Top 5 things to Bring on Your Road Trip in a Foreign Country

by Kathryn Stewart

Road trip ! One of the best ways to get to know a country when you are teaching abroad - whether you’ve been there for five years or five days. 

This list is not exclusive to any particular place (teachers abroad everywhere, take note!), but definitely is more relevant to those off the beaten track, yet still accessible by vehicle, regions - thinking of driving to Zonguldak from Ankara, Turkey? Conquering the OTL (Old Telegraph Track) in Queensland, Australia?

Get ready to conquer the road
Get ready to conquer the road! Photo by Elsa Thomasma

These are some essentials :

1. A Vehicle

While the most straightforward must have item - this can also be the most complicated. If you have only just started working as a teacher overseas and don’t regularly drive (and a lot of people don’t while they are living overseas) where can you rent a car? And will they rent it to you - with limited language skills, a driver's license that they may have never seen before, or a look of general apprehension and fear in your eyes.

In Turkish:

“Arkadaşım, ben geri güvenli bir şekilde araç getirecek söz veriyorum”

(Loosely - My friend, I promise I will bring your car back safely!)

In Australian:

G’day mate - can I borrow your ute? She’ll be right !

2. Friends, Other Teachers, and/or Acquaintances

One of the best parts of any road trip is the company you keep (for most people). So grab a fellow teacher, or anyone you happen to know. For a potentially life changing / stressful road trip experience, you’ll want to look for people that tick a few boxes:

  • Abilty to drive a manual car/truck - outside of North America there just aren’t as many automatic cars, and it’s not the best place to learn on the side of a mountain pass, with other vehicles passing you at 100 km (not to mention the absence of that illusive dividing line / barrier between yourself and impending doom).
  • Ability to drive on the side of the road that you will be driving on - see above
  • A good sense of humor - Getting lost will happen. It’s a lot better with someone that will crack jokes and see the funny side, versus someone that won’t
  • A sense of adventure - You don’t ever want to wonder what if - especially when driving past a roadside attraction labeled - “Cave of Hercules” or “World's Largest Banana”
Friends on top of Machu Pichu

3. Basic Knowledge of the Language

If you are lost or need to stop for the night, can someone find the highway or a place to stay, a secure place to park the car or a bite to eat? 

This is not limited to countries where you don’t speak the language so well. Someone that can walk into a roadhouse and pal around with the roadhouse owner enough that they will fix your ailing ute, is just as valuable as the guy who can ask the Abla whether they have some space for you in their guest house.

That being said, if you don’t speak the language AT ALL - is there someone in your party that is harmless looking and smiley enough, that they should in most circumstances, be able to get you whatever is needed?

4. Music

For those lapses in conversation - do you have a case of CD’s, or one of those Ipod FM transmitters, or does the radio in the car work?

Especially when travelling with people you don’t know that well (but tick the boxes above) you’ll hope to have amazing conversations over the next few hours, or days, but that’s not often the case. Music is a great icebreaker and conversation starter, or a way to cool tensions over heated conversations … “Oh….the radio works ….neat … let’s listen to that!”

A man wearing a headset

5. Essentials

Food, water, someone to come get you / or tell people you are missing if you don’t return within a certain time frame, warm clothes if your car breaks down, the ability or supplies to fix your vehicle if it breaks, the list goes on.

The “essentials” of course are defined by what exactly you are doing. Asking yourself the question of what could possibly go wrong and planning from there, is a great place to start.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best - some of the best advice out there. Now hit the road !