A Long Day’s Ride: Learning to Drive at 40 in Lunenburg County

(Illustration: Jessie McLaughlin)

Lunenburg County is a beautiful place to become a driver – especially when you’ve been a pedestrian for nearly 40 years.

I never wanted to drive in Ontario. With its congestion, high-stakes, fast-paced highway on-and exit-ramps, and abundant public transit – not to mention the sheer geographic distance between cities – obtaining my license simply wasn’t appealing. I was that urban gal who just didn’t need to drive, so why bother? Fortunately, I managed to get by with a lot of help from my spouse and friends who were willing to pick me up and take me places. Becoming a parent certainly prodded the sleeping driver in me; my maternal vigilance made it feel necessary to – if not actively drive all the time – become licensed, able, and ready.

More than a decade ago, I lived in the Sambro area of Nova Scotia. The idyllic 20-minute drive from our workplaces in the city back to our rental house every day really lit a flame under me. I started learning to drive casually, the way an eager kid learns with her super-chill dad when she’s 15.5 years old. My husband showed me the ropes and before long, I was comfortably cruising down Ketch Harbour Road, enjoying the curves and coastal views.

Then, we moved back to Ontario and I didn’t want to drive anymore. Manning the wheel at endless red lights or on highways with thousands of other commuters zipping by at 140km/hour just didn’t feel like home.

Nevertheless, I eventually started to chip away at the task. I learned to drive properly, with my husband (who had coincidentally become a licensed driving instructor) in short bursts. I passed my first road test and received my G2 just a month before we moved to Upper LaHave in 2022. And here’s a good omen: when I traded that in for a Nova Scotia Class 5, I was officially fully licensed. No more road tests required. Nothing but open road ahead.

Learning to drive later in life often carries a self-imposed stigma, reinforced by how unusual it is to wait this long. Older drivers anecdotally tend to need more time to learn than younger ones, but the life experience we have under our belts certainly makes us less reckless out on the road. 

Driving my son to school and events in Lunenburg every day, winding around small farms, activating that parking brake on steep hills near the Academy, and using the angled parking lot at the Farmer’s Market/arena; it all comes naturally. The gorgeous drives to Hirtle’s and Sand Dollar, ferry rides across the Lahave to the bakery and Ploughman’s and Risser’s on the way to the grandparents’ place … and the roundabouts! So many roundabouts, unusually curvy four and all-way stops, folks merging onto 100 km highways at 60 km/hour and consistently driving 20 km below the limit, and the roadwork traffic stops that require setting aside an extra 5-15 minutes of time each day? Bring it on.

It all feels like home, and none of it would have been possible had I not taken the leap and pushed myself to start driving back in Ontario. Stepping outside of my comfort zone for brief periods of time has set me up for a lifetime of autonomy and beautiful daily commutes. Now I drive not just because I live on the South Shore and it’s a necessity, but because I want to drive. Lunenburg County has this driver’s heart.


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