Drive South Africa How Far From Home Chanel and Stevo

How Far From Home Q&A: Top Road Trip Car Hire Tips

Here at Discover Africa, we’re always looking for road trip car hire inspiration. Chanel and Stevo Dirnberger, the couple behind the How Far From Home (HFFH) travel blog, have been hitting the open road for over a decade as part of the original Digital Nomad club. 

They left their cushy advertising jobs and a comfortable lifestyle behind them in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015. The intrepid couple only looks back to be able to share with their avid following exactly how far from home they have travelled.  

They’ve said yes to an incredible list of crazy experiences

We picked their brains in this Drive South Africa Q&A to find out what drives their approach to planning a road trip. They’ve shared a few of their most memorable road trip experiences, from the ultimate road trips in South Africa to the downright disastrous in Norway, to give you some inspiration for your next road trip car hire experience.

Drive South Africa: What’s your preferred style of road-tripping? 

HFFH’s Chanel & Stevo:  “Hot temperatures outside, windows open, breeze through our hair, a semi-planned itinerary. 

“Normally accommodation is booked and maybe one or two points-of-interest highlighted, but the rest left unplanned. 

Gorgeous natural scenery, no other cars in sight, cameras easy to reach.

Can you share your favourite road-tripping destinations and what’s unique about each? 

Namibia has to top the list – it’s honestly one of the most beautiful (and unique) landscapes on Earth (in our humble opinion)…rolling red dunes in the oldest desert in the world – need we say more?!

“The Dolomites mountain range in Northern Italy has to make the list too – with crystal clear lakes dotted around a mountainous region that’s honestly too beautiful to describe, with sheer cliffs and deep, long valleys…add to it a series of charming small towns and villages, each featuring their own cute church. Very picturesque.

“South Africa’s Western Cape has some of the world’s most scenic vistas. From Chapman’s Peak and the Cape Point route, to the wine regions, to the Garden Route and the fynbos-filled areas in between, it’s a nature-lover’s paradise.

“We really loved the West Coast of the USA, since it’s really easy to cruise between States and get exposed to an array of views and landscapes, each one very different.  

Which road trip are you least likely to do again and why? 

“Let’s just say we are less likely to do this road trip as spontaneously as we did last time, and definitely do a lot more planning if we ever do it again! 

“We took a trip up the west coast of Norway one time, thinking that we could easily camp along the way (since it was summer) without many supplies. 

Well, we were very wrong, because as the sun went away, the temperatures dropped to below zero, and with our limited supplies we couldn’t get warm enough to sleep, spending most of our first night shivering until we couldn’t take it anymore and ended up leaving at 3am just to enjoy the car’s heaters. 

“It was silly of us to think that we could camp casually without the right (Norway-cold-proof) supplies. 

How do you balance spontaneity and having a set itinerary when planning a road trip?

“We like to handle the stressful things prior to the trip (finding suitable accommodation, mapping out a general route and direction to go, researching costs of tolls etc, and leaving the rest unplanned. 

“We’ll maybe mark out one or two points of interest for each day’s drive – giving us “a goal” or something to head towards – but how we get to those points of interest, which route we take, where we stop along the way, what amazing coffee shop we choose for our daily fika moment (Swedish for coffee moment) – that’s all left to spontaneity.  

You’ll have a little one now; any newfound insights to share for family road-tripping?

“We’ve actually just come back from our first road trip with Elodie (who is almost 11 months) up through Northern Ireland, so we can answer this question, haha. 

“Our advice would be to plan the long stretches of driving during their naps, and to not cram too much into the itinerary. Travel with a baby is slow – you’re on their schedule and everything now takes twice as long, so to reduce stress and disappointment, don’t plan too much and just go with the flow.  

READ: Which Luxury SUV Should You Hire in South Africa?

What’s the most luxurious car you’ve hired for a road trip? 

“We hired a Jeep Wrangler when road-tripping through the East Coast of USA – from New York up to Vermont.

“It was an amazing photo prop for the foliage photoshoots we planned for some clients during that trip.

“We prefer to be nimble and light on fuel , and we don’t consider ourselves ‘car people’ so keeping it simple is usually the way to go for us.

When looking for road trip car hire, what key factors do you consider to ensure the vehicle enhances your travel experience?

“It all depends on the road-trip itself, and what we intend to do.

“You want to choose a car authentic to the area, and something that turns it into the experience – like they say, it’s not about the destination but the journey itself. If it’s a simple, no-fuss kind of road-trip, we’ll opt for a car that simply has enough boot space for our luggage (and now baby pram), and an automatic gearbox, for ease of travel.

Could you share the must-have gadgets to make the journey more comfortable and enjoyable? 

“Hmmm, we’re definitely more minimalist than most people probably, haha, since we lived out of our bags for so long, so any extra items or gadgets normally didn’t make the cut. 

“The most important item for us is probably a cable to connect our phone to the car – since we use it for Google Maps and podcasts, the battery normally runs flat, so having it charge as we drive is essential.

How do you discover unique local experiences for your road trips? 

“A ton of research ahead of the trip – Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, tourism sites, Airbnb Experiences – and then lots of conversations with locals – whether it’s the staff at the hotel we’re staying at, or our Airbnb host, or the waiter at the coffee shop…it’s always good to ask.

How do you approach sustainability during your road trips, and what tip can you offer travellers looking to reduce their environmental impact?

“Firstly by choosing cars that are better for the environment (smaller car = less emissions), and by applying the same rules as all our travel: eat vegan when you can, recycle what you can, walk if you can, and support local where you are.

What advice do you have for navigating unfamiliar territories to ensure safety?

“The best way to make sure you know what to expect is to research as much as you can about the territory – like what type of terrain there will be, the frequency of petrol stations, how safe it is etc. Blogs are a great place to start, and YouTube has some good content too.

“Secondly, reach out to people that have done it before and ask them a few questions – most people are often happy to help. Also, local knowledge is key, so if you come across a friendly person on your road-trip who lives in the area, tell them where you are going and see if they have any tips.

What’s your ultimate piece of advice for newbie road trippers? 

“Take your time!

“If you want to get to the destination quickly, catch a direct flight or train.

“Road-trips are for savouring the journey – stopping often to look at the surroundings, helping local businesses along the way, discovering random curio shops and unknown bakeries, making friends, and taking in the vistas. A good road-trip will last longer than you intended and will give you enough adventures to tell many stories afterwards.”

Recently, Chanel and Stevo won our Road Trip Explorer competition with their Ultimate 5-Day Kenya Road Trip. It’s no surprise that Namibia tops their list of most beautiful (and unique) road trip experiences – take a look at the surreal Namib Desert backdrop to their official elopement three years ago. 

Looking for road trip car hire? Drive South Africa has branches in Cape TownJohannesburg, and Durban, including the airports in these cities. We can even deliver luxury vehicles to other destinations in South Africa for a nominal fee. Take a look at our full range of luxury cars for hire here.

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