, yet the old roads through small country towns remain. There is something comforting in knowing exactly what you will find in these towns no matter where you are in Ireland - a small supermarket such as Centra or Spar, a pharmacy, a church, and at least two pubs. Perhaps I hold such a fondness for these journeys due to the nostalgia and feelings of ‘home’ I associate with them.
The road trips I have taken in Ireland on the other hand, shed a new light on the joys of exploring while still in transit to your destination.
The best part of an Irish road trip emerges further on from these towns though. I recently drove down to Doolin in County Clare, visiting nearby Lisdoonvarna and the Cliffs of Moher. The roads down here were in need of patching up, very narrow and incredibly dark at night, yet incredibly beautiful during the day. There is always something interesting to see, from the small craft shops, abandoned thatched cottages surrounded by famine walls, and of course the beautiful landscape. The Aran Islands sit solidly in the distance beyond the crashing waves of the Wild Atlantic Way, while all around you is green, green, and more green. And of course, no Irish road trip is complete without pointing out sheep in a passing field by announcing excitedly: “Sheep!”
A large part of my enjoyment on these drives also stems from the fact that I am now the one driving. Driving is second nature to me now, but I am never bored and finally having control of the aux is a luxury which makes road trips infinitely better! I would recommend blasting your favourite tunes and singing along or listening to an audiobook to pass the time. In a less romantic portrayal of road trips and coping mechanisms, my worst experience involves driving from Galway back to Dublin after a night out with friends. I was working on 3 hours sleep with a chicken fillet roll to sustain me. Driving for two and a half hours with the windows down, aircon blasting, and music blaring was the only way to keep me alert and definitely not an experience I would recommend any time soon. Planned, well-rested road trips however? Go for it! You might be pleasantly surprised by the journey you end up taking.