- Ask anyway, no matter how silly it seems.
We drove through a stunning area called the Tarn Gorge, a road cut into the long, winding canyon formed by the Tarn River. It was one of the highlights of the trip. But it also took a lot longer than Google Maps predicted. This is because the estimated time was based on the assumption that we’d be driving at the speed limit of 90km/h. Our average speed was about half that, thanks to the narrow, winding road.
So we were still on that route when the sun began to set, and there was no way I was driving along there in the dark. We spotted a beautiful little town set atop a hill, and decided to try our luck with accommodation there. What we didn’t expect was that it would be nearly deserted, with the exception of a few residents.
Following the signs, we located the nearest bed and breakfast. The house looked deserted and there was no sign of activity. Still, we knocked on the door–after all, we were already there. After half a minute, the poor owner answered, dressed in daggy around-the-house clothes and halfway through a chocolate bar. He clearly wasn’t expecting any visitors, and seemed rather surprised at the three Asian girls standing on his doorstep. Any fool could see that the place wasn’t open for business. But we decided to try our luck anyway. After a few minutes of deliberation (and what I suspect was a quick run to the rooms to check their condition), he came back and said that yes, he did in fact have a room for us.
In the end, that was one of my favourite places on the trip. The room was cozy and modern, breakfast was delicious, and the price was right. I am so, so glad we decided to ask, despite all signs pointing to the answer being “no”. (It turns out that the town, Mostuejoules, doesn’t usually open for tourists until about August!)
- So much can be communicated without words.
We were driving through a narrow mountain pass in Switzerland when the front-right tyre blew out. So we turned off at the first place we found, which turned out to be the wide driveway of a family’s house. There were two young girls, who spotted our problem immediately. They must have called their parents, because their mother and father pulled up not five minutes later.
Unfortunately, they didn’t speak a word of English, and we didn’t speak a word of German or French (well, beyond asking if they could speak English). But somehow, with a lot of gesturing and trial and error, they managed to help us replace the tyre, call the car rental company to find out what to do next, and send us on our way to Gruyere, the town we were staying in that night. We limped into town late, hungry and tired, but with a real appreciation for the power of communication, and the kindness of strangers.
- Friends are the most incredible, amazing people you will ever have the fortune to cross lives with.
They’re there to reassure you it’s not as big a deal as you think, when you have a freak out over blowing a tyre. They warn you when you’re getting too close to the side of the road. They stand outside and guide you when parking in tight spots. They read the maps and direct you in the midst of crazy spaghetti junctions, or when the GPS fails. They help you see the funny side of missing a turn-off for the tenth time and having to go around yet again. They keep you well-nourished during those long, long drives and are great alarm clocks when you stop for a quick nap along the way. They suggest places to see that you’d never even think of–and next thing you know, you’re paragliding in the Swiss Alps.
They share food that would be too much for one person. They lend you money when your credit card stops working and there’s no ATM nearby. They give you a steadying hand on unstable castle ramparts, give you space when you strike up a conversation with a hot American guy, and squeeze about you when you’re feeling cold because you were foolish enough to forget a jumper.
They share the laughter and embarrassment when you trade plates in a fancy restaurant or end up picnicking outside a cemetery. They share in-jokes and laughing fits with you, even in the middle of the most unlikely places, like a busy McDonalds just off the highway. (Bonjour Meow Meow shout-out!) They lend you an earbud for their music player when stuck in a long line, and share the strange but delicious treats they purchased in the supermarket. They offer luggage space (and weight) when you realise you’ve bought too much to bring home on your own.
They’re the ones who’ll get you through the ups, downs, surprises and pure craziness of the journey. They’re the ones to treasure, for you would never make it without them.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.