It was July 4th 2004 and I was getting ready to set off on a backpacking adventure that would shape my life choices for years to come. It was set to be one memorable, everlasting experience, taking in the sights of Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey on my very first Interrail journey through Europe – and I was just 17.
Being so young, I had to give my parents a detailed itinerary – it listed everything from flight and train times, to where I would be spending the night, but my parents really should’ve known that adventures can’t be planned to such fine detail. It was bound to go wrong, as all good plans do but I left thinking I was about to visit just Barcelona and travel around Italy by train.
Date: Sunday 4th July 2004
Incidentally the film Eurotrip was released (June 25th) just a few days before my own trip, and to get us in the travel spirit we watched the film the night before at the cinema. On Sunday evening, my travel companion Danny arrived late, and instead of catching the Metro to Manchester city centre we instead needed to get dropped off. We hadn’t even left yet, but the plan had already failed.
That night we travelled by National Express coach via central London, to Stansted Airport arriving at 2am, during which I wrote my first journal entry where I promised myself that “I would write a daily journal and not to go home early”. Once at Stansted Airport, we found a free spot next to ‘Tie Rack’, rolled out our sleeping bags and attempted to get some rest. The airport was actually quite busy, with people sleeping everywhere and the cleaning machines out in full force with the highly annoying ‘beep, beep, beep’ warning siren.
Date: Monday 5th July 2004
While I was attempting to sleep, Danny was messing around with his film roll camera (do these still exist?) and getting stressed as it didn’t seem to work. Don’t know what he did as sleeping took priority for me but in the end it worked!
At 4am, I was rudely awakened by the staff at Tie Rack pulling up their shutter, but so were all the other travellers and within minutes, sleeping bags had been rolled up, bags had been gathered and the airport suddenly became alive with people heading towards their designated check-in desks. We did the same. I had never travelled with a backpack before, and after so many online articles about what to pack and what size rucksack to bring, I ended up with a 60+10 litre rucksack, weighing 13.5 kg and filled with what I later discovered to be mainly useless and unnecessary stuff.
Next was the security check. The x-ray machine showed Danny had left a small pair of nail scissors in his hand luggage – these got confiscated. I on the other hand, had accidently left a 3 inch blade scissors in my hand luggage, but because I innocently leant over the glass wall and gave my bag a nudge when it had got stuck between the ‘all clear’ and ‘requires a search’ conveyer belts, I got away with it. I was totally clueless to what I had done until on the plane itself.
Next… “Heavy and Hot”…
Stansted Airport at 2am
The travel itinerary that was given to my parents which they expected me to follow