Every experienced traveller loves having a good laugh at all these banana-bag-wearing nineteen year old kids stumbling into hostels asking stupid questions and shitting themselves about being in exotically foreign places like… London.
Even we have to reconcile ourselves, however, with the fact that we were once those greenhorns who were full of misplaced idealism, without a clue about what we were doing, and frankly either too stupid to realize what we were doing or scared shitless. We are all the same when it comes to travel: it is a long process of having little idea about what you’re getting yourself involved with but, eventually, you come to appreciate and enjoy the madness.
No-Yolo has compiled six accounts from its six permanent writers, all from differing countries and backgrounds, who have collectively been to a bazillion places, who recall their first time travelling as an adult.
Actually Leaving Italy
By Paola Barboglio
I had a hard time recalling my first trip as an adult. I had traveled a little bit when I was in high school – but that was it. I was fitting perfectly into the stereotype of Italians never leaving home (“why would you? Italy has everything, you don’t need to go elsewhere!”). All I knew was that these little trips represented the highlights of my school years and that they filled me up with Wanderlust. But when I wanted to leave right after high school to go Inter-Railing in Eastern Europe, my parents said I could forget it – a girl, alone, somewhere that’s not under mamma’s gown? No fucking way.
I managed to escape the country for the first time for longer than a week after choosing Erasmus. I was studying German in university, so I packed my few things and flew to Hamburg for a semester, filled up with excitement and some little weird anxiety of not fitting in. Still, it was all I had ever wanted, seeing new things, meeting new people, getting drunk and feeling truly European. I must admit that’s pretty much what happened – the clichés about Erasmus are not so wrong after all. But what it did for me, my first time abroad, was ignite something deep down – a joy for discovery that keeps me on the move since then. The fresh, salty air of a morning stroll down the Elbe, watching the sun rise up in the mist, set my travelling soul finally free – and I’ll never be more thankful to Hamburg for that.
Heroin, Love, Incredible (fucked up) Indian Kashmir
By Ciaran Miqeladze
I wanted to go to Serbia but I ended up in India. I think my mother persuade me to go to there because it was cheap. I was going with my then girlfriend. We had no idea what to do and we weren’t really sure why we were going there. More existentially, we had no idea what was going to happen to our relationship.
We had lived together for the past year because we were supposed to be temporary roommates but ended up hooking up on the first night. It was sometimes great and sometimes kinda shit but we did like each other. The problem was she was moving back to Sweden to do a masters while I still had to finish my undergrad. We just didn’t speak about the future in fear of messing up the holiday.
We arrived in India and I loved it and she didn’t. It didn’t help I decided to book us a flight to Kashmir after our second day without consulting her much. Kashmir was sort of fucked. It is a frozen conflict zone with heroin everywhere. It really didn’t help I booked a place in the middle of no where with a man with a serious heroin problem then a house boat with an accused rapist. Research has since been an important aspect of all my future travels. She hated me for the next month and both us kept on talking about “fresh starts” once we got back home, i.e. we were going to break each other’s heart.
Eventually, we left Kashmir and went to Kerala. Perhaps it was the calmer settings with the lush landscape, the oncoming monsoon, and the tendency for goats to come chasing into cafes once the rain started but we started to like each other again. While sitting in a restaurant we became fond off, we finally spoke about the future. It was agreed that despite loving each other that maybe it was best to start over again. We enjoyed each other endlessly afterwards. A couple months later we tried again because there was a Swedish ad campaign with “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton a song I sing in the shower causing her to miss me. She’s now one of my best friends.
Did I learn anything? Not particularly other than perhaps don’t stay with heroin users when your relationship is going off the cliff.
Some Like It, Some Don’t
By Margarita Knysh
Growing up, I was one lucky kid. In terms of travelling particularly. Living just 19 km away from the Polish border, by the age of 16 I had already been to the majority of Western Europe, a couple of touristic destinations in Central Europe and Asia, and felt like home in a lot of Ukrainian cities.
At 17, I had already been living outside my home country, yet it was not until one morning when my roommate and a full-time best friend offered to hitchhike (it was a huge thing back in 2009, before the low-cost airlines took over) to Riga, when I started travelling farther than my home town, and more profoundly than car trips with the family or organized bus-tours.
I, as opposed to my friend, had quite previous hitchhiking experience, and yet I felt so much more stressed and pressured — I mean, I was taking her hitchhiking virginity, and you know how influential and life-changing such things can be.
It was only about 300 km away, and luckily, it only took us one car to get to the destination (shout out to the coolest journalist couple who picked us up), and we spent a lovely day in Riga. It was the trip back that, I assume, frightened my friend off of hitchhiking again, although she never admitted it. Long story short, the vain freshmen we were, we didn’t have a map, nor did we have smartphones or a solid plan, for that matter. So at one point, reading the frustration off my friend’s face, I said, “I got this!” as we were getting in the car with four, what I would say now, gopniks. To the night coming on and the guys’ rape jokes, we got off right as they were making a turn to some narrow road. To ease the atmosphere, I told my friend, “See, I told you I got that”. As it was only getting darker, it took us a couple more hours to get home (cheers for hitchhiking at night on a highway without any reflectors).
