Monday, November 09, 2015

How To Keep Your Sanity on Road Trips

When I worked for Visit Scotland, I often found myself on a long car ride, ferry, or even the occasional flight (some of our islands are quite far away) and, for the vast majority of the time, I'd be travelling on my own.   As someone who is socially awkward, this is generally my idea of heaven. However, even me, a woman who doesn't particularly like the company of Other People, finds it difficult to spend 10 days on Shetland with only a few weirdly small horses to talk to.   If it was my choice, that'd be fine.   When it's forced upon you, it's a whole different story.   

There's only so much singing one woman can do

Now that my time with VS has passed and I've moved to North Wales, I only have a 45 minute drive in the morning and I love nothing more than singing at the top of my voice to a bit of Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves in the car.    I no longer have to endure a 6 hour commute to Skye where I tried desperately to amuse myself by spotting feral goats for 250 miles.   True story.   In case you're wondering, I spotted ONE feral goat in FIVE months of working there.  It was the most boring, goat-less journey ever.    

Don't get me wrong, driving across parts of Scotland is truly beautiful, but you soon tire of the scenery when you make the same six hour journey every Monday morning and do the return leg every Thursday evening.    Even the sight of Eilean Donan Castle gleaming in the sun, or the Cuillin Mountain range shrouded in mist gets old after a while.   This is exactly why you need to find something constructive (and I use the term very loosely) to pass the time.  

Yeah, yeah, I know it's pretty, but the best thing about it, after a while, is the fact that it has great public toilets.

Music:
This is what I stick to on fairly short journeys.   OR, for trips that I take early in the morning (say, for work) where I don't have the brain capacity to do anything else but a spot of singing.   I always go for something upbeat in the morning, because I need a bit of cheering up if I've been prised out of my warm bed and into my cold car.

Audio Books:
I have a massive pile of audible titles in my library which, if you've read my post about my insomnia, you'll know I simply cannot live without.   Not only are audio books excellent for stopping me hoovering in the middle of the night, they're also great for tuning into and whiling away the hours as the countryside passes by your window.    The only thing I don't advise is listening to Swedish crime fiction on narrow, winding, country roads on dark winter nights.   Seriously: don't do it.   It's terrifying.

Don't listen alone late at night.   You have been warned.  

Language CDs:
I would like to thank VisitScotland for being the catalyst for me learning Spanish.   Gracias, a todos!   No, seriously, if it wasn't for all those endless journeys around North Uist or Kelso, English would still be my first and only language (that doesn't include the bastardised version of Klingon I speak after I've had too many glasses of wine...) It is a great way to ensure that your travel time isn't wasted and you, dare I say it, improve yourself?   I hate myself a little bit for even writing that.   However, that doesn't make it any less true.  

I listened to my Spanish CDs for months on end and still put them in if I need a bit of brushing up.   I can now ask LT for stuff in English and Spanish.   He can ask me for stuff in English, Spanish AND Cantonese, so he still wins.   Damn him and his three languages.   Such a show off.

Te quiero, Espana.... 

The Alphabet Game:
The previous suggestions were all things I did on my own, but this one really requires you to have a travel buddy.   A car companion, if you will.   Basically, you can choose any topic (my favourites are cities and football teams), and you go through the alphabet, picking a letter each, and see what you come up with.   Or, if you're me, to see who caves in first, swearing and getting annoyed because, FORGODSAKE THERE ARE NO CITIES BEGINNING WITH X!!!  Or, at least none that I can pronounce.   ARGH!

I-Spy:
This can be seriously funny if you promise never, ever to go for 'something beginning with G (grass) or R (road)'.   If you're going to play, you have to be inventive.   My personal favourites are 'I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with S.   To which the answer is, obviously, 'that Steel clad building we passed, like, ten minutes ago'.   Nothing will annoy your travel buddy more.    Do throw in some easier ones, though, or the next time you suggest a game you'll be told, in no uncertain terms, that you should 'go away'.   Or, you know, words to that effect.   

The Yellow Car Game:
This is a game perfected by my nephews and it can cause riotous laughter in the car.  It has also likely been the bain of my sister's life from time to time, as she listens to her three sons yelling at each other from the comfort of their seats as she desperately tries to navigate through the hell that is Tesco car park.  

Basically, you drive up and down the nation, keeping your eyes peeled to the oncoming traffic (and finally making use of those pesky side mirror things) before you scream at the top of your lungs when you finally clap eyes on a lesser spotted yellow car.    To be honest, there are more of them on the road than you think.   And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every single driver who ever thought: 'You know what? Yellow cars are awesome and I simply must have one'      I love you all.    My sister would like a few words with you, though.


5! There are 5!  I'm claiming them all!!  

Chat:
This is purely a last resort, you understand.   I jest, of course, as you might be a chatty type who loves nothing more than talking for hours on end.  Me?  I'm all out of chat after about 10 minutes.   And that's on a good day.   Otherwise, I need something else to save my sanity that doesn't involve continually checking my phone and sending snapchat messages of The Travel Bug to my poor friends and family.   Honestly I do it, like, every five minutes.     I'm not popular anymore.  

How do you amuse yourself on road trips?  

Suzanne x