For as long as I’ve had my driving licence, I’ve been a road-trip junkie.
In my nascent motoring days, long drives across the border were my thing. I used to do it on a whim – chuck some clothes into a backpack, grab the passport and some ringgit, and off I’d go. There was nothing like a good blast up North to blow the carbon from the valves and the cobwebs from the mind.
That feeling of liberation after finally clearing the urban sprawl of Johor Bahru and emerging onto the free-flowing coastal B-roads towards Mersing, Kuantan and beyond (sometimes as far as the Thai border), as they meandered between undulating oil palm plantations and, as we got further North, past coconut trees and kampung houses on stilts, never failed to lift my spirits.
The liberty and sheer pleasure of uninterrupted progress, free of traffic lights or tailbacks, being able to stroke the car along at whatever pace I and the car felt comfortable with, favourite CD playing (in those pre-iTunes days)… The feeling that it was just me, the car and the endless road was, to me, the whole reason God had given us the motor car.
Then, family and work commitments took over and my regular Malaysia drives dwindled. But happily, that driving itch is still occasionally scratched by the overseas car launches I attend, which involve an extended drive over a couple of hundred kilometres of meandering backroads.
I’ve been privileged, over the years, to have been let loose in places as diverse as the deserts of Nevada, the Scottish Highlands, the South of France, the Italian Riviera, the Algarve in Portugal, Andalucia in Spain, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and even remote island outposts such as Sardinia, Sicily and the Canary Islands.
Yet to this day, every overseas launch is still an adventure and a thrill, a chance to experience not just whatever new car I’m there to test, but to explore the best, most remote backroads in the region, and to revel in the surrounding scenery which is invariably stunning.
It’s about as far removed as possible from the aggro and intensity of my day job as a litigation lawyer, and just a couple of days of this leaves me recharged and ready to face the daily grind once I land back home.
Others go drinking, golfing or to the spa to unwind – I hit the roads. It’s my tonic, and my drug. Long may I remain an addict.