I roll the keys to the Volvo over and over in my hand, laughing nervously as the Hertz customer service agent explains the car to me.
I haven’t drive in Europe since Romania. And that … that was just awful steering wheel death grips and praying for survival.
I’ve been traveling for nearly 24 hours and can feel the exhaustion and the nine hour time difference begin to sink in, even though it is 9 a.m. in Gotenburg.
“Um … driving here … in Sweden … I’ve only driven once in Europe … and it was in Romania … and I didn’t like it at all. I was really scared the entire time … is this, um, is driving in Sweden anything like that?” I ask, trying my best to assemble my thoughts, cringing at how stressed I was during my day trip through the Eastern Europe country.
The blonde haired woman looks at me and smiles.
“No, not at all,” she promises.
I take the keys and head to the parking garage where my four-door Volvo sits, waiting for me.
OK, D. Let’s do this.
After unloading my suitcase into the trunk, I slide into the driver’s seat and sit. Breathe. Put the key in the ignition.
You’ve got this.
I turn on the car, back out.
Not so bad.
Then, I head out of the garage.
A cab whizzes by me. Then, a car. My shoulders shoot to my ears. My grip tightens on the steering wheel.
Shit. Shit. Shit. I can’t drive here.
I have no choice. I take one hand off the wheel and grab my directions, which don’t say anything about how to get out of the airport and onto the E6 towards Oslo.
So, I do what I am best at: winging it.
I pull out, slowly. Very, very slowly. Then, am on the roadway. Trying to keep up with traffic, but when the speedometer shoots up towards 70 km/h I begin to doubt my driving ability.
Maybe it’s because of the lack of sleep and long travel time. Maybe it’s because of the gloom I have stepped off the plane and in to. Gray clouds hang low in the sky.
Please, please do not rain. I don’t want to drive in the rain in a foreign country in a car that is not mine.
I silently will myself to get out onto the highway and go, go, go.
And then, I’m off. Albeit not fast enough for the red Volvo behind me, who, in my rearview mirror, shakes his head and raises his hands as he pulls around me.
Still not sure where the illusive E6 is (I see no signs), I pull off and stop at a gas station and ask.
“It’s just there,” the clerk says, looking amused at my complete lack of knowledge.
Then, I pull back out onto the highway, off towards Oslo for my first stop of my Sweden trip, the island of Marstrand.
And, you know what? Driving in Sweden? A lot like driving in America. Thank goodness.
Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.