Backpacking across Europe seems to be the ‘thing’ to do after you’ve finished school.
So, when I was coming towards the end of my university stint – I jumped on the bandwagon to ‘find myselfʼ and started planning my big summer Europe tour. Think: Bilbo Baggins’ “Iʼm going on an adventure!” – that was me.
Being a teenager in the 00ʼs, I grew up during a boom of teen movies about Europe – as stereotypical and clichéd as they come. Films featuring summer getaways in search of love, sex, food and boozy bars – each scene inundated with cringe-worthy moments and crazy storylines ranging from the bizarre to the outright dangerous. They give everyone on the outside an unrealistic expectation of Europe.
Don’t get me wrong, some may experience the above mentioned in some form. But trust me when I say that you’ll experience a great deal more. The only way to know is to go experience it for yourself.
I craved travel and instead of going with a group of friends, I decided to leave my comfort zone and travel solo. Or so I thought.
I was told by my friends that they found it brave to go travelling solo but, unless you have been on a group tour before, you just don’t realise that you’re never alone.
Travelling with a big group of people, around 30-40 on some trips – people come solo, some travel with their other halves or with friends, but at the end of it all you become one big family.
A great benefit of going on group tours is that you can wander off solo on a city stop, and at the end of the day you can come back to your new friends.
One thing that I didn’t realise before booking my trip, was that Topdeck are an Australian company. A lot of people from Down Under use the company to travel around Europe – I turned out to be the only British person on my tour.
As the only ‘pommy’, I learned a lot of Australian slang that summer. “Have you got any thongs I can borrow”, took on a whole different meaning.
Speaking of lingo, Topdeck colloquialisms like ‘Whatʼs Onʼ sheets, Optional Activities, Rooming Lists and the Trip Song, will become the everyday norm on the road.
Every Topdeck trip comes with an incredibly organised Trip Leader, some who speak several languages – and a talented Coach Driver that can navigate a heavy coach around the craziest of bends. The Crew work so hard to make sure your Europe trip is the most unforgettable experience.
More often than not, we associate music with memories, which brings me to the Trip Song. Be it an old classic or a current chart topper, a cheesy sing-along or a bangin’ tune – it will forever be linked with your tour.
Your Trip Song will be played for your rest stops, to wake you up on long coach rides, and requested at the bar for everyone to come together and sing along to.
Nothing quite prepares you for the emotional trigger when you hear the song at the end of the trip and the nostalgia when you’re back at home. It stays with you forever.
The memories I made on my first Topdeck trip are forever ingrained in my mind.
The incredible feeling of seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
Wandering around Paris at 2am with my new family looking for a taxi back to the hostel.
Finding out I graduated university just as I stepped off the coach to the most serene views in Lauterbrunnen.
The picture-perfect sunset after a five-course meal at a Tuscan winery.
Cycling around the beauty that is Amsterdam.
Drinking a cold beer on the streets of Berlin for our last night together as a Topdeck group.
I remember them all as if it was yesterday.
For those who have been on a Topdeck before, I think we’d agree there is no feeling quite like your first trip.
There’s beauty within the naivety of having not travelled much before, and the child-like wonder of having the world as your oyster. Plus, having a new-found family beside you to experience it all with, just adds that extra level of fun.
Did I ‘find myself? Hell yes!
As cliché as it is to say, I found out what my own personal strengths were – even more so than at university.
I learned how to be independent; to be comfortable with my own company; realised that not everything will go to plan; and that there is always something new to uncover.
I sculpted the foundations for my future solo travel plans and caught the travel bug. Hard.
And thanks to my first Topdeck trip, group travel played an important part of those plans.