Side travel – where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and done

Getting into the study exchange program meant that I would have exactly two months before starting study at the University of Bradford in England. I couldn’t stay in Brisbane and just count down the days until university started. I had to begin my journey. I told my friends that I was planning to leave earlier than expected. The European summer had to be experienced and endured and my plan was to skillfully escape the Australian winter. When telling my family they were first concerned about my country hoping expectations. Ideas about travel groups and Contikis were tossed around. I soon became adamant that pre-made plans, consultations, compromises and potential arguments was not what I wanted. After promises to email, skype and facebook often my family soon came around.

The first destination that I was going to was Croatia. The pictures of clear blue waters, off the shore diving boards, and 7:30pm sunsets had convinced me that Croatia was where I wanted to be. After a 27-hour plane I arrived and unfortunately got terribly lost. Feeling disappointed I walked endlessly while desperately trying to get Wi-Fi. Looking past my mobile I realized the ground was beautifully made of creamy white stone. Wondering where this path would lead me I continued until I was standing on the edge of the water. White stone houses with orange roofs stood on the other side of the water. Behind the houses stood lush green mountains. Surprisingly, my hostel was situated close to this beautiful location. Falling asleep almost instantly. The next day I woke up eager to go to one of Croatia’s well-known national parks. I was expecting long hikes, lovely meadows and a park and picnic area. Once arriving in the park I wondered around enjoying the fresh air. I started hearing shouting and laughing coming from near by. Walking towards the commotion I began to hear a running stream. I soon stood before the most amazing waterfall that I had ever seen. I spent the afternoon exploring, swimming and making friends.

Once returning back to the hostel I booked the cheapest flight that I could find. I was heading to Milan the next day. I woke up late in a panic and somehow managed to make the flight in time. One night was all I was going to spend in Milan but once arriving I did not want to leave. The city lights, the stores, the people. It was so different from Brisbane and I loved it. The next day I stumbled upon Duomo di Milano. I walked inside and stared in wonder at the 1385 magnificently crafted cathedral. While sitting down I payed my respects and continued to thank God for this unforgettable experience.

The next destination I was headed for was Nice in the South of France. The train from Milan to Nice was 8 hours and unlucky for me I ended up accidentally locking myself in the train’s bathroom for a quarter of the journey. The happy outcome of this horrifying experience was that I ended up becoming very close and travelling with the couple that were outside of the bathroom door who were frantically trying to get the conductor.

Nice was exactly how I imagined it. Long beautiful stone beaches, stunning French markets, and absolutely divine food. After enduring as much as I could from the beautiful beach town I decided to say farewell to my friends and catch a train to Valencia within Spain.

Travellers had told me wonderful things about Valencia and I was more then ready to see Spain. When arriving I could not believe how perfect this gorgeous city was. Upon arriving I was happy to see many local Valencians ride their 1960’s bikes down lovely stone pathways. Their front baskets filled with pastries and flowers. In Valencia every corner presented an outstanding monument.

After spending countless days exploring Valencia I was headed for my last destination before returning to England, Barcelona.

My boyfriend had always wanted to visit Barcelona so we made plans to discover the electrifying city together. After 4 weeks of staying in youth hostel after youth hostel, I was absolutely shocked when finding out that my parents had booked me a hotel stay in Barcelona. There was no better feeling then lying down in a double bed knowing that there was a shower just for use only.

Barcelona was extremely lively. There were endless amounts of things to see and do, beginning with adventures though historic castles, then laughing at human sized doll festivals and finally sunbathing and swimming in the crystal clear Barcelona beach.

After a big adventure it was finally time to experience the rest of the European summer in England. I was excited to study through winter in England but I had always been told that the English summer was similar to Brisbane during the wintertime. To my surprise it was completely different. Sure the temperature was similar to Brisbane during the wintertime but the vibe and the atmosphere was completely different in a spectacular way. Parks were filled with families having picnics, riding bikes and having barbeques. Hikers were always on the move to walk through open meadows in the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales. Couples strolled down stunning gardens filled with many colorful flowers, squirrels burying their nuts and sparrows flying from one tree to another. I always had believed that England was an indoor orientated culture. I couldn’t have been more wrong when experiencing the English summer for the first time. Everywhere that I had visited was so different and gorgeous. I am so grateful that these stunning cities exceeded my expectations and taught me that seeing such beauty is a gift that should not be misjudged.