‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ so they say, but we’ll keep these to about half of that so that neither of us are asleep at the wheel here. One picture will be featured in The Scrapbook, as often or as infrequent as whenever, as a means of remembering exactly what was going on at the time it was taken.
Before jumping on the Mega Bus at Glasgow Buchanan Street, I was excited and terrified of the month-long journey which would take my boyfriend, Stewart, and I from one end of Europe and back home again. It’s the kind of experience you build up to your whole life. I’d go as far as calling it the average person’s first independent holiday with their friends (after the obligatory Ibiza trip in the final school year). After a lifetime of mediocre family holidays to countries too hot, the backpacking trip occurs at the closure of the “awkward age”; usually 18-20 after surviving the harsh reality of being too old to play in the water park and too young to have anything other than the single, sacred alcopop passed beneath the table to your fingertips. Family holidays are for novices; backpacking trips are for pros.
With this information in mind, it’s now worth noting how often I had travelled out of the UK prior to our pro-level trip: twice. In my entire existence on planet earth, I had spent a grand total of 10 days outside of my country – both instances of which were amazing but also predominantly supervised:
- A 3-day school trip to Pairs in 2010
- A family holiday to Malaga in Spain, 2014
The desire to travel abroad followed me throughout my teens, mainly because I hadn’t been before. We had great family holidays sharing my grandparents’ static caravan in Pitlochry with the rest of the family in Easter, summer and usually once again before the site closed for winter in October. We also travelled to Centre Parcs quite a few times and it was genuinely wonderful – I never felt like I missed out on holidays growing up because it was still time away from the norm surrounded by beautiful and different scenery with the best kind of people.
However, I was still curious of what lay abroad. And so, with the arrival of the student loan in my second year of university, there was only going to be one way to spend it.
This photograph is of Generator hostel in London. It was taken the day after a gruelling 10-hour bus journey to London Victoria Bus Station which cost each of us a mere £13. (To put this into perspective for you, it costs me £11 to travel from where I live to Edinburgh for the day.) Generator was my first ever experience of staying in a hostel and it set the bar high. At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was to stay in such a clean, friendly and well-equipped place for the price that we did, but you can sure as hell bet I noticed immediately after paying for accommodation in our first foreign city, Rome.
Generator was nice in the sense of it’s location – about five minutes walk from Russell Square Underground station; its interior – modern and colourful until you reached the bedrooms which were crisp white furnishings and wooden flooring; and the useful extras it offered – breakfast for a small extra charge, free WiFi and a tourist information desk where you could buy tickets to all of London’s biggest attractions at discounted prices, there and then. Our bedroom (8-person) contained padlocked crates where you could store your backpacks, and everyone in the room was young, friendly and quite happy to do their own thing without pestering you to join them.
We were leaving the hostel for the day – our first full day – when I stopped Stewart to take this picture (instance no.1 of 12345943 on the whole trip). On this day, we would board the London Eye, visit the London Aquarium, eat a McDonalds looking onto the Themes (the class is just oozing from this situation) and later we’d see Wicked in the London Apollo Victoria Theatre. We would fall out because we realised we couldn’t plan time effectively to make the Wicked showing for the doors closing, and fall back in again by the time the interval arrived because we didn’t actually miss any of the performance. At night, we’d return to our hostel and be absorbed in having phone signal for the last time while it wouldn’t cost us insane amounts for data roaming charges abroad, and in the morning, we’d fall out again because we missed our bus to the airport. Oh boy, the fun never stopped.
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