12 Jul Popping My Backpacking Cherry
I’ve been all over the world and would consider myself well travelled. It still doesn’t matter who you are, there was once a day when we were naive about a lot of things. It was over six years ago that I had my first backpacking experience. Even by this time I had already done four long haul trips to Asia and several forays into Europe. Yet I was still a young pup when it came to travel.
I’ve only just got to Naples. I’m stood in the queue to get a train ticket to Rome. A friendly chap skips me to the front of the queue to get my ticket and escorts me to the platform. Wow people are really friendly and helpful, until they start demanding obscene amounts of money for their “assistance”.
It was resolved quite quickly. He got angry. I got on the train and waved. Amusing.
The notion of a hostel was a brand new concept for me. Thankfully on arrival the room was empty. My friend and I were pretty shattered from our early start so decided to have a quiet one. I’m ashamed to say we were in bed by about 10pm. I’m fast asleep, tucked up in my duvet when the door bursts open and four girls come in. Clearly they had just arrived, turning the light on and dumping their suitcases on their beds. Without any kind of warning all four of them just started stripping off. Was I dreaming or was I just in Europe? I just lay perfectly still and risked a sideward’s glance to my friend. My eyes just screamed “is this really happening?” Eventually they did notice, and they didn’t seem to mind us at all. The proceeded to hurl complex Spanish at us to which all I could reply was “Que?”. Of course I now know from my extensive experience that this is pretty timid compared to the things that go on in hostel dorms.
I must admit that back then I was pretty attached to my guidebook, highlighting yet again my inexperience. Now days I rarely read a guidebook and if I do it’s merely just to flick through the pictures. Back then I had my head buried in it, planning my days carefully. Admittedly it meant by carefully planning we got to see as much of the city as possible within a small timeframe. However, as I am sure some have you will have experienced, guidebooks are not infallible.
It was our last day and one particular church was left on our agenda. Of course we only had one thing left to see and being a Sunday many places were closed. We got to the Church and it wasn’t going to open to the public for another couple of hours. Not to be defeated we sat on the steps and decided to wait. The weather had been perfect the whole week and yet on this particular day the heavens decided to open and big fat droplets began falling on my face. We decided to make a run for it and after several twists and turns in trying to find shelter we ended up in a tiny take away pizza place. Giant pizza a metre long each were laid out. You just went to the counter and indicated how big a slice you wanted. They folded it in half and wrapped it up in white paper, similar to what you would get in a chip shop. To this day it’s the best pizza I have ever tasted.
We were wet and cold but after eating copious amounts of greasy warm pizza we waddled our way back to the church which had now opened. We took a seat and admired the art work. Kumbaya was being sung in latin and well… we fell asleep… for like an hour. Not a proud moment but the pizza was just that good!
Lesson? If you’re backpacking on a gap year my advice would be to expect the unexpected. More importantly to embrace the unexpected. Forget the guide book and the plan. You never know what will happen.
Have any interesting first backpacking experiences? Tell us about them in the comments below!