Road Trip – A Practical Manual: a book review

Published: 17 April 2020

► New road trip guidebook
► Just as world locks down
► A chance to plan future trips?

And with three words Boris Johnson turned shelves full of innocent guide books into something akin to pornography.

‘Stay at home.’

On 23 March, the British Prime Minister spelled it out. This was no longer a suggestion. Travel for pleasure was now banned.

So, bad luck, Mike Breslin. Your recently published ‘Road Trips – A Practical Manual’ all of a sudden sits somewhere between obscene, irrelevant and painfully nostalgic.

It’s a good book, mixing practical advice with inspiration, all conveyed in an agreeably chatty, conversational tone. Breslin has done many of these trips himself, although he’s careful to make clear that he’s essentially a holidaymaker, not some knife-between-the-teeth semi-feral Bear Grylls character.

Again and again, he says something to the effect of ‘aw shucks, if I can do it, anyone can’. The fact that some of his journeys were done in a £300 Polo (that glorious Mk2 three-door estate) rather than a Land Cruiser adds weight to his claim. He’s also refreshingly un-sniffy about airport hire cars – sometimes they are by far the best option.

The book starts with a chunk of general advice on planning and preparation, addressed in a breezy and cheerful manner – although this will be enough to put off some, for whom border checkpoints and visas will be just too much bother.

Road trip manual iceland

And then into the meat of the book: continent by continent, focusing on a handful of specific trips, generally loops do-able during a fortnight’s holiday, some longer, some much shorter. Route 66, Highway One, Anatolia, the High Atlas, South Africa’s Garden Route, these are all present and correct along with some less obvious journeys.

I’ve done a few of these trips myself, or routes that overlap with Breslin’s, and very much share his take on road trips: the driving can be great, the scenery glorious, the food a revelation – but what’s best is when you stop and meet people. And if that’s because you’ve got a puncture or have run out of fuel, that so often brings out the best in people.

All of which makes our current lockdown all the sadder. In truth, things had been getting worse in some parts of the world since 9/11, with more borders closing than opening. That had cast doubt on the optimism of people like me who for a glorious couple of decades had seen Eastern Europe opening up, China welcoming more visitors, Africa looking safer…

SCGT 2019 overhead

And if we were worried about how Brexit would cramp our free-roaming style – well, that all seems a bit silly now, doesn’t it?

Anyway, let’s hope for the best. Let’s bask in the glow of road trips we have done, and plan for those that surely we will be able to do, one day.

Road Trip – A Practical Manual, by Mike Breslin, is published by Haynes - buy it here

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions