My first trip

It’s summer in the Northern hemisphere, so probably many of you are thinking about holidays, or at least escaping outside now and again. So for this month’s collaborative post we’ve been thinking about travel. If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, well, maybe you will read this and dream of the summer that’s coming up.

Colombia, the USA, India, Bulgaria… PocketCultures contributors from around the world write about their first trip abroad (or – since we haven’t all had the chance to travel abroad – their first big trip). Read on to find out where they went and what they did!

Nuria (Costa Rica)

I took my first trip abroad when I turned 15 years old. My parents and sisters celebrated this special birthday, Quince Años in Spanish, with me in San Andres Island, Colombia. It was the first time I was ever on a plane, so the trip was really exciting although it was only about an hour! I remember the day before leaving, I did not feel so good and I had a rash, so I went to the drugstore but they told me it was only an allergy. So, I did not pay that much attention to it. But the next day when we were at the airport, I had a fever and did not feel that good the following days. Since I thought what I had was a simple allergy, once I noticed some itchy, red dots on my legs, I just scratched them all.

Getting my hair braided

Meanwhile, we visited several great places in the island: the Aquarium, Johnny Cay Island, the Hoyo Soplador (geyser) and Morgan’s Cave. I remember eating rice with coconut and getting my hair braided for the first time, which was a fun experience! After some relaxing and beautiful days in San Andres Island, we came back to Costa Rica. A few days later, my sisters got the same red dots I did while on vacation; and that is how we found out that what I had had was chickenpox!!!

The Aquarium, San Andres Island, Colombia

Anu (India)

I have yet to travel abroad, and I remember little of my earliest trips. The one I remember best, is however, a trip we made to the famous temple of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, India in 1984. That trip was memorable for many reasons. First, it was a huge family trip – almost 15 of us! Second, I had company – a cousin who was just a year younger than me. Being a single child, such opportunities to travel with company my own age were rare. The third reason was the trip itself, because it was the first time I actually went on a pilgrimage! The temple of Lord Venkateswara at Tirupati is one of the most famous temples in India, and also among the richest, and lest I forget to mention, also the most crowded. I have visited the temple 11 times since then, but that was my first trip, and thus even more memorable.

The temple is located amidst seven hills, and there is a road leading straight to the temple, but many people still prefer to climb the stairs as their offering to the Lord, and on that trip we elected to do the same. I was around 9 years old then, and climbing the roughly 2500 steps was a great sense of adventure! Me and my cousin therefore spent most of our time running ahead and then waiting for the adults to catch up! We climbed the hills at night, and reached the temple in the wee hours of the morning, after a gruelling seven hours climb (It doesn’t really take that long, but we had adults from 15 to 75 with us, and each climbed at their own pace! ) We were tired, but more than that, hungry!!

Idlis

There was just one small shop, or rather, shack, open that early in the morning, so we headed straight there to see what we could find to eat. It turned out they just had idlis, so idlis it was! We ordered plate after plate, and the man just kept on bringing them, and somewhere midway, we lost count. Idlis were followed by Tea and coffee, and finally we were done! And then came the biggest problem of all – no one had any idea of how many plates we had to eat!! We hadn’t kept count, and the waiter and manager had lost their count!! Eventually, after much discussion, my uncle pulled out a 100 Rupee note and handed it over, saying that he could keep the change, since he had at least filled our stomachs when we really needed it!! At that time, !00 Rs was a huge amount, and the manager gaped as we paid him and walked out! That is the memory that has stayed back with me, even after all these years…. we had a wonderful tour of the temple and had a great experience at the sanctum, but nothing remains as clear as the expression of the manager!! Photo credit

Nargiza (Kyrgyzstan)

I was 17 when I first went abroad. But it was a year-long trip to the United States, so it was worth the wait.

I went to do an exchange year in South Dakota, where I lived with an American host family and went to an American high school. It was my first trip abroad and it was big. I still remember my first flight, sheer happiness of being above the clouds, going through security gates, getting out of the airport to face hot wind of South Dakota. I am glad I went abroad being at the age, when I could remember every detail of my trip. It made it priceless. Photo credit

Hay harvest in South Dakota

Liz (Australia)

My first trip overseas – to Canada – was at the ripe old age of 21. The trip was a gamble in so many ways – it was to be a year in duration (a ‘working holiday’), and the first trip away with my relatively new boyfriend. Into the unknown I went, with a backpack filled with things like aerograms to write letters home (this was in 2000, just at the brink of email and the internet becoming mainstream in Australia), and an actual paper diary to record the experience. Blogs were yet to enter the lexicon.

Toronto was our first port of call, and while in hindsight I realise Canada was the easiest introduction ever to international travel, I thought I was on the adventure of a lifetime. I breathed in every little detail and point of difference I could find (squirrels in parks! People saying ‘eh’ all the time’!) and soaked up every sight and experience. We spent the summer in Montreal and the winter in Whistler, interspersed with diversions to the UK, New York, San Diego and Mexico. The year away opened my eyes to the world, and sparked my interest in art, design, architecture, food and other cultures. I returned to Australia with many newfound passions, an incurable case of wanderlust, and a tentative turned permanent travel partner. Photo credit

A gray squirrel in Toronto's High Park

Carmen (Romania)

I took my first trip abroad when I was 15 years old. After finishing my 8th grade, together with my parents and my grandmother (father‘s mother) we were invited to spend two weeks in Bulgaria (our neighbour country). We took a friend‘s car to the border, then we passed by foot on the Friendship Bridge that connects the Romanian town Giurgiu and the Bulgarian one, Russe. Our friends waited for us with a car at the Bulgarian border.

In those two weeks we travelled a lot by car and visited several seaside resorts (Varna, Albena, Golden Sands) and other towns like Veliko Tarnovo, Silistra and Russe.

