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Driving In Europe …

… kind of sucks.

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RHODES, Greece- Today we drove into Rodos, the biggest habitation on the Isle of Rhodes.

I’ll put it this way, driving in Europe is extremely frustrating for an American. We simply are not comfortable with positioning our vehicles in such close proximity to other vehicles, people, and stone walls. In the USA, driving is a game of meters; here, it is a matter of inches.

The car I’m driving.

To contextualize this, I’ve driven motor vehicles all over the world. I’m not squeamish about different driving cultures, driving on the wrong side of the road, or even driving a car with a manual transmission on the wrong side of the road — which means operating the stick with your left hand. I’m used to roads that have no rules, I can handle the “just go and make them stop” style of driving, as well as intersections where the right of way is given to the car who takes it.

But Europe is the most difficult place that I’ve ever driven. The reason for this is simple: the cities and towns here were not made for cars. Europe is old and nobody has gotten around yet to knocking it all down and building cities where cars rule like they do in Asia.

The streets of Europe are ancient and cars are the perpetual square pegs in round holes. But the lack of a proper fit doesn’t seem to bother anyone here. They drive incredibly fast through windy, tight streets, coming within inches of running people over or crashing into buildings or colliding with each other.

Even in the off-season it is difficult to find a place to park in the city of Rodos. The locals, well, they just say fuck it and double park, thereby taking up the entire driving lane, or simply parking on the sidewalks. But I, a ginger foreigner, am not so bold. I creep through the busy streets looking for an open spot that could be accessed easily … I creep through the streets yelling at everybody in the car our of frustration and fear. “Stop singing! Stop talking! Stop breathing!” I hate this shit.

In the USA, driving is a romanticized, fun and freeing experience, in Europe it’s anything but. Big, wide, German autobahns are the exception here. There is no song of the open road here because the roads are rarely ever wide enough or empty enough or straight enough to be anything approaching even a poetical view of open. In the USA, you can drive and listen to music and daydream your way across a vast continent of a country; in Europe, you are tense behind the wheel, obsessively concentrating on every nook and cranny of ill-equipped motorway that people, other cars, and the stone edges of buildings that were constructed a thousand years ago when motor vehicles weren’t even a wild daydream of the future.

I’m walking next time.


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Filed under: Europe, Greece, Road Trip, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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