We just came back from our honeymoon a few days ago. It was absolutely amazing. We spent three days in San Francisco followed by three days in Waikiki and seven days on Maui. On the way back to the UK, we also spent one day in NYC. I am planning to write about our honeymoon in more detail soon – I am still going through the 4000+ pictures I took. But today, I want to write about my experience with driving on Maui.
As you may remember, it’s only been a year since I started driving again. I got my driving license when I was 18 but never drove very much. The most driving I did was actually for a couple of weeks at the beginning of my one-year stay in the US in 2004. After returning to Germany in 2005, I can remember driving my parents’ car once or twice but that’s it. Nearly 10 years passed before I started driving again – in the UK last year after we got my MIL’s old car last February. Since then I have been driving fairly regularly, although it’s only been recently that I’ve been driving a lot more without N. in the car with me and I still haven’t really driven any further away or on busy motorways (I haven’t had to but I am also not that keen to be honest).
N. has been taking driving lessons for a few months now, although not many since Christmas, with us going away to Germany and on our honeymoon and with me losing my job (driving lessons aren’t cheap). He will be taking his test soon but he doesn’t have his full license yet, which meant that I was the driver when we were on our honeymoon.
We hired a car for the week we spent on Maui and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had driven in the States before but it has been over 10 years and it has also been that long since I had to drive on the right-hand side of the road. Of course, having learned to drive in Germany, driving on the right-hand side of the road should be normal to me but since I picked up driving again last year, the only place I had driven was the UK. As a result, I was a bit nervous about driving on Maui.
It turns out, there was no reason to be. As weird as it sounds, driving on the right-hand side of the road felt almost as natural as driving on the left-hand side of the road in the UK does. I also drove us home from the airport in Edinburgh, and again didn’t really need any time to adjust to driving on the left side again. (It took me longer to adjust to driving a stick shift again!)
We picked up our car at the airport and drove ourselves to the resort we were staying at. Random: the woman serving us at the car hire centre at Kahului Airport was German too!
Driving on Maui was actually quite a good experience. The roads there are wider than in the UK and the speed limits are much lower (mostly 45mph max.) on roads that would be national speed limit (60mph) or even 70mph in the UK. It actually took quite a bit of concentration not to speed (especially as it seems everyone does!).
It was also different because our hire car was an automatic while I am used to driving a manual (stick shift) car. I remember enjoying driving an automatic when I previously was in the US but this time? Not so much. I found it incredibly frustrating not to be able to control my speed using gears. Driving downhill, I had to brake non-stop to keep the car from speeding up uncontrollably – I realise that that is probably what you are supposed to do when driving an automatic, but when you are used to driving a stick shift, your speed is also limited by the gear your car is in, you just feel more in control of the car and speed. And anytime I started the car, it seemed to take ages to get up to speed (although this may have also been due to the particular car model we had). I never expected to say this but I think I prefer driving a manual transmission car.
The only place the automatic came in really handy was the Road to Hana, it was much easier driving an automatic along this windy road, not having to worry about shifting gears myself. We decided to do the drive to Hana ourselves, although I was a little worried given that I am not the most experienced driver and it is supposed to be a tricky drive with hundreds of curves and lost of one-way bridges. I nearly chickened out of it the day before we went but then decided to drive it after all. It turned out to be absolutely fine. I was actually surprised by the great condition of the road (lots of country roads in Scotland are scarier), with lane markings easily visible (also not always the case in Scotland). It wasn’t too busy and we managed all the one-way bits just fine. Yes, you have to be focused at all times to make sure you don’t drive off the road and stay in your lane on this very windy road but all in all, it is not too bad a drive as it is a proper, tarmac road at all times and you slow down going around the curves anyway. On the way back, we were in a bit of a rush, as we didn’t leave Hana until 4:50 PM, giving us 1.5 hours until sunset, but we made it back just in time – we just didn’t do any stops. I was not particularly keen on having to drive the road in the dark and luckily we made it back before it was dark.
In hindsight, I am really glad we drove the Road to Hana ourselves as it gave me a bit of confidence about my driving skills as well – I really don’t think I fared any worse than most drivers there, even locals (especially on the way back, ahem).
All in all, I really enjoyed driving on Maui. Once I got the hang of controlling my speed in the automatic when going downhill, it was quite a relaxed experience driving there. With the wide roads and lower speed limits, driving on Maui was much less stressful than it is in the UK. I also loved the guidance lane markings for left turns which we don’t have here. And of course, the landscape we drove in was absolutely stunning.
Since returning from our honeymoon, we have got a new car. My MIL decided to buy herself a new car and give us her old car (again) – so we now have two cars, our 2004 Nissan Micra and a 2014 Citroen C3. These two cars couldn’t be more different to drive. The Micra is quite a small, slow car, where first gear is good for about two seconds after you start the car before you have to shift to second, which can be frustrating but then I have been used to driving this car over the past year. The C3 has a much more powerful motor, and it is also diesel, not petrol. It drives completely differently, accelerates much better (faster) and is generally nicer to drive simply because it is a much newer car.
I am kind of late to the party – I reckon most drivers do this in their late teens or early twenties, but I hope that I will continue to build my confidence and experience and become a confident driver over time.