My first trip “overseas” in 1997 was a long weekend to Liverpool to visit my sister who was studying nursing there. The following summer, I returned to spend three weeks there by myself which was exciting at twelve years old. Next, at fifteen, I went further afield and this time for seven weeks. I travelled to Yonkers, New York, on an all expenses paid trip to stay with my aunt and help look after my cousin when she and her husband’s work schedule collided. Apparently paying for my flights, housing and feeding me and giving me pocket money was cheaper than them paying for a nanny or daycare – lucky me!
My family mainly holidayed around Ireland and I have seen the beauty of my own country and always wondered what was out there beyond the shores of Ireland. After I finished secondary school in 2003, I went on the usual “Leaving Cert” holiday to Salou, Spain for two weeks, although this was the usual teenage package holiday scenario with only one or two trips outside the tourist centre in our time there. I would love to revisit and see “real” Spain.
Three years later, I spent a month backpacking around Europe or “inter-railing”, with five of my close friends. We visited Prague, Budapest, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Corfu, and Rome, taking us across the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Greece, and Italy. This was my first real travel experience and I knew I had gotten the bug.
Europe was a nice start to a life of travel, somewhere close to home and not so culturally different. I had my 21st birthday on the road and grew closer to my friends, we shared bonding experiences like crazy taxi drivers in Prague, being robbed while we were sick and asleep on a train in Croatia and having to go to the hospital in Croatia for travellers’ diarrhoea – we actually thought we were dying!
Good and bad, these are experiences I’ll never forget and I did get one bug which I’ll never be cured of – the travel bug!