This is a post about my early days of travel. It’s about how travel styles change over time, and how stepping out of your house and into the great unknown is an experience like none other. It’s about feeling a rush of adventure at the sight of an airplane, about the sights and smells of bazaars in foreign countries, and most of all, this post is about discovery.
Ten years ago this week, I was on my first overseas trip ever to Greece, Italy, and Spain. I remember (and can confirm via Facebook memories) that my excitement leading up to this trip was near unbearable. I was to be going with a group from my high school, some of my best friends included. Our seventeen-year-old voices would shake every time we counted down the sleeps until we took flight, smiles permanently plastered on our faces.
I don’t remember doing any research for this trip, and given that our tour was booked through a company who specialized in taking high school students on educational trips, I never had to book a flight or hotel along the way. In hindsight, I was flying blind. The fact that I barely knew what lie ahead except for a rough itinerary was amazing, every sight and sound I heard was unexpected and awe-inducing, and while I put a fair amount more research into each of my trips nowadays, I don’t regret my trust in that first trip for a second.
What I do remember is doing a bit of shopping beforehand, making sure I had a trustworthy money belt and the coolest sunglasses. I remember planning with my friends which one of us would take the shampoo, which would bring the alarm clock, and who was to pack the blow dryer.
Tough decisions, guys.
The Makings of a Traveller: Musings and Reflections
Prior to Greece, Italy, and Spain, my parents had taken my brother and I on various trips around Canada and the USA, and I always loved the long hours in the car, staring out the window. On these trips with my family, we visited beautiful nature spots, museums, roadside diners (which are probably my favorite eateries even to this day), and all kinds of neighborhoods (I very vividly remember being twelve years old and my dad taking my brother and I to East Hastings in Vancouver while giving us a lecture about not making too many left turns in life). Very early on my parents made sure to get us out of our Saskatchewan backyard and explore.
This first trip to Europe at seventeen years old was an extension of that. Although, on this big trip, for the first time, I was going without them. I was going on a trip where I couldn’t rely on mom and dad to figure out the tough bits. It felt like a brush of independence while still being safely nestled under the watchful eye of chaperones and guides.
The day we left on the trip, I remember my dad driving my three friends and I to the Winnipeg airport, me having him stop the car many times to make sure I did indeed have my passport (my OCD starting to kick in I guess?), and I remember the drive there being dicey, with it being winter and all. I remember the uncertainty, the naïveté, and even though it was a guided high school trip, I remember the adventure.
I also remember an owl flying very close to our windshield on the way to Winnipeg, just adding to the adventure of it all.
I can vividly recall landing in Athens, Greece after a long journey from Winnipeg to Toronto, Toronto to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt to Athens. I remember the airport, meeting up with another high school group, getting on the bus, and seeing palm trees for the first time. I remember the hotel in Athens, where they served us Greek yogurt in the mornings (we had no idea what it was, as it still hadn’t made its way onto grocery shelves across the pond), and had cold showers in a little pink tub. I remember the smells, the nerves, the feeling of being in the world.
Even ten years later, those first few days are still so clear in my mind; seeing the Acropolis, doing free shots of alcohol in the Plaka district, ogling the ancient Olympic stadium, and standing agape at the Temple of Zeus. I remember my money pouch being firmly in place under my shirt every single day, my camera firmly attached to my hand, and my stark white tennis shoes on.
After Athens, we made our way over to Delphi, and then to the coast. There were monasteries, mountains, fresh seafood, and the cutest towns in which to purchase trinkets. The bus trips were made short by my friends and I taking photos of each other sleeping, sharing headphones to listen to our favorite songs, and by listening to Greek stories that our tour guide told us over the speakers.
When we got to the coast, we took a ferry over to Italy. The ferry was rocky, my legs were shaky beneath me the whole time, and a plastic bag was gripped in my fist for just in case. But Italy was worth it. We spent our days getting lost in the maze of Florence, visiting cathedrals, and looking at art. We eventually even made our way over to Pisa, where my eyes were once again opened to my privilege — not just because I had the opportunity view the famous tower, but because of the locals and their relationship with the hoards of ever-visiting tourists.
After Italy we took another ferry over to Spain, where I fell in love with the country for the first time, even though our tour group was mostly confined to Barcelona. As our guide told us stories about Gaudi and went over the basics of the Spanish language, I felt alive, as though it wasn’t the trip that was the dream, but rather that everything else was.
Then, just a short while later, the whole thing was over, and we were on a night bus to the airport. I remember one of the others on a trip put on the song “Island In the Sun” by Weezer as we pulled away from our last hotel, and it took everything in me to not cry.
Something changed inside me during that trip, and I realized that going home and finishing my last six months of high school didn’t sound so enticing. While others in my peer group were going crazy over the fact that the places we travelled to lacked amenities such as peanut butter and Tim Hortons (so Canadian, amirite), all I wanted to do was stay immersed in these countries for longer, to explore deeper.
After this trip I had my first real bout of travellers blues. I gained some weight, and even with the exciting thought of graduation lurking in the not-too-distant-future, it took a while to shake.
Over the next few years I had other kinds of adventures; I moved first to Regina, then to Toronto, road-tripping back and forth between the two cities many times. I travelled back to Europe, and around North America. I discovered travel blogs, and a whole community of people who felt the same way about travel that I do. I followed my heart through working in the music industry in Toronto, and followed it again when I decided to leave.
Through all of life’s changes, travel has been a constant reminder of my youthful sense of wonder (and music, but you know). Whenever I started to feel stagnant, or stuck in a rut, I turned to it often to break me out of a funk and get me moving again, get me exploring and discovering.
Since then I have been working on a travel/life/work balance, finding the things I need to make me happy. Does a typical 9-5 job with 10 days of vacation time a year make me happy? No, but I’ll do it for a year or two at a time if it means I get to travel freely at the end of it. Does working 16-hour days on both my day job and my freelancing jobs mean that I’m often burnt out and can’t commit the time to this blog? Yes, but knowing that I’ll take these freelancing gigs with me on my travels means that I can go longer and feel better about my financial situation.
Thinking about where my life is now, and all that I’ve learned about myself really comes down to those early travel days both around North America and Greece, Italy, and Spain. My soul was built for adventure, and every step along the ways is guided with that ethos in mind.
What are your earliest travel memories?