Today I posted my 100th photo on my travel instagram account. This isn’t a huge milestone, but I thought I would take the opportunity to post a throwback photo to my first ever abroad trip alone, which I took in May 2010. I planned on it also giving me a good reason to post on my sadly neglected blog, and bring it back to life again with new content and new photos from my last few trips.
In early May, 2010, I was chatting with a friend from the US. We had planned for years on “one day meeting in Europe”, and as one of her childhood friends currently lives outside of London, UK, we always used that as our meeting-point. During this particular talk, we were comparing flight costs for me and for her to London from our respective residences. We both marveled at how cheaply I could travel within Europe, given the odd sale and newly established cheap airlines.
As I tend to do, I was looking around at other destinations. Just when I was on one particularly cheap site, they had a list of “offers” from Stockholm, very cheaply. I was a student at the time, with a much less hectic schedule than I have now, so I was free to travel mid-week on a whim.
Which I did.
I found a trip to Rimini in Italy for next to nothing. And as it was May, the season hadn’t fully started yet so I found myself being able to find a great hostel for a song as well. (In all, I spent maybe €100 on airfare, transport, a side-trip to San-Marino, my hostel for three nights and gifts.)
The reason I picked Rimini over any other place was because it was in Italy; I had no idea what I would find in the city, and was quite unprepared overall for what I could do while there.
I don’t have many photos from the trip. Or, I should say, I don’t have many (or any!) good photos from the trip. Not because I was a bad photographer back then – but because I had a crappy camera and through moving them from computer to computer, their quality has lessened even more as they’ve been zipped and unzipped and I don’t know what. So the photos I do have (the white balance is completely off as the sun was blinding through-out the trip) are more for me to remember what it was like; and they do help with that.
There are two memories that stand out the most for me, from my spur-of-the-moment trip to Rimini.
The first is when we landed. It had rained in Stockholm for almost a week when I left (and it rained at the airport too). When I arrived and stepped off the plane, I stepped into the sun. There was not a cloud in the sky and it was warm. Not just hot, but that warmth that seeps through you and makes you feel comfortable.
I remember too that I was wearing a sunshine-yellow shirt, and felt it was quite appropriate.
The second memory that stands out for me comes from the same day, but in the evening. I had no idea about map-scale or how small Rimini was. I stayed in a “city” hostel; it had a sister called the “beach” hostel. As a result, I thought the “city” hostel was far from the beach – and I didn’t bring any swim wear.
So that first evening, as the sun began to set, I was out walking. Close to my hostel, from one step to the next, I turned a corner and there it was – the beach. A loooong expanse of beach, even.
I promptly took off my shoes, rolled up my trousers and walked into the water. It was the first of many photos I’ve taken off my feet!
When I had enough of the torture of not being able to swim, I started to walk along the beach – I walked for 40 minutes and felt like I hadn’t made any kind of headway. It was fanastic and calm and just a perfect way to end the evening.
I left the beach and walked home along the boardwalk – since it was low-season there weren’t a lot of tourists. Instead I met regular Italians out for evening jogs now that the sun wasn’t quite as hot, and families strolling to and fro.
And back at my hostel, I kept the window open as I wrote in my first ever travel journal. Both for the breeze but also to hear the lives of everyday Italians eating dinner together out in the gardens surrounding my hostel, their chatter and clink of utensils comforting and strangely familiar.
I had no idea at the time, that six years on, I would still be travelling mostly alone and mostly spur-of-the-moment. I had no idea that I would travel alone but not feel lonely.
At the time, I simply marveled at the fact that I’d gone on a trip to another country; to a city where the language barriers were high, as I hadn’t spent any time trying to learn even a little Italian before I left (and I still haven’t, though it’s on my list!).
It was a great first trip, and it’s only gotten better since.