OK I got this…left-handed parallel parking on a steep cobble-stone hill in a rental car with a manual stick shift in busy downtown Edinburgh. I squeezed the SUV in with inches to spare, jumped out in the street to celebrate only to see the “Residents Only” parking sign. Heavy sigh.
This was my first attempt at driving on the other side of the road in the UK. Like an endless game of Crazy Taxi, I navigated narrow winding streets, alien signage and hectic roundabouts with up to 6 exits. Even though my family feared for their lives on more than one occasion, I eventually got everyone to our destinations safely.
The most interesting challenge was the highway driving. I have been driving for 35 years on the right side of the road, sitting in the left-side driver’s seat. When I got out on the open road on the way to Glasgow, the car kept drifting left on me. My brain wanted my body on the left side of that lane, and I had to force myself to keep steering toward the line on the right to keep my tires off the shoulder on the left.
It was a lot like any habit we try to change in our lives. It’s never quick and easy. It takes conscious and repeated effort to alter the behavior until your brain finally accepts the new pattern. And even then, it’s easy to start drifting back to the old way when you get tired or let your guard down. Luckily I had those little bumpy things on the shoulder to remind me when it started to happen.
I’m not sure if I really earned my left-side driving merit badge, because I would have maybe scored a 6 out of 10 on a family satisfaction survey. But I did get a nice reminder about learning new skills and habits. You’ve got to give yourself enough time to unlearn an old habit before the new one will stick. And why not ask your friends to be little bumpy things to remind you when you’re off course?
Stay with it. You can do this.