In preparing for our RTW trip, I decided to get an international driver’s license. In all my research, an international driver’s license was mentioned over and over as being important to have although no one went into any great detail. My interpretation of an international driver’s license was that you submitted all of your information to the AAA office, they sent it off to be translated into 15 different languages, and you were sent some sort of official “international driver’s license” with all of your information translated into 15 languages. Kind of cool actually… maybe we could see how our names translated in different countries; maybe it would be a great thing to have on us in case of any accident; I think I romanticized the whole thing really.
About two weeks before our trip, I went to the AAA office to get said license. In speaking with the AAA sales agent, I was informed that an international driver’s license was actually just a document that says I can legally drive a car – already translated into 15 languages. All I had to do was show her my driver’s license and give her a photo and $15 and the international driver’s license was all mine.
The conversation then proceeded something like this…
ME: I guess I misunderstood what this was. I am not really sure that I need this as we won’t really be doing much driving in foreign countries, except for possibly Europe.
AGENT: Oh, if you are going to drive in Europe, you’ll definitely need one; it’s required.
ME: Um, we drove in England and Germany last summer and didn’t need one.
AGENT: Did you get pulled over?
AGENT: Good thing.
Who can argue with that kind of logic? Feeling very skeptical and awkward after that conversation, I went ahead and made the purchase. But, only because I had read so much about needing such a thing when travelling… and it was only $15… and, honestly, it would have been kind of strange to walk away at that point.
Well, I caught hell when I got home. After hearing about the conversation I had with AAA, Ray went on and on about that being the dumbest thing he’d ever heard of and a total waste of money. I said that it was only $15 and maybe he should consider it… just in case. He took one look at the flimsy document I had received in return for my $15 at AAA and said, “no way.”
Fast forward six weeks to Okinawa, Japan…
Our hotel had a rental car kiosk and Ray went to go see how much it would be to rent a car for a day or two. He got all the information and was walking away and the clerk added, “But you must have an international driver’s license.” For about ten seconds I was so happy to get to throw that back in Ray’s face. He had mocked me and it was coming back to bite him!
It then dawned on me that if I was the only one with a license, I would have to be the one to drive the car… on the wrong side of the road… on the wrong side of the car… with nothing in English… including the navigation system! And if all that wasn’t bad enough… I would have to take direction from Ray, my new navigator!
In the end, driving was stressful, but manageable. We had the agent program the navigation system to get us back to the base, which helped give both of us at least some sense of comfort knowing we could always get home. I only blew through a couple stop signs the first day (they look like yield signs and the only words are in Japanese) and by the third day, I only turned on the wipers two or three times when trying to signal left or right, because even those were on the opposite sides!
One of our first encounters when we got to Japan was with our hotel clerk, who had been in Japan with her husband for almost seven months. Ray asked her about her favorite parts of Okinawa and if she had any suggestions on what to do in the area. We were both shocked when she said that she hadn’t been off the base. Even though driving was stressful at times, I am so glad that everyone in the family was up for the adventure of driving in Japan and getting lost in Okinawa. We were able to travel all over the island, view the East China Sea, eat interesting foods, connect with super nice people, and see some amazing sights!
And it all started with a $15 piece of paper from AAA!