Wanderlust

I was 19 years old and I was studying archaeology at university. I had always been interested in other cultures – obvious due to my choice in degree – and I wanted an excuse to travel the world as a job. The idea sounds very appealing, right? I soon realised that archaeology was less Indiana Jones or Lara Croft and, well, different (and much more safe). Becoming an archaeologist meant that I would be literally digging through the past, analysing every thing I discover, asking questions, answering question unanswered. However, there really wasn’t going to be a job that allowed me to travel to all parts of the world and work on different sites.

So I was in my second semester of uni when I got an email asking for applicants to a program held in Italy. The program was for the conservation and preservation of various artefacts. On a whim I filled out an application form and a few weeks later I got a reply – I was accepted in to the program! The next few months before I left was spent scrambling to organise the trip, and one of the most exciting things I have ever received in the mail – my passport!

Before I knew it I was on the biggest plane I had ever seen flying across to the other side of the world. A flight to Europe from Australia is LONG. This particular journey took 41 hours. I had suddenly been to four places I had never been before; Sydney, Taipei, Abu Dhabi, and Rome! It was difficult to sleep on the plane over because I was so excited to get there. When I heard the captain announce our descent I immediately looked out the window and saw snow-capped mountains; another first. There was a smile on my face after this point which would not go away. I could see villages, I could see Italy. With my own eyes.

Once I got off the plane I was no longer anxious about getting through the airport, to the train station, or even how I was going to get to San Gemini at 8:30pm at night. There were many ways to get to Termini Station from the airport but I thought the safest for a newbie traveller would be to take a cab. On the way to the train station I got my first glimpse of Rome, which included the Colosseum at night-time. This was absolutely amazing to me. I had not been in Rome for an hour and I had already experienced seeing the Colosseum with my own eyes. I felt the same thing the entire time I was in Italy, like I was home. I think that everybody’s first overseas trip is always the most memorable, it leaves a special place in your heart. After navigating the train station, getting confused by the tickets, and reading the signs wrong, I finally made my way to the right train and found my seat. The train was leaving at 9:30pm. I was extremely tired by now, with only a few hours sleep during my 40 hour journey, and I was struggling to stay awake. Luckily, somehow, I made it to Terni Station without falling asleep. I felt relief as I stepped off the train. Finally, I am here, I thought. Except I soon realised that the journey was not over.

I had not eaten or slept. My phone was dead. Payphone wasn’t working. Bus was not running. I used all my cash for the taxi & train ticket. It was 11pm. There was not a taxi in sight. I guess this was ‘the straw that broke the camels back’ if you will. So I did what any first time solo international traveller would do. I went to the train station toilets and cried. I got over that quick because I realised it was going to get me nowhere.  I grabbed all my stuff walked outside and found an ATM just around the front of the building, and by the time I had money out a taxi had pulled up behind me. Hallelujah! The taxi driver took me up to the square in San Gemini and let me out. I had realised that I had not even thought of what I would do when I got there. There were no instructions on where to go.. I was planning on getting there, well not so late. It was 11:30pm by now. I saw a few steps that were big enough for me to lie on and hauled my bags over there. I figured everyone else attending the course would be sleeping by now. All of a sudden a crowd of people came streaming out of a restaurant on the other side of the square and I could hear American accents. I figured it would do no harm to walk over there and see if that was my group and thank the heavens it was.

The first thing I did was laugh. I could not believe my luck to begin with, then I realised I was worried for nothing – this country is someone else’s home, someone who would think Australia was a big scary confusing place. From then on I took everything that happened in my stride. I was not anxious or scared again. For the next six weeks we studied, and travelled, learned new things, ate gelato and pizza. For the first time in my life I had felt energetic, free and truly happy, like I had woken up from a dream and this was where I was meant to be. I did not know it at the time but I was in total wanderlust. I realised when I got home that all I wanted to do was explore new places. I would get this feeling in my chest. It was like a newly discovered need. Something that I couldn’t live without. I needed to travel to be happy. To be alive.

Siena
Siena
Pienza
Venice (2)
Venice
Florence
Florence
Montepulciano
Montepulciano
Somewhere in Tuscany
Somewhere in Tuscany
Vatican City
Vatican City
Colosseum
Colosseum

2 Replies to “Wanderlust: how I caught the travel bug”

  1. I like your comment about Italy being someone’s home, and they might find Australia a scary place, that is so true!
    I remember the first morning of my backpacking trip to Istanbul, sitting down to a breakfast of tomatoes, olives and cucumber, and being freaked out: what sort of breakfast is this? Culture shock hit! I thought I’d made a terrible mistake, I couldn’t eat cucumber for breakfast, it was all too different, I couldn’t be a carefree world traveller. Then I went out and explored Istanbul, I ate Pide and simit (sesame breads), drank apple tea and realised how amazing the world is! Strange food is amazing food! That breakfast was just what Turkish people have in place of cornflakes. I’d caught the travel bug! and now, cornflakes seem weirder than the ‘real food’ of a Middle Eastern breakfast!

    1. It is amazing the way we define what is and is not normal for something as simple as breakfast! I was the same at first, but then I realised I’m actually getting to experience culture and not just see a place! 🙂

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