This month, my daughter and I embarked on our second road trip in Europe. Our second.
You’re either thinking “that’s sweet” or “how did you survive it?”
Road trips and geographical cures are hard enough without relatives along. It’s difficult to imagine a more exacting test of a personal relationship than being stuck in a car together for extended periods of time.
Especially that delicate mother-daughter balance. That’s fraught with all sorts of pitfalls and terrors in and of itself.
Think of how much you fun you’ll have when the inevitable struggles arise. Driving on highways in Europe is a relatively painless endeavor. Everywhere else, it’s the opposite of relaxing. Especially in a clutch car.
Google maps will fail, you’ll get lost in medieval mountain villages, you’ll get carsick on twisty winding roads, you’ll get “hangry” when you run out of snacks, or tortured by multi-hour border crossings.
You may even be forced to park via a teeny tiny car elevator. (I wasn’t even aware car elevators existed.)
If you’re extremely lucky, you’ll even get caught in a forest fire. No shit, that actually happened.
The point is that the possibilities for frustration, rage, and angst are endless. It’s not a situation to be taken lightly.
To make things easier for any would be traveling daughters out there, I’ve drawn up a helpful “to do” list for road tripping in Europe with your mother. These are not guidelines.
These are commandments, if you don’t want your geographical cure ruined and you’d like to remain on speaking terms after reaching your destination.
If you’re a scofflaw and deviate from them, I guarantee you’ll incur your mother’s wrath and generally have a less pleasant trip. Future trips may be endangered. You may have to pay for your own gelato, vino, or pottery souvenirs.
1. Thou shalt always remember that thy mother, the eldest and the one owed respect and honor, is paying for thy trip. Thou shalt behave accordingly with all due gratitude. If thou is not feeling particularly gracious at a given moment, thou shalt remain mute or at least not be critical.
2. Thou shalt never comment on, ridicule, or roll thine eyes over thy mother’s driving skills or thy mother’s queasiness over parking in Europe. Thou shalt not go there, ever. Or get thee to a nunnery.
3. Thou shalt remember that it is thy mother, not thee, who is blessed with the divine knowledge of how to drive a clutch car.
Thou were not “born” to drive in Europe. Thy mother was. If thou would prefer to be the driver, thou must learn how to drive like a European, not just google “how to drive a clutch” on youtube.
4. Thou shalt understand that every rental car in Europe is different and has a very secret, customized procedure for being put into reverse. The letter R on the gearbox is fairly meaningless or isn’t even there.
This is the occasion for thou to peruse youtube for helpful directions, based on specific car model. In general, it’s advisable never — ever — to ever leave the rental car parking lot without asking about how to put the damn car in reverse.
5. If thou is deemed the navigator, thou shalt not take naps when thou are on duty. Naps are for the weak and European roundabouts with 6 possible exits are not for the weak.
6. If thou is deemed the navigator, thou shalt always give specific directions in a timely manner. Thou shalt not provide the driver with 5 seconds to move three lanes over. Thou willst be flogged for waving and pointing vaguely to a turn or exit.
7. Thou shalt defer to thy mother when determining what to listen to while driving. Thou shalt remember that thy mother dislikes loud rap music, and prefers Game of Thrones media or political podcasts making fun of Trump.
8. Thou shalt take every opportunity to pee en route, even if thou doesn’t really have to go. Thou shalt remember that, for some mysterious and unfathomable reason, public W.C.s don’t exist in Europe.
9. Thou shalt defer to thy mother when determining climate control settings. Thou shalt remember that hot flashes may be in thy future.
10. Thou shalt defer to thy mother’s itinerary plans. Thy mother’s plans are better researched and more interesting than thy tourist trap Instagram ideas.
Good grief, this topic is so weighty, that I inadvertently wrote another commandment. But it’s an important one, given that European parking spots are the size of a postage stamp.
11. Thou shalt have no say over where to park the rental car upon arriving at a given historical destination. Thy mother doesn’t want to spend precious time and energy trying vainly to squeeze into the nearest and most difficult spot that is suitable for a toddler’s trike. Thou shall be prepared to walk to thy destination.
— Leslie, XO