At the age of 18, after finishing sixth form I decided to embark on my first trip without parents or adult supervision. The world was my oyster and I thought I was well travelled enough to be able to work through anything. The trip which I expected to be inspiring, well-planned and all to go well went nothing of the sort. After 10 days I had had my first bad alcohol experience, realised my not so positive stress trait and found flaws in years old friendships. Luckily, the experience, which wasn't all bad, allowed us to come back together as better adults who had learnt more life lessons along the way than we had when we left school.
A trip after sixth form before uni where I lived seemed to be a right of passage. Nearly everyone did it, and it depended on the person what kind of adventure you chose. Many of the more outgoing members of my class chose trips to party islands such as Magaluf and Ibiza. Not the party type at 18, me and two of my closest friends decided to plan a trip which in our eyes seemed a lot more adventurous and fulfilling. We bought an Interrail pass to travel for 10 days across Europe and started to plan our route.
An interrail pass allows the bearer to travel on nearly any train service across Europe with a single pass. You can save mega bucks doing it this way. At the time (2013) we paid around £150 for a 10 day train pass. We definitely saved a whole lot of money, one of our journeys from Lille to Nice would have cost us at least 60Euro if we had bought it independently.
Find out more about Interrailing here : https://www.myinterrail.co.uk/interrail-passes/?gclid=CIzW0ZzIxc0CFZadGwodbRIM_w&gclsrc=aw.ds
With the trip all planned we said farewell to our parents and got on the train to London to hop on the Eurostar to Lille in Northern France. This was more of a pitstop that anything else. It wasn't as expensive as Paris but we could still get a direct train out of the town to Nice. We walked around the town, played cards with some people at the hostel and tried to figure out how this backpacking thing worked.
We talked to other hostel goers and learnt of their trips around the continent for 6 months or more at the time. When they asked us how long we were travelling for 10 days sounded a little bit underwhelming.
We got on the train to Nice with little consequence, although I nearly had to pay up for the train as I forgot to write in the date of my journey on the train. Always remember to read the small print!
We got to Nice in Southern France and headed to our hostel only a few minutes walk from the train station. The hostel was probably one of the best we stayed in, it was very cheap and on top of that they also offered 3Euro pasta and wine nights and 2Euro Champagne nights. We obviously got on the 3Euro pasta and wine night deal and sat on a table with two friendly Americans. We ate the watery pasta and started on the cheap red wine. Never a fan of red wine, I politely tried to drink as little as I possibly could without seeming rude. We continued chatting to these guys and got on to playing 21, the drinking game. I was still only drinking sips of the wine each time I had to drink. My friend on the other hand, was doing the opposite to me and really going for it on the red wine. By the time we left the table and went to chat in other areas of the hostel she was gone. The next thing I remember is her slumping in her chair and throwing up all over the floor, herself, me and the chair.
It's here where we have to back up a bit. Although I had been drinking since I was 16, me and my friends were never big drinkers and I had yet to be really drunk. I had also yet to have a hangover. Due to this, I had never had to deal with myself or someone else throwing up because of alcohol and therefore was blissfully unaware of the situation. In other words, I hadn't been to uni yet.
Flash Forward to this moment in Nice, miles away from home, with my friend unable to stand up, I was freaking out. Thank God I had my other, more sensible friend with me who calmly managed to deal with the situation whilst I reportedly sat down in the toilet, rocking saying over and over 'what are we gonna do?'
By 3am we had got our sick friend to bed and I woke up every hour or so to check if she was still breathing. I don't know if this would be called amazing friend or extreme paranoia. In the morning I bought her some bread and she listened as I told her how freaked out I was by the experience. For the rest of the trip I was more wary of alcohol and we didn't really club or party much after that moment. I wish I had been more chilled with the experience now as I missed out on some great offers for parties.
We spent the rest of our time on the beach, exploring waterfalls and the old town and being much more civilised in our actions. We did meet some amazing people in Nice though and I was amazed at the travelling and experiences other people shared.
From Nice we then hopped on the next train to Genoa, a port town in North Italy. Thinking back on it I have no idea why we chose to stop here but it was a lovely city. We went on walking tours around the city and I attempted to use my Italian that I had just finished learning in an Italian short course at school. It didn't go very well. We also manged to book a hostel in the red light district of the town which made the experience all the more exciting and exhilarating, who knew what we were going to see as we walked back to the hostel!
For a random stop off, Genoa was not a bad place at all and I would recommend a visit to anyone passing through that way.
We then moved inland to Geneva, in Switzerland. I was really excited for this city as I had flown in many times but never explored it. I think with expectations high it disappointed all us all. Our hostel was probably the least friendly and had a real business vibe to it which makes sense considering we were in Geneva. That coupled with expensive everything and we struggled to find things to do that matched our price bracket.
We moved onto our last stop Interlaken with hope that there would be more to do.
Our last stop, Interlaken Switzerland was probably the one I was most excited about before starting the trip. I had found this amazing hostel online, where you slept in tents and had hammocks and a swimming pool for a decent price. The campsite was just as I imagined but the scale of activities very different. All the exciting adventures sports came at a price that we weren't willing to pay and therefore we instead went on some free hikes and wondered about the town. I think the frustration of not being able to do much and the stress of being away from home with my friends for the first time took a toll on me and I walked around in a strop for the majority of one of the days. I'm glad to say I got over it!
We met some cool people at the hostel and all went to this bar close by every night. I remember the drinks being outrageously priced and therefore the struggling to get anywhere near tipsy. (Even though the picture on the top right might not vouch for that!)
We left early in the morning and headed to Paris to catch the Eurostar home. We had a few hours in Paris and so walked to the Bastille and back. This took the whole 5 hours, with stops and a drink thrown in.
By the time we got home I was tired, and exhausted of my first backpacking trip. I remember thinking it wasn't for me and I think that at the time I was right. However, fortunately we all change and the experience changed me for the better. I am not more aware of myself when I travel, the things that can go wrong and to try not to stress about every plan you make so much.
Traveling is stepping into the unknown and you have to be aware of that before you embark.
But then of course it wouldn't be fun without a little bit of mystery.