The first time I properly ‘travelled’ without my parents was in the year between school and university. Being the ripe old age of 19, naturally, I thought I was more than old enough to organise, book, pay for and stay alive during this four-week trip around Central and Southeastern Europe. To help us on our way, my friend (Mandy) and I decided to purchase the Lonely Planet guide ‘Europe on a Shoestring’; we had been saving for months before the trip only having managed to stockpile no more than £1000 each from salaries of £6-£7 an hour and, clearly, no idea how to save. So, there we were with more money in our bank accounts than we had ever had in our lives, a Lonely Planet Guide, a Map, my laptop, Hostelworld.com and a mountain of expectations.
Firstly, we knew that we wanted to go somewhere where there would be a lot of Australian travellers. We opened the map and, very randomly, chose a few places that were close to one another around the islands of Croatia, starting in Split. We packed our backpacks in the morning of August 2nd 2013 and were taken to the airport by my parents who were, understandably, terrified that this was the last time they were ever going to see us. As Mandy and I stepped into the airport we felt the shackles of parental control burst open so, being very proud of ourselves that we had managed to get through check-in and security, we headed straight for Wetherspoons for our first pint as travellers. By the time we sat down on the ‘Whizz Air’ plane it was 11 am and the only thing we had consumed were two pints so, naturally, we thought it would be a good idea to carry on and drink some “tinny’s” on the plane. Unfortunately, Mandy and I were not sat next to each other on this flight. Rather than sitting next to me, she positioned herself beside an attractive blonde boy who we ended up calling Spewy Stewy as he was sick all over himself and Mandy half an hour into the flight. I, due to the beers on an empty stomach, do not remember the journey and only regained cognitive function, and a huge headache, when we arrived in the Hostel in the center of Split. Although that night we had planned to immerse ourselves into the Croatian culture by partaking in a pub crawl, instead, we slept until the memories of our first journey were forgotten.
From our disastrous first night in the busy city of Split we travelled to the islands of Hvar, Korcula, Brach and finally to the medieval city of Dubrovnik. It was everything we had hoped for and more. The mix of Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque architecture along with the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea cured any hangover we thought we had; although now that I am well into my 20’s I realise that I did not even know what a hangover was in 2013. Not only was the scenery beautiful, Croatia also lived up to our expectations by offering a splattering of Australian travelling boys around every corner, Spewy Stuey being one of them who, after explaining to us why he was in such a bad way on the Whizz Air flight, preceded to be Mandy’s holiday romance for a number of days. Although saying goodbye to the old towns, terrace lakes, cobbled streets and Spewy Stewy was heartbreaking, after drinking around 5 shots of Raki every night and many carafes of Croatian wine, we were ready to travel to Montenegro to relax and detox in its Old Town Hostel.
Little did we know, the Old Town Hostel was the one and only party hostel in the whole area, offering free vats of sangria and beer every night before taking the guests on a guided bar crawl around the city. As we didn’t want to be rude, we partook in everything on offer, hoping that on our final stops in Bosnia and Serbia we could cleanse our livers ready to arrive home to our worried parents. The last few days of our trip were bittersweet. Mandy and I had spent four weeks in each other’s pockets, having the most freedom and fun we had ever experienced and being so close that we were asked more than ten times whether we were a couple. From being vomited on in a cramped plane cabin to running away from an angry Serbian lady on a barge club, we had learnt to survive on our own and will continue to travel together until we once again find Mandy’s love, Spewy Stuey.