Getting the Bug

I couldn’t really say when I fell in love with the whole idea of “traveling”. As a kid I was lucky enough to go on family holidays abroad, and while they were definitely the traditional 1980’s holiday destinations that a lot of families from the UK would have gone on, they were still a really exciting experience. I remember my first trip abroad. I was 4 I think, and we went for a 2 week holiday to Nerja in Spain. I remember thinking how exciting it was, flying for the first time. I even remember we flew with Dan Air – can you believe there was an airline called Dan Air? It’s also the holiday where I learnt to swim, and even more excitingly, dive into a pool! In the life of a child, that holiday in Nerja held some pretty significant milestones! For my parents however, I think it probably ranks as the worst holiday of their life! Every ailment a child can have, I think I had in those 2 weeks. Heat rash, stomach pain, foot pain, leg pain, earache – the list goes on! Thinking back on it, it’s a wonder we ever left England again! Luckily the experience didn’t put my parents off too much, we did leave England again, but I think they left a few years gap to make sure they got over it! I won’t mention the following family holiday ailment disasters!

I think the proper traveling bug came a long, long time later. I’d finished my 2nd year of University and was faced with the 3 month summer holiday with no real plans. Not a bad situation by any stretch, but I was definitely wanting to do something a bit more adventurous. So, I decided with a friend to go Inter-railing for a month around Europe. To this day, almost 20 years later, it’s still one of the best experiences of my life. Armed with nothing but a backpack, a passport and a rail ticket, the sense of freedom, at first quite daunting, later becomes unbelievable. Waking up in the morning and deciding just to jump on a train to go to another country, with nowhere to stay and not really any idea where to go when you leave a train station (The Lonely Planet became my best friend) is pretty exciting.

So I spent a month exploring a few countries of Europe. We travelled from France, to the Czech Republic, to Austria and Hungary, through Italy and as far south as Greece. Along the way I met some incredible people and also some truly horrible ones! I learnt to never really trust anyone. I read some brilliant books, passed on to me by fellow backpackers. I realized I loved taking photographs. I grew up.

What was my favourite part? I really came to love Paris. I think it gets given a bit of a hard time by a lot of visitors, but spending time there for me was a real highlight. It’s such a beautiful city and now I think it’s one of my most visited foreign city in the world. I could definitely see myself living there one day.

What do I remember most? Somewhat strangely I guess, a most vivid memory of this trip, is hearing that Princess Diana had died. I was checking in to a hostel in Budapest and the girl on the check out said, “You mum has died!” Before I could stammer how she could possibly know this, she realized she’d made a bit of a translation error and quickly corrected herself, “No. No. Your Princess has died.”

It’s safe to say I learnt more about Europe, and probably myself, in the 4 weeks I spent wending my through it, than I’d learnt in my previous 19 years. For this reason, I would recommend to any parents to encourage their kids to have this experience at some point in their late teens.

When I got back from Europe, the travel bug was firmly planted. I immediately started planning the next trip – a round the world adventure, the tales of which I think I might save for another time.

P.S The map for my post is taken from the awesome Travellers Point website , where you can map your travel journeys.

3 Replies to “Getting the Bug”

  1. Hi James; what a brilliant resource ( Travellers Point ) you have shared and I went and signed up. It is probably just me but the link didn’t work so I found them manually.

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