This weekend marks two pretty exciting milestones for me.
The first being my 25th birthday. I won’t get into it too much now but the thought of turning 25 evokes the fear of God within me.
The second milestone helps to explain who I am now. It was the first time I ever went on an aeroplane and the first time I ever really travelled. I was just about to turn 21.
Some of you may be shocked at how old I was before setting foot on a plane so I’ll try and explain why this was the deal.
Growing up, travel was never really a thought in my family. We never went on any grand trips abroad, we went to the seaside. We found fossils, chilled with all our relatives in a caravan and watched a person dressed as a tiger prance around and call it entertainment (anyone who is familiar with British holiday parks will know exactly what I am talking about here.)
So travel never really seemed like an option, I never even really considered it if I’m honest.
It wasn’t until University when I took a part-time at the Disney Store that an opportunity presented itself.
Disney staff get free tickets to the resorts every year, and mine were about to run out. Not wanting to waste a free trip to Disneyland, I dragged along a friend and we flew to Paris to live the dream – that dream literally was spending my 21st birthday at Disneyland.
Now what you have to remember is how much of a travel novice I was. I literally knew nothing.
I hadn’t even heard of travel vloggers or bloggers and was so naive to pretty much everything I have now come to learn in my travels since.
As you can imagine, this resulted in a pretty memorable and hilarious – if not sometimes downright scary – experience.
Take accommodation, not even considering location or even opportunities for socialising, I went online and booked pretty much the cheapest hotel room I can find. BIG MISTAKE!
Let just say we ended up in a dodgy neighbourhood in the suburbs of Paris where men cooked corn over steel bins in shopping trollies. Not exactly the romantic ideal of Paris I pictured.
Walking home in the dark from that Metro station to our hotel was the scariest thing about that entire trip. One evening a random drunk guy started shouting at us in French and we sprinted the rest of the way back.
We didn’t really know much French, we hadn’t really done any previous research into what to do and had no plans, we were on a budget and had limited time. I’ll tell you what though, we actually had an amazing trip.
I was 20 years old then and now I’m about to turn 25. I have travelled so much since then, but those memories of Paris still come back to me.
Of seeing sights I’d always read about and never thought I’d actually experience, like The Louvre, The Notre Dame and The Eiffel Tower.
Of drinking French wine and eating pastries, channelling our inner Parisians.
Even, for the first time, navigating public transport and letting the sea of a foreign language engulf you. You may not understand anything that is being said, but there is something magical about just sitting there and taking it all in.
Of course, Disneyland was amazing, I mean come on, its Disneyland, but that’s not the point.
I think what I’m trying to say to you all is this. After that first experience, I could have easily have been put off travel.
You may expect every travel opportunity you go on to be perfect. To have the most amazing itinerary packed full of every must-see sight and to have every minute planned. To stay in the best hotel and have everything go easy breezy.
But really, that’s not what travel is about. Perhaps our unrealistic expectations come from social media, or perhaps it’s our eagerness to experience as much as possible in a limited time, but let me just say to you – stop worrying and enjoy the adventure.
If I can make it through Paris as I naive 20-year-old, not knowing what the hell I was doing and still have the most incredible time, you will be fine!
As I write this I am sitting in a hostel in Barcelona ready to see in the big 2-5 the only way I know how – by exploring a new place and living my best life.
So get out there, put down the ridiculous must-see list, and just enjoy the moment.
It’s the little moments that make big lasting memories after all.
I’d love to hear below about some of your travel memories and all-time greatest travel disasters. We’ve all been there haha.
Thanks for reading,
Rebecca Rayner xx