How a roadtrip can help your existential crisis

Posted by Sonya Schoeman on 26 February 2015

Having a crisis? Plan a road trip. It’ll help.

(Need some inspiration? Have a look through these great road trip ideas).

And then it was time to head home. Our lasting memory of a wonderful West Coast road trip. Photo by Chris Davies.

Up the West Coast. Photo by Chris Davies.

Road trips are the travel industry’s answer to psychologists, and a whole lot cheaper too. When I was in my early twenties, I needed to get from Munich to Hamburg. It was a good seven-hour journey, and the most economical way of doing that was the latter-day version of carpooling. There were just three of us, the handsome blonde driver with piercing blue eyes, a brunette academic from Würzburg, and me, in crisis over my country: was Germany the place for me?

It was winter. Climate change hadn’t hit yet and there was plenty of snow. It stretched from Munich’s outlying pastoral flatness through to Ingolstadt and Nuremberg in a firm, consistent carpet of pure pearly beauty. I could learn to love this, I mused.

The academic got the conversation rolling. She loved this season. Winter afforded her the time to officially have her annual depression (rather a significant chunk of the year, I thought) when she would close her front door, draw the curtains and nurse her wretchedness. In spring she would emerge, psyche reconstructed. By the time her story was through, it was Würzburg and she got out – thank the lord! But her tale had unleashed intimacy and the driver was ready to blow. It was a black Germanic drama, too terrible to repeat, too terrible to forget, of misguided youth, love, betrayal, a heinous crime, sex and way too much information.

The driver was disturbed, that much was clear. When he turned his cool blue gaze on me, I felt how alone we were in this barren relentless whiteness that had rolled on and on through Bad Hersfeld, Kassel, Göttingen, Hildesheim, Hannover. It was an awful lot of snow under which to bury a body, I thought. And then I realised there was simply too much snow for my comfort in Germany. Snow makes sad people even sadder and there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of cheer about. I thought of home, the sun, the electric colourfulness of big, beautiful South African landscapes, its spirited people quick to laugh despite tough times. Existential crisis over. It cost me 35DM. I still have only an SA passport.

In our March 2015 issue, read Andy Ellis’ tender story about an epic road trip he took through the heart of South Africa on the bike his sister left him (Road to Remember, page 56). Don Pinnock and Chris Davies travelled to Hwange, Zimbabwe, to consider the water situation in Africa’s impressive man-made park (The Beating Heart of Hwange, page 66). We also visit Durban’s inner city, Paarl and five lovely lesser-travelled wild parks in the Eastern and Western Cape. There’s more than enough fodder to start planning a roadtrip of your own.

Click on the cover below to see more from our March issue, and to buy your copy in print or digital.
Getaway March 2015

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