I did my first big international trip (aside from a high school exchange trip to Japan) when I was 22, and that was when the travel bug firmly took root. From then on, each year I would take all my vacation time together in one block and do an international trip, other than the years when illness got in the way. This post is a look at some of the trips I did while I was in my 20s and early 30s.
This photo is from my first trip, which was to Greece and Turkey. My friend and I had done some planning, but there was also quite a bit of just winging it. This was before the days of smartphones, and we had to hunt down internet cafés to get internet access. We weren’t sure if bank machines would be easy to find or if our bank cards would be accepted, so we had traveller’s cheques as our main source of money.
The photo is taken in Pamukkale in Turkey. There are these really cool pillowy-looking calcium formations and mineral springs. To protect the surface they don’t let you wear shoes, and there was a guard who did not hesitate to blow his whistle if anyone did anything untoward. I absolutely loved Turkey. People were really friendly, and there are a lot of really interesting places to visit.
This was from my second trip, and it was a whirlwind blitz hitting up Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Unlike the winging it approach on my first trip, for this one, my friend and I were super-organized so that we could take full advantage of our time in each spot. It was great to have so many different cultural experiences all in one trip.
This photo is from a hostel we stayed at in Gdansk, Poland. It was the one country where we encountered more locals than foreigners staying in hostels. These Polish kids didn’t speak English, but there was an older one who’s not in the photo who was able to do some very basic translation. Throughout my travels, I’ve always found out that language doesn’t have to be all that much of a barrier to connecting with people.
This was my first solo trip, which I did at age 25. For most of the trip I was in France, plus I popped over to London for a few days to visit a friend who was living there at the time. It made for a good first trip on my own, because I spoke enough French to get by, I felt very safe the whole time, and as a white chick I didn’t automatically stand out as a foreigner.
Unlike previous trips that were ultra-low maintenance appearance-wise, for this trip, I actually made an effort, with makeup and jewellery and all that jazz. This photo is in the Marais area of Paris.
This trip was with my boyfriend at the time. We visited his dad in Switzerland and then spent a few days in Amsterdam. This was another trip when I went for presentable rather than scruffy. Because we’d spent hardly any money in Switzerland, in Amsterdam we decided to splurge on a nice hotel, which was a pleasant treat compared to my usual ultra-low-budget hostel travelling style.
This photo is beside a statue of Anne Frank that, if I remember correctly, was right around the corner from the house where she was in hiding. I look rather sombre in the photo, probably because I was annoyed at boyfriend over something or other, but I like the picture because of the statue.
This trip was 2 years after I first got sick, and my illness was in full remission at the time. I went to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. The first two countries I did on my own, and then a friend flew in to join me in Cambodia. This was my first solo trip in an area that involved a little more effort and adventure than going to France. Despite the occasional hiccup here and there, I felt pretty good with the solo travel thing. This trip was full-on scruffy, and when my friend joined me she was rather dismayed at the untamed state of my eyebrows. We went for a pedicure in Thailand, and the pedicurist was clearly very disgusted by my traveller feet, which had gotten pretty nasty from doing lots of walking in dusty/dirty areas in my Teva sports sandals.
This photo is from an ethnographic museum in Hanoi, Vietnam. I was wandering around, checking out the museum, and came across this group of people eating lunch. For whatever reason, they decided to adopt me and wanted me to have lunch with them. Some of them were in charge of the museum, and they were yakking away in broken English telling me about the museum, showing me how to eat properly, and asking me questions about Canada. It was quite the fun little party. I’ve noticed as a solo female traveller that pretty regularly people would take an interest in adopting me.
In Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon, I was staying in a co-ed dorm room in a hostel. I was sitting on my bed reading evening and this guy started talking to me. It quickly became apparent that he was quite delusional. My armchair diagnosis was delusional disorder. He didn’t have the pressured speech of mania, but he didn’t seem to have any interest in putting an end to the rambling. I think I had to pretend to be sleepy to finally get him to stop talking.
So there you have it, a look back at my travels in my 20s and 30s, a fabulous time in my life aside from my first episode of depression. It’s funny (not funny ha-ha) that I used to be so passionate about travelling, and my illness has totally doused that fire. I have good memories from my travels, but looking back at photos doesn’t do anything to reignite that fire.
All photos are © Ashley L. Peterson.
The rest of the “this was me” mini-series can be found here:
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