Yeah, you’re scum.
Admit it: you don’t behave well on holiday. In Goa, for example, you will rent a scooter, take the helmet on offer but sling it over your handlebars because it just gets in the way of taking a selfie on the move, with your other hand clutches a beer bottle. You will then dawdle in the middle of the road, you will let your girlfriend (in planet-sized memsaab hat) try her non-existent riding skills, and you will head, en masse, for a shack known for its weed and not for its hygiene, while leaving a trail of rubbish. If you rent a jeep, you’re worse still, because you’re now Cool Dude, and Cool Dudes don’t care which side of the road they drive on, or where they take a 15-point U-turn because they missed the liquor shop.
Scum, no question.
And yet, there is something to be said for driving with the wind in your hair on holiday, taking in the sights and being one step closer to the elements. You almost feel like you’re in a movie: slip on some sunglasses and you could be Daniel Craig in the Bahamas, or Gael Garcia Bernal in Cuba—tough as granite, cooler than Heston Blumenthal’s nitrogen supply, and immensely good looking. It never fails. So here’s a list of where I would like to find myself in the not-too-distant future, with a frozen daiquiri, the sun roasting the top of my head, and my paunch magically disappearing:
Southern France in an old Peugeot convertible: Yes, sure, Monaco and Nice call for a Bugatti or something, but I can’t afford one, not even in a dream. I’d take something tiny, old, French and hilarious, because that’s what the roads around Provence and the Alps call for. I could whizz with a Joker-like expression through the hills in the mornings; trundle through villages for a very, very, very large lunch; and stop above seaside towns, where the moonlight bounces off the limestone rocks; and I feel like I’m worth $5000 billion.
From L.A. to the redwoods on an Indian: No, not on a Gunga Din but one of those retro motorcycles that are, sorry to say, just cooler than Harleys. And less clichéd, too, though once you’re swinging round the curves at Big Sur, watching the surfers at Malibu and getting surprisingly weepy under the redwoods north of San Francisco, you won’t really give a damn. I’d take it easy, devote plenty of time to watching seals and eagles, and feel like a guitar riff come to life.
The hills around Modena, Italy, in something red and Italian: The lovely thing about Italian drivers is that they see a posted speed limit, add about 40 kmph to it, and drive like someone was using an electric cattle prod on sensitive bits of their anatomy. The lovely thing about Italian cops is that if you’re doing this in a nice car, they think you’re driving like a grandmother and harangue you till you drive faster still. This is especially true in northern Italy, home to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, and a placed blessed with hills to make those lovely engines sing, Pavarotti-style. No vino, sorry, for these beasts deserve respect, but you’ll be intoxicated anyway.
Palm Beach, Florida, to the Keys in a Mazda Miata: One of my great literary heroes is a Bertie Wooster-ish Florida detective who solves the occasional crime in between eating great food, drinking vodka gimlets and romancing at least one woman per book. He manages this exhausting schedule in his fire-engine red Mazda Miata, a tiny, slow sports car that gives him plenty of time to nod at the palm trees and take in Florida’s beautiful coastline.You can also do this in a white Jeep Wrangler, but only if you’re also willing to wrestle with alligators.
Ngorongoro, Tanzania, in a Land Cruiser: Take all the African wildlife you want to see: cheetahs, lions, hyenas, giraffes, rhinos, the lot. Now, put a dramatic, vertical volcanic wall around them and water the area thoroughly so the animals never want to leave—a spot that proves God is a wildlife enthusiast and wanted a good spot to come check the gnus (wasn’t that wonderful?). Place in there a Land Cruiser—so utterly worshipped in Tanzania that other car makers have ceased to exist—and make it one with standing room, a pop-up roof and a refrigerator, and you have bliss.
Goa in a Thar or on a scooter: Yes, it’s pretty good too. It’s beautiful, sunny, relaxed, and stuffed with great food. Just don’t be scum, okay?