As Peace Corps Volunteers, we are forbidden from driving in our country of service, or in any country where there are Volunteers. It’s one of the only things that counts as a don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, pack up your stuff and get on a plane because you’re out of the Peace Corps offense. In my head, I understand why driving is taken so seriously: car and motorcycle accidents are one of the top causes of death among Volunteers, driving in a country where you don’t know the rules of the road and where few people have any real problem with driving drunk is dangerous, showing up at site and immediately making a large purchase like a car or motorbike distances you from the financial realities of the place you’re serving and the people you’re supposed to be living with. It all makes logical sense.
But some days, in my heart, what I miss more than all of the tacos and dark beers in the world is driving. I miss the spontaneity of being able to go on an adventure for a day. I miss being in control of my own itinerary, able to go visit people and places without worrying about bus schedules or how long it will take to walk there and back. I miss being alone in a car, driving with no real destination in mind and belting out whatever is on the radio with the windows rolled down. I miss zipping around on the scooter. I really miss driving stick.
When I lived in France after college, I didn’t drive for almost a year. It really didn’t bother me too much, partly because I had never even ridden on a scooter before, and I didn’t know how to drive stick, so I couldn’t have driven anything even if I had wanted to. But now that I know how to do both of those things and see them all around me, it’s like the world is taunting me with all of its independent transportation options lurking around every corner.
The upside of not being able to drive, and one of the more positively focused reasons behind the driving ban, is that it forces you to slow down and really explore the walkable area around you. This weekend Kyle and I walked up to Bylazora, an archaeological site a few miles outside of Sveti Nikole. It’s a little weird because you basically are walking around completely unsupervised through ruins of a city from 500 BC; all that really remains are the walls around where the acropolis and royal palace would have been and some fallen down column pieces, but the view from the hill where it’s located is amazing. It was also a beautiful early Spring day, and nothing makes me feel better about not being able to drive than a long walk through blooming trees and green fields.