When I visited Hawaii last year, if I couldn’t walk to where I was going, I caught cabs or UBER’s everywhere. My American son-in-law did some of the driving, but no way would I attempt to drive on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road, from what I was used to. No. Way.
When my friends arrived in Hawaii from Australia, they hired a car from the airport and drove it all around the island without a moment’s trepidation. I could not understand how they could attempt such a feat. Everything was just so backwards to me.
One thing I was really sad about when leaving Australia, was selling my beautiful car and knowing I would be giving up the freedom of driving for a while. If I couldn’t ever adjust to the change, it may be forever. That may sound a bit exaggerated, but I have found that having to re-learn a skill like driving is not easy. I think it’s because once you are driving, it comes naturally. You don’t even need to think about it—you get into a car and you know exactly what to do without deep concentration or effort.
Jim and I bought a new car not long after I moved here and even sitting in the passenger seat on the opposite side of the car was confusing. Jim suggested we start some training in a large, empty car park, and that sounded like a good plan. I sat in the driver’s seat and instantly felt dizzy. It was set off by simply sitting in the car and trying to reestablish where I was in the car. I was tempted to just forget about it, but Jim encouraged me to give it a go. I managed to drive around the car park a few times but needed reminding to get onto the other side of the car park. It seemed like I was just making no progress and gave up for a while.
I had just about given up hope of ever adjusting, when I woke up one day and felt ready to drive. It had taken six months to get to that position, but once I did, I knew I’d be okay. From that point on, I’ve been driving. Not too far mind you—and nowhere that needs GPS as it’s too distracting, but at least I’m driving.
There’s been three near misses which have helped me be more careful. I am now used to driving on the other side of the road, but some road rules are different. And honestly, Texan drivers are insane! They drive ridiculously fast at all times, and it makes me nervous, but it also means that I have to be more aware of how I drive. While I am okay to drive around, because I still need to really concentrate on staying on the right side of the road, I’m not able to drive defensively. That will come with time, so I fight the discouragement.
I still have no idea how people hop into a car in another country and manage to drive confidently on the opposite side of the road. And while it’s taken me nine months to gain the confidence to drive on my own, I’m so glad I have come this far. For me, it’s a huge milestone and one I can only get better at.