You have it. It’s right in front of you.
Your car: It’s the place where the kids tell you about their day, where you laugh with friends, sing like no one is listening and maybe even where you had your first kiss.
But your car represents much more: it’s also your power.
I learned this the day I turned 16. After passing my driving test, my parents handed me the keys and let me drive myself home. I was grinning from ear to ear. Finally, I was free…and empowered.
Fast forward 30 years when, after ending a 25 year marriage, I was faced with buying a car on my own for the first time in my life. Negotiating wasn’t something I enjoyed, but damn it, I wanted that PT Cruiser convertible and it was going to be mine. And as I drove my new car off the lot, I left feeling, finally, in power.
Finding empowerment on unfamiliar roads
2016 might have been my ultimate year of empowering moments, though, and all of them behind the wheel.
First, I drove alone through Holland and Belgium. I couldn’t read the road signs, I hadn’t driven a stick shift in over 15 years and my navigation system seemed to be possessed by the devil. But after dropping my friend, Kelly, off at the airport in Brussels, it was up to me to find my way back to Amsterdam on my own. I loved every minute of the drive.
A few weeks later while road-tripping in the Swedish Lapland with three writers I had just met, I was introduced to the terror – and ultimate joy – of off-roading. We arrived at Guesthouse Kango in Kangosfors high above the Arctic Circle where our host, Johan, and his business partner, Peter, gave us the driving experience of a lifetime on a Land Rover designed off-roading course. You can read all the terrifying details here.
I’m not going to lie, I was scared to death and WAY out of my comfort zone. But, surviving the experience gave me a new level of confidence in my driving abilities. That thrill that was pumping through my veins and that I still carry with me today? Empowerment.
In a year of empowering adventures, taking on Germany’s Autobahn, the only suitable finale
While visiting the magical Christmas markets in Germany’s State of Thuringia recently, a rental car was delivered to my hotel in Erfurt. The itinerary required driving to four other cities. Getting to those cities meant driving on the Autobahn, the country’s federal highway system that is famous for stretches with no speed limit.
On the Autobahn, trucks stay in the far right lane, general traffic stays in the middle lane, and the left lane is strictly for passing. Passing happens at speeds that are generally capped only by the car’s limits. It’s not uncommon (and totally intimidating) for cars to whiz by at 200 MPH.
So there I was behind the wheel (using my best death grip to hold on), in the middle lane and wanting to pass the car ahead of me. With a focus stronger than I thought capable, I moved into the passing lane, hit the gas pedal and zoomed past the car at a speed of 135 MPH just as Free Bird started playing on my iPhone through the car’s entertainment system. I screamed. And then I laughed like a woman gone mad.
IT. WAS. AWESOME.
Now It’s Your Turn: Empower your 2017
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a tea bag: you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Maybe 2016 was your year of hot water – it was for many of us. Or perhaps 2017 will put you to the test. Once that power has started to steep, steel your focus, hit the gas and make it happen. Your empowerment is right in front of you, you just have to take it.