Some memories stay with you a lifetime. I remember all my trips, but my first one comes to mind without thinking about it too much. My first time abroad was when I was 17 and clueless about travelling. It only got better from there.
Nowadays, toddlers travel to more than 3 continents. That’s a clear sign of a shift in culture. But, in my defense, travelling has become more accessible than ever before.
I envy all these lucky kids, who have seen the Maldives 3 times more than I have (I haven’t been there) or that go on their first American road trip before they turn 2. Makes me want to condemn my parents and ask them when were they thinking 25 years ago. But, I won’t. They tried their best and have always (almost always) supported me in my travels. Not too much financially, but in spirit. And that’s what’s important. Not like when I was participating in a beauty pageant in Thailand and got only 50 Euros pocket money, from a stranger.
But that’s a story for another day. Back to my first time abroad.
The year was 2007, and it was the year Romania had become part of the European Union. It was for the first time when Romanians were able to travel to the EU without a passport, using only the ID.
The first country I visited abroad
And the first country I visited abroad was Greece.
Back then, Greece was a mainstream destination for Romanians. I don’t think I’ve met a Romanian who hasn’t been to Greece at least once.
It was a camp organized by a French teacher in my high school. I studied German, but these kinds of trips were for anyone that wanted to join. I used to love camps when I was in middle school, but I had never been to one abroad, so I had no idea what to expect. But it didn’t matter, because my friends and colleagues were also coming.
I remember the trip to get to the camp like a nightmare. It was a bus, from Bucharest to Chalkidiki, Greece. That’s a bit further away than Thessaloniki, a city in the northern part of Greece.
The bus ride took over 12 hours, and it was terrifying. That’s when I discovered my legs get swollen during long bus rides (which also happens during flights).
Once we got there, I discovered a beautiful beach right accros the street from the camp. But to my surprise, the camp was very big, but with a rigid schedule.
A children’s camp in Greece
The camp had dozens of bungalows. They would fit 10-16 children in one hut. Each bungalow had bunk beds and no windows to close.
Upon arrival, all new kids in the camp were summoned to the gathering area, when we were assigned a chaperon. She was 16. It was almost ironic how we, a group of 17-year-old girls, were assigned a 16-year-old chaperon.
My friends and I were put in the same bungalow, and I chose the lower bed, next to the window from the opposite side of the door. We were supposed to store our luggage under the bed, as there were no closets.
That’s when I used a luggage for the first time. I still have it. It’s orange and it’s almost twice as big than a carry-on (the small one that you are allowed on cheap, low budget airlines these days).
I remember a lot of details from that camp, but some have blurred out.
What I remember from my first time abroad?
It was some sort of English camp. We were Romanians, talking in English with the staff from the camp, and they were Greeks, trying to control a massive crowd of kids and teenagers.
In the camp, the youngest child must have been 5 years old. It was a wide range of ages and nationalities.
We were not allowed to smoke. The Greeks were freaking out about cigarettes and how we could start a wild fire. As you know, Greece has problems with wild fires. But we would hide in tree houses, kids playground houses, behind unused bungalows. One evening, we sneaked out of the camp and went to the beach to watch the sea and smoke. The second time, I was caught. It wasn’t pretty, but at least I wasn’t sent home.
Girls and boys weren’t allowed to get too close to each other. The supervisors would whistle each time something looked fishy. And they would whistle a lot. Everywhere. All the time.
The program was rigorous. Wake up. Breakfast (bread, butter and nutela, which the chaperon was preparing for us, and milk), morning gathering, beach hour, pool hour, hobby hour, shower time, free time not too much. When it was pool time, the Romanian girls weren’t allowed to be there at the same time as the Romanian boys. I don’t know why.
There were a few day trips during the camp. One was to someplace near Mt. Athos, where women aren’t allowed to go. So I and my friend wandered around the area. We found a small cigarette store. We decided to buy 7 different packs, just to try them out. The scene was hilarious, as you can imagine two girls pointing at cigarette packs and nodding their heads. I don’ t think it was more than 17-20 Euros. And don’t worry, we shared some with our other friends. Basically, we all had packs hidden in our beds and luggage. The good thing is that our French teacher was pretending we are innocent. Even when we accidentally found a pack under a pillow. She just put it back.
To conclude my story about my first time abroad, I have to say it was a fun experience. But it also made me realize I was way too big for camps.
Oh, and it wasn’t as you see Greece in pictures. It was somewhere in the middle of nowhere, with an average small beach, and the sea had a dark green colour. Nothing magical, nothing like in the picture. Lots of olive trees, though.
I have probably more silly details and anecdotes about my first time abroad, but I think these are the essential details that paint the picture. Let me know, in the comments, when was your first time abroad? Where was it and how old were you?