Honking, swerving, braking, signalling, tires screeching, cows crossing, dogs chasing, motorbikes zooming, strange traffic signs, no speed limits, hairpin turns, cliff-edge roads without guardrails, breathtaking landscapes, black smoke, broken mufflers, children driving scooters…oh, how much fun it is to drive in a foreign land.
Outside of Canada and the United States, I have driven cars across Sicily and around the Greek Island of Santorini. I also drove motorbikes in Thailand, Indonesia, Tunisia and India. Driving any type of motorized vehicle is a big risk for a foreigner on a number of levels. First of all, I needed to throw out everything I knew about the road rules in Canada, and I had to drive as the locals do or I would be killed by them.
In Sicily, I had to drive a standard vehicle, which I had very little previous experience with. My first turn out of the parking lot turned into a life or death situation. All my years of playing driving video games had prepared me for driving in Italy. Nobody does the speed limit, signals, wears a seatbelt and every driver is an offence, but it works! I see accidents nearly every week in Canada, and it’s the cause of aggressive drivers on the road mixed with defensive drivers. This makes every single driver unpredictable. However, if every driver is driving at the exact same level of insanity, it makes everyone’s move predictable thus, safer.
If you really want a rush, then drive a motorbike in South-East Asia. Hair raising, heart-throbbing and excitement just about sums up the experience. I have never had such a test of my patience, control and driving capabilities. When you pull up to a red light with 200 other motorbikes, there’s a cow, goat or horse passing by on the road ahead and people walking all over trying to sell you fruits and souvenirs. There’s so much noise that you can’t even hear your own engine. There are fumes in your face from the wall of motorized vehicles in front of you and if you look to your left, you’ll most likely see a 7 year-old with his little sister on a bike bigger than yours. You can’t help but wonder what planet you’ve landed on?
Riding motorbikes was the most memorable part of my travels. It’s adventure, exploration, thrills all wrapped up into one amazing adventure. You end up in places you wouldn’t have otherwise gone and there is no feeling more free than with the wind in your face and the beautiful landscapes in front of your eyes. Oh, how I miss the wide open road.
Siya Zarrabi began his travel lifestyle at the age of 16, embarking on a four month solo trip to Paraguay. Since then, he has filled passports with stamps of foreign borders.