Veliko Tarnavo

I remember with great pleasure our Bulgarian friends and their warm welcoming, the interesting seaside landscape, with houses built on mountains, the bridge in Veliko Tarnovo from which you could see the train which passed under the city. But also a restaurant built on a hill in Russe, with has as many halls as the number of countries the Danube River passes through. We took our good bye dinner there, in the Romanian Hall, which had on one wall a mosaic map of the Danube route through the 10 countries and the motto “Our freedom came over the Danube”, as a gratitude for the Romanian soldiers who fought in the Independence War and helped them conquer their freedom too. I don‘t have any photos from those times but my memories are better than any movie! Photo credit

Sinan (Turkey)

My first trip abroad was to England, when I was 8 years old. Me and my mom went to visit my aunts living in Crowthorne, Berkshire and Letchworth, Hertfordshire for summer vacation. It was my first flight ever. We flew with Turkish Airlines Boeing 727 from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to London Heathrow Airport. This trip triggered my enthusiasm to airports and aviation.

Turkish Airlines Boeing 727

Both my aunts were living in the suburbs of small towns, which was a new experience to me, who grew up in downtown Istanbul. I really enjoyed playing in the garden with my cousins and other children. I learned climbing trees and riding bicycle that summer. Thanks to this trip I started to learn English and practice at the same time. During this vacation we went to London and visited landmarks of the city such as Buckhingam Palace, Harrod’s, Whitehall, Tower Bridge, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and so on. My aunts bought me all the basic London souvenir toys; a Double Decker bus, a Coldstream Guard, a Royal Horse Guard, a British Policeman etc. not to mention some Matchbox cars as well. Back then importing goods was limited in Turkey, so these toys and our Duty Free shopping was like a magic for a child like me. Photo credit

LeX (Malaysia)

My first trip abroad was to Daejeon, South Korea. I was 22 years old and I went there to study. I travelled by bus from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, plane from Kuala Lumpur to Incheon, Express Railway from Incheon to Daejeon. I went Kuala Lumpur alone but met other Malaysian Students in KLIA Airport and of course met more people when I arrived the University in Daejeon!

The biggest impression was the culture of Korean people! Seniority culture, Pali-Pali Culture, the language and the city, Seoul is a modern city yet still can feel the tradition of Korean in the city! Photo credit

Daejon City

Ana (Argentina)

I was eight months old when I went -or rather, was taken- on my first trip. My parents, my grandparents and I went to Salta and Jujuy in Northern Argentina. I don’t have any recollection whatsoever of this trip, of course, I go by what my parents told me and the photos they took. One funny story that went down in family history goes that only two of us weren’t affected by altitude sickness: my mother and I. I, because apparently it doesn’t affect babies, or at least, not me, and my mum, because she was brave enough to drink some coca tea, an age old traditional remedy used in the Andean heights. The photo was taken in La Quiaca (Jujuy), the northernmost town in Argentina. The green sign behind us indicates the distance between La Quiaca and Ushuaia, the southernmost city: 5121 kilometers (3182 miles) –i.e. the length of the country. My parents look so young!

Sean (USA)

My parents took me to Spain, France, Austria, and Germany when I was 2, before my brother was born. I don’t really remember any of it. When I was 10, we went to Germany, France, and Switzerland, as a family. We stayed with some of my dad’s military buddies in Germany, and the families of some of our old exchange students in France.

We flew into Munich, and I believe we rented a car. A Renault, I think it was, and my dad did most of the driving. The European traffic circles freak my mom out!

I remember a lot, actually. One great memory was a beerfest in Rosenheim, in the Bavarian region of Germany. They had polka-style music, and four guys with a bullwhip in each hand would crack the whips to the beat of the music. I asked the little daughter of one of my dad’s military buddies to dance… she wasn’t interested. We went to “Vaison-la-Romain” in France, which was an old Roman village, with all the medieval turrets and walls still standing. We went to a couple other castles, the names of which escape me. I loved knights and armor, and middle-ages type stuff when I was a kid. I had lots of books about castles. We went to the beaches around Nice in France, and spent the day hanging out with a former exchange student’s family. We climbed up to the castle Neuschwanstein near the Austrian border, which was amazing. We climbed up Mount Brünnstein… I remember my dad’s military buddies pushing me to finish it, while my parents lagged behind with my little brother. I googled it, and I totally remember the little chapel at the top! I remember eating dinner starting at midnight in Provence, and being a very tired little boy by the end. They served eggs in aspic, which I didn’t care for, I remember. I remember being impressed that the little German kids spoke English very well, and being annoyed that public restrooms cost money. I remember the shores of Lake Geneva, and a little coach house that we stayed in.

It was probably the beginning of my love of different cultures, and travel.

Read more
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The good, the bad and the ugali: travel in East Africa
A plane ticket to happiness

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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2 Comments

  • Nuria: I’ve wanted to visit San Andres ever since I watched the Colombian telenovela Cafe con aroma de mujer. Lucky you!

    Anu; you visit the most wonderful temples! and have the most wonderful experiences too.

    Nargiza: it must have been like landing on a different planet!

    Liz: I felt like that on my first trip to Paris. It’s a one way trip, so to speak.

    Carmen: The Danube sounds so romantic! All the places you visited are on my bucket list now.

    Sinan: we had (and still have) import restrictions so I know exactly how you felt at the Duty Free Shop!

    LeX: I’ve never to Korea, thanks for describing it so well.

    Sean: roundabouts freak me out too!

    My parents look so young! They’re younger than I am now :(

  • Nuria

    Hope you visit San Andrés soon Ana! ;)
    Your picture is adorable! It looks like a postcard!!! :)