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Life Happens The adventures of Nora Dunn & Kelly Bedford, Professional Hobos. Nora writes, Kelly makes music. Together, we are on a lifelong journey to...wherever.

Terror. Pure Terror.

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 14 June 2008 | Views [2768] | Comments [4]

“We have to what? Drive a what? Where? And how?” was along the lines of what I said as the reality sank in of having the World Nomads van in our possession for the next six weeks.

I had spent the last few months in Asia studying the intricacies of driving on the left-hand side of the road. I coached myself on right-hand turn etiquette, the ins and outs of round-abouts, and generally prided myself on looking the right way before crossing the road. However I don’t think I ever got into a friend’s vehicle without going to the driver’s side first looking for the passenger seat, but that’s an inconsequential mistake to make. No accidents result.

But actually being behind the wheel of the World Nomads Ambassador van for the first time was an absolutely terrifying experience. I immediately broke into a sweat, and I hadn’t even turned on the ignition. I wasn’t even really sure where the ignition was.

I told myself not to confuse the windshield wipers with the turn signal. I already had visions of desperately trying to stay on the correct side of the road, gear down, brake, figure out where to look to make a successful right-hand turn, and trying to figure out how to turn off the windshield wipers (which of course would be on high and perhaps spraying vast amounts of washer fluid everywhere) while searching for the turn signal I originally meant to activate instead. This was not a vision I wanted to turn into a reality.

“Don’t worry. Just give it five minutes. It’s like riding a bicycle,” said Mark at Travellers Auto Barn, where we picked up the van. He obviously noticed the distinct lack of colour in my face. Or maybe it was the nonsensical gibberish and rocking back and forth that tipped him off.

In the end and after much prompting from Kelly to start the van and not cancel the trip, we got from A to B without hitting anything or anybody. In fact we were relatively unscathed save for a minor tantrum on my part and lots of “you’re doing great, please don’t run us off the road” words of support from Kelly.

Shortly after that journey though, I handed over the keys to Kelly, who seems to have embraced the whole driving-a-big-van­-in-urban-Australia thing much better than I. Maybe it’s a boy thing. Either way, our individual strengths are now being well utilized; I am the navigator (since Kelly’s navigation skills leave something to be desired – “turn left” often means “turn right” and vice versa), and Kelly is the fearless driver.

So I’m still terrified, but at least I can bury my head in my arms and have a temper tantrum in the passenger seat without fear of crashing the van. Sweet.

Check out this video/diary (if the link above doesn't work) for our initial impressions of driving the van!

Tags: ambassador van, brisbane, driving in australia, world nomads



Good luck with the "wrong" driving :-) I sympathise but had to learn the other way when I lived in Germany.
You've probably already worked this out but I think it's much more dangerous being a pedestrian on the "wrong" side than driving. So promise me you'll look both ways when you cross the street =)

  Amanda Jun 14, 2008 4:01 PM



Don't worry, you'll get used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road. It took me a while to settle into it myself but I managed and I even had to navigate by myself as well. The left hand stick is a kick to, isn't it? I don't know how many times I went to the wrong side of the car to get into it before I finally started to got to the correct side. I think I had four (or was it five?) different vehicles over the six weeks I was in Australia and three weeks I was in New Zealand.

I hope you get a chance to do some rock climbing at Kangaroo point in Brisbane. There's a lot of natural outdoor areas in Oz. Wish I could have had my ultralight there when I was traveling around. Quite a place to do a little low level flying.

Enjoy guys. Hopefully this is the point in the trip where you're now bound to really start enjoying your surroundings and not have to worry about contracting any more viruses and such, although I'd warn about the critters that abound there. Funnel web spiders are a real treat. Shake your shoes for them if you're out in the outback and have left your shoes off for a while.

Anyway, take care guys.


  Steve Tambosso Jun 17, 2008 1:30 AM


Really identified with your driving experiences. I was in the US last year and drove from McAllen TX to Dallas...(about 500 miles)..so scared I didn't stop in San Antonio as planned. The GPS woman got quite annoyed with me. Had to turn her off!! Made it safely but my daughter in law MADE me drive in Dallas on my own)and that was truly terrifying.I googled the map of area and got her to show me what the shops looked like as you can't tell where to go they are so far from the road...all those vast parking areas!!
I am a 69 yr old Kiwi woman who last drove on the "wrong" side of the road in Canada in 1962! The brain has set since then!!
Love your meanderings and writing!
Jo PS. Kiwi money is much the same as Oz. We are a prosaic lot!

  Jo Aug 8, 2009 5:51 AM


Thanks for the comment, Jo! I can't wait to see NZ, as Oz has captured my imagination and love. I am now a confident driver on the "wrong" side of the road(!), and during my recent visit to Canada didn't have as much trouble switching back as I thought I might.
The only problem is that I never know which side of the car to get in! That, and when I go for the turn signal, I usually get the windshield wipers instead!

  Nora Aug 9, 2009 1:06 AM

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