Have you ever spent some time in Italy? I’ve been for a month, in Milan, Pisa, Florence, Perugia, Rome and Turin, together with my girlfriend. She stayed some months longer and knows well the answer to the following question. Do you know which was the most common expression we have heard from Italian citizens? No, it was not pizza, pasta or bella raggazza. The last one, at least not in my case. The expression is an answer to our (apparently) uncommon questions or requests: It’s impossible! However, it seems that by insisting or making the same question to a different person would usually break any impossibility. But I can’t blame them.
When I was back to my country, Portugal, I faced this state of mind when I said how will my travelling plan to Germany be. This time, the impossibility seemed to be stronger and consistent, as the question being asked to different people would lead to similar answers.
The plan was to take my Volkswagen Golf II, fom 1988, out of the garage, make the check-up myself and drive it all the way through Europe from Portugal up to north of Germany, in three days.
The first crazy thing about it is that I have no car mechanic skills. I am the kind of person who would always take the car to a auto repair shop and pay a great amount of money to have it fixed and tuned, before I would take it to the annual check-up. Every time I would take it to the auto repair shops, there would be always a bunch of things to be fixed and replaced. Once, I decided that I would do it the other way around and take the car first to the check up. For my surprise, the first time I did it, it passed the tests with no issues. The second time, it passed with small issues, that could be easily fixed.
For this journey, I decided to get a service manual for my car and try to do the check-up and repair myself – as far as I could go. I bought a bottle of engine oil according to the specification, air and oil filter, some tools and I was ready to start.
Fortunately, I didn’t have much to do. I checked all the most important parts, such as breaks, oil and coolant levels, seat belts, lights and tires. I also changed the engine oil, oil filter and air filter and did some cleaning under the hood. For my first time doing it, I must say it wasn’t that hard. Obviously, there are things I would still rather ask a professional to do.
The second crazy thing about this journey is the fact that I’ve never went that far and for so long with the car. Actually, I never left Portugal with it before. And considering that it is a 25 years old car, checked and fixed by myself, maybe it was not at all unreasonable when people told me that I would not reach even half the way. When you live in a small country, such as Portugal, you have the feeling that travelling any distance longer than 100km is a very long journey. When I told my friends that I will take my car to Germany, many could believe that I just went nuts. Good that they didn’t send me to a psychiatrist. I was very determined about my adventure.
The day has arrived and I had everything ready for the journey. My car doesn’t have a lighter plug, so we invested in a solar panel with a USB plug and a battery to charge phones, camera and GPS. It was a really good idea!
We planned to stay in S. Sebastian, Spain, in our first night. We would then decide where would we reach the next day, based on how much time it took us to get there. We wished to visit Toulouse and maybe Paris and Brussels. But, time was short.
With few breaks, we arrived to S. Sebastian during the night. This journey took a bit longer than we wanted. Also, we were getting more tolls than we expected. To save money on tolls and to avoid heavy traffic in Paris, we decided to change strategy and go directly to the closest German border. Even though the way is longer, we knew that as soon as we are in Germany, not only we wouldn’t have to pay tolls (because there are none), we could go a bit faster due to the no speed limit highways.
Before reaching the German border, we stayed in a small nice city called Chalon-sur-Saône, in France.
The last day
We had still more than 1000km to reach our destiny. But, we were 200km away from the German border and we were rested and refreshed. The car seemed to be holding well.
We had very nice and warm weather… until Germany. So warm, that our GPS could not be charged. As soon as we crossed the border, we were welcomed with rain. Which was refreshing.
For some it seemed impossible, but we finally arrived to our destination in the late night. We have done around 2800km in three days. Mission accomplished!
We could not visit the cities we wished, but time was short anyway. In any city we stopped, we only had time to search for a place to eat or to stay during the night. Still, it was fun to do it.
If I would be driven by fear, I would never do this journey. I was motivated for the adventure and ready to take the evaluated risks, with caution. If you don’t go out of the box sometimes, contradicting what the people around you say, you risk to not take the most from life. Make a plan, evaluate your risks and go for it! Be it a travel, a business idea or something else you would like to try. You might fail, but you can learn with that and try again.
By the way! I did a time-lapse during the road trip. Have a look: