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The first trip...

Posted by somtam2000 on 4/12/2017 at 21:04 admin

From this week’s newsletter:
“That first time, be you 18 or 80, when you do the hugs and kisses by the wall just before immigration. You let go, wander towards the officials. Hand over your passport. They wave you through. You step forward, around the corner, into some kind of walkway, and leave your life behind.

Over the years I've done this dozens of times. Hugged friends, family, lovers and yes, even the odd taxi driver. But the first time was in the early 90s and I remember it like it was yesterday. My travelling companion and I were were flying to Hawaii—the first stop on a round the world trip, which almost two years later would land me in Southeast Asia, to where I've been somehow attached ever since.

We flew out with Continental on February 29, 1992. (And thank you Continental for losing my bags on three of my four flights in the US). It was a leap year, and because of the dateline we arrived in Hawaii before we left Sydney, so we joked about ageing four years in 24 hours. We arrived clueless and were blown away by the six-lane (each way!) highway that took us from the airport to our hostel somewhere in Honolulu, where we proceeded to get drunk and be dumb tourists.

We bailed Oahu and got a flight to Maui. As the flight took off, I looked out the window and saw a submarine submerging as it went out to sea—I could still sketch it for you today. On Maui, courtesy of some locals we met on the flight, we camped in our silver tents in the crater of Haleakala volcano and enjoyed dawn with birds who barked like dogs.

Since then, I've been lucky enough to travel dozens upon dozens of times, with some trips more memorable than others. But that first one, while perhaps not the best, was certainly the most memorable. How was your first trip? Write in and tell us (or post in the forum) and we’ll wrap them into next week's newsletter.”

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,901
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Posted by borntorun on 5/12/2017 at 13:22

I was 19 years old and so keen to be anywhere but WASP Toronto in the 70s. I thought Italy would do the trick - its history, culture, romantic language and fabulous food would transform me. All that and a torrid romance with a handsome Italian and I would return ready to take on the world.

I booked my Alitalia flight, bought my travellers checks and packed my phrasebook, but I forgot the most basic rule of foreign travel - be prepared for culture shock.

I arrived at the Rome train station to grab a train to Florence, and that's when the full force of what I had done hit me. So many people, an incomprehensible language, strangers offering to take my bag (I had been warned), and it seemed like hundreds of train tracks to choose from. Eventually, with ticket purchased and heavy bag in tow, I trudged along, boarded my train, found my seat and collapsed. All alone, hungry, thirsty and confused - this was a terrible mistake.

Finally a food truck came by, and I happily pulled out my wallet, but discovered to my chagrin that they did not accept travellers checks. I had not thought to stop at the exchange booth - how could I not know that? What else did I not know? Why did I think I could do this?

Luckily for me, the stately Italian couple who had been sitting silently beside me, handed me a sandwich and a bottle of water. They waved off my thanks and left me to my state of teary gratitude. I remember how thirsty I was, and how that bottle of water helped restore my equilibrium and my confidence.

As for the rest of my trip? Amazing. Although my funds ran out far faster than I had anticipated, I met up with a family in Lerici, near Cinque Terre and became their babysitter for the summer, spending each day at a naval club beach with two sweet girls. I became part of the family, immersed in their culture and each day was a revelation. People live like this! They bring home bunches of fresh flowers and perform miracles with simple fresh food and know the importance of good shoes. I learned to speak fairly well, and met interesting people from all over the world. And yes, I met a handsome Italian man - my first summer fling, much to the amusement of my Italian family.

I did come home transformed, and after I recovered from my annoying affectations of the newly-initiated world traveller, I was hooked.

The takeaway? Almost any situation is fixable and people are, for the most part, kind. Nothing to fear and so much to gain. It is impossible to travel and not grow - the work of travel demands that of you.

I'm now 65 years old, and without a home. My husband and I sold everything we own and are travelling the world. In less than month we leave for four months in India, which I know will be the very definition of culture shock. I like myself better when I travel - I can't imagine living any other way.

#2 borntorun has been a member since 16/9/2016. Posts: 1

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Posted by gecktrek on 10/12/2017 at 02:45

hey, my first solo trip to south east asia was in 1988, flew into denpasar on an empty garuda flight (how times have changed) and traveled through bali, java, singapore, malaysia, thailand and ended in hong kong before flying home... the sights, sounds and smells were a huge culture-shock, but discovered that asia was well worth travelling in and that the local food was truly delicious... and something that i was hungry, for more!

#3 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 141
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