Since that trip, I’ve been to Riga a bunch of times and actually grew into hating it, and I’ve also hitchhiked for a bit more (and even got into the Swedish police). My friend, on the other hand, did neither of those things. Sorry not sorry, I guess.
I’m Not Quitting.. This Time!
I was 18, had just started university, and was dissatisfied about my life. Studying always came relatively easy to me: my grades were good, I never had to re-sit an exam, and all this without making too much effort.
But I felt like I didn’t really ‘live’. Many fellow students had travelled to far, exotic destinations after graduating secondary school, or used to volunteer abroad before starting university. As a shy, introverted girl, my own travel experiences were limited to family holidays in France, and some city-trips with my mom or with friends.
Change, adventure, self-challenge: that’s what I wanted. Radically I decided to quit my studies and move to Berlin for six months, without a plan or knowing anybody there. I fled back home after two weeks, miserable, depressed, and stripped of the little self-confidence I had to begin with. I felt embarrassed and let down by myself as well as by my surroundings. People joked about my early return, and seemed to see me as ‘weak’.
After months of desperation, I saw an ad for a job in Dublin. Did I apply because I wanted to prove that I wasn’t a quitter, or just because I really wanted to go to Ireland? Insecure but determined, I flew to Dublin on a one-way ticket six months after returning from Berlin.
That was eight years ago. Leading a nomadic life since, I have worked, studied, and lived in Ireland, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Thailand, Georgia, Germany, Poland, and am preparing to move to Russia as we speak.
The first Berlin chapter -another one followed and more are scheduled- is still a semi-contested one. Those calling it a failure may decide for themselves, but if anything, I learned that travelling is so much more than just crossing a border.
Fuck the French Riviera
By Klotild von Schweinhundsheim
As soon as I turned 18, I had to go for a crazy hitchhike trip. The whole plan was pretty ad-hoc even though we considered it to be meticulously well thought out. The ingredients: backpacks, tons of canned food, a tent, a guitar, a shitload of drawing stuff, hardly any money, printed hitchhiker T-shirts and of course, two idiots.
Obviously the “Hey Mom, I will be hitchhiking in Europe, so most likely you will not be able to reach me” talk was not an option, so we lied to the parents that we would be hiking in the mountains, we might cross the Slovak border and that we will not have a phone signal.
After 4 days of camping and washing ourselves at petrol stations, looking for a ride at highway entrances and borders, we managed to reach Menton, the first French town in the Riviera right after the Italian border. We had so much luggage, that regular cars did not pick us up, only trucks and huge station wagons. Since we had no money, my friend was drawing caricatures of passers by on the street. Our low life business was blooming within the first 2 days, but then we had to face the sad reality that the Côte d’Azure is very much out of our league and especially price range.
The Riviera also turned out to be kind of incompatible with camping rough (Shockingly…). We had no choice but to crawl back to San Remo, Italy. Our glorious trip was finished by an innocent phone call attempt from my mom: the regular “The dialed number is not available at the moment…” message was in Italian, so we had to crawl back to the cross on a bus paid for by our parents. Travelling by bus felt bourgeois, conventional and shameful, especially as we were the only unfortunate vagabonds on board.
Checking off Northern Europe
By Klemens Casey
Growing up in a working class family, the summer holiday period would always consist of staying with relatives in the countryside rather than package holidays to Spain, and it wasn’t until I was 18 that I actually flew on an airplane for the first time.
My teenage years were, to all intents and purposes, a crock of shit and, having dropped out of college at the age of 20, I found myself working in a 9-5 admin job, still feeling lonely and worthless. Fearing that I would end up like one of those sad sacks who died at their desk having never truly lived, I made the decision to leave the job and go do some voluntary work with the Sami people in northern Sweden. Obviously.
Having saved up some money from my job, I bought a return ticket to Stockholm for three months, but didn’t really have any concrete plans as to what I was going to do. I can still remember stepping out of the train station in Stockholm Central and feeling as if I had just walked into a freezer. It actually took my breath for a few seconds. I was naive enough to think that the weather would have warmed up in Scandinavia by early March. I spent a night in Sundsvall in the middle of Sweden and the temperature got to -12C.
In the end, the plan to head up to the Arctic Circle didn’t happen, as the bus company that serviced the Arctic Circle required passengers to book tickets from their home country. Slightly disappointed, I decided to take the Finnish booze cruise to Helsinki by myself, and proceeded on to Estonia. Tallinn was the first time I had been in the former Soviet Union and it fascinated me, so I continued on by bus to Riga and then Vilnius. Figuring that, as I had gone that far, I decided to do a loop back to Stockholm, which obviously involved incredibly long but reasonable comfortable journeys through Poland, Germany and Denmark. I loved seeing these new places and being in control of where I could go next.
Nothing life-changing happened on my solo trip around northern Europe but as I look back now, having gone to all of these countries by myself as a 20/21 year old, it stood me in good stead as I finally started to live my life.