Been re-evaluating the meaning of life recently? Then perhaps you need a road trip. Curves magazine supremo Stefan Bogner gives you the low-down on getting it right.
With plenty of time for reflection in the last few months, it’s no surprise that thoughts may have turned towards adventure. And if you ask Style for Miles, that would mean a road trip of epic proportions.
So, who better to guide you in creating that memorable journey than Mr Road Trip himself, Stefen Bogner. Creator of the peerless Curves magazine, which documents the world’s greatest driving roads, Porsche fanatic Stefan has clocked up serious mileage in his pursuit of the ultimate driving experience.
“A good road trip will last forever in your memory. It’s a bit like the music that was playing during your first kiss – it stays with you for life.”
It's All In The Planning
“The most important thing is to take your time in planning. Preparation is key. This stage takes up about two thirds of my time and is my favourite aspect. I feel like an adventurer when I start to make new plans and the anticipation starts to build. It’s the coolest part.”
Stefan recommends getting to grips with reading a map. “You’ll get a better sense of place and perspective. Look for the green roads, as these are the scenic ones, and pay attention to the contour lines to get an idea of the topography. When you really study a physical map, the brain starts to absorb the information and when you come to drive a route, you’ll know much better where you are.”
Digital tools of course have their place, however these should only be utilised once you’ve gone through the aforementioned analogue process, says Stefan.
“Once I’ve studied my maps and books, I’ll go online to add more information. I use software like Google Maps to adjust the route if I need to and to check journey times. It’s easy, but I don’t enjoy this part as much.”
Where to Start?
“I suggest picking somewhere relatively nearby for your first road trip – the Alps is always a good place to start for me because I live in Munich,” says Stefan.
“Get in touch with locally-based friends, or use forums, Instagram and Facebook to learn about where you’re going and ask people for advice. Some tourist boards are excellent sources of information and inspiration.”
Local contacts can also be useful, suggesting places of interest such as their favourite museums. “I have discovered some amazing private air museums in America this way, along with great restaurants. I am a real foodie so I enjoy researching amazing places to eat!”
Weapon of Choice
“Think about the car you are going in. I am lucky to have driven some amazing cars over some of the world’s best roads. If you own a Porsche, you’ll find most of them will cover any sort of journey. I’ve found a 718 Cayman GT4 is perfect in the mountains as it’s narrow enough for the narrow roads, but also so well balanced for the hairpins.”
“There’s something special about Porsche cars. They have the perfect interface and they always get a thumbs up from other people, no matter where I am in the world. The Porsche community is unique, and I think it’s because while the cars are exceptional, they are also approachable,” explains Bogner.
Fancy an Escort?
“Once you’ve worked out where you’re going, consider who you want to have with you. My best friend joins me on every trip, but sometimes we travel in convoy with other cars. Eight cars is the maximum for me: any more than that and someone will always get lost or won’t make it through a set of traffic lights in time. With too many people involved it becomes hard work keeping everyone together.”
Making sure the car is prepared is vital, says Stefan, especially if it’s an old one.” I’ve been on trips with serious racing cars that you can also drive on the road and I always make sure I’ve had a look over them before I leave. Check the brakes, the lights, the liquids … basically, check everything. I always carry spare oil, some basic tools and, if I’m in an older model, I tend to take some electrical spare parts as the bare minimum. Things like a spare battery, rotor arm for the distributor, spark plugs, starter set. I also always pack some tyre foam as that has rescued me a lot.
Plan the Day
“Preparation on the trip is as important as beforehand. I have a professional-grade weather app on my phone, which I check regularly. While I have a no-eating rule in my cars I always pack some mess-free energy bars to keep my sugar levels up if I’m on a longer journey. I’ll sometimes drive for eight hours a day and cover maybe 350 kilometres, and my photography is on top of that, so while I love finding good restaurants, having some snacks handy is important.”
Have a rough idea of how far you want to drive each day but make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the trip, rather than running a tight schedule and insisting on being in a certain place by a precise time. Savour the scenery and enjoy the driving. If you take your time and you’re open to conversations when you fill up with fuel you’ll meet interesting people along the way.
If you are photographing your trip, as I do for Curves, it’s a good idea to know in advance where the best shots are. Research your “Instagram moments” when you first start planning but when you’re on the trip, make time to drive the best sections of your route a couple of times as each time it will look and feel different.
I could drive the Stelvio Pass every day and it would never be the same. Mornings and evenings are my favourite times to photograph scenery because the light isn’t as harsh. I also like pre and post peak season, when nature is often at its most dramatic.”
Savour the Moment
“Just as I’d recommend taking your time, so you should try to minimise the distractions," says Stefan "Switch off your phone and don’t constantly post where you are on social media. Part of the reason I don’t like camera phones is that I like to go offline when I’m shooting. When you get to your hotel in the evening, then you can switch back on and collate all your pictures. It’s much more fun and you’ll get to re-live the day again".Stefan also switches off the in-car navigation when on a road trip. "If you can read a map you’ll have a good idea of where you need to be going. If you’re in the Alps, on a long winding pass, it’s not as if you are looking for an exit anyway – so you might as well savour the moment without devices talking to you. Sometimes I switch my music off and enjoy the silence. Travelling is all about engaging your senses and reverting to analogue ways helps to trigger much more feeling."
Prepare for the Hangover
"Returning home from an amazing trip can be a come-down so take some time out to look back through your photos and re-live all the amazing things you’ve experienced," says Stefan. "If you turned your phone off during the journey and weren’t constantly updating your social media, you’ll remember different things when you’re looking back and it’ll make you more enthusiastic about planning the next adventure.""I’m always thinking of my next trip – they generally take me six to 12 months to plan so if you have spare time at the moment put it to use. Think about where you’ve always dreamt of going and, if it’s possible, make it happen. I love to see where people are planning to go and how they have captured where they have been.”