I began thinking about traveling about a year ago. Before I almost never went on vacation, I was abroad only once in my whole life (a week in Vienna, Austria). So there were a few “first time” moments in the last months …
July 2014 – First time sleeping outside
I stumbled upon videos on youtube about trainhoppers in the States about a year ago. Not what I wanted to do but I found it quite interesting and with the help of google I found some sites and blogs about travelling and the more I read, the more I became interested in that kind of nomadic lifestyle.
I signed up at some forums and spend hours of reading posts and articles.
Then, one night summer last year (2014) after a few beers I just grabbed my 20-year old sleeping bag (a gift from my parents as I was still in school) and a sleeping pad (that I got from a friend who didn’t need it anymore years ago IIRC, never used it) and went to the garden outside the house where I’m living to just try it out: sleeping outside.
First night outside. Strange noises. Somewhere something is rustling. I woke up a few times during that night, but eventually I fell into deep sleep and was woken up by a wonderful sunrise.
That was one night and I really liked it, but I wanted to try it a few more times. Being not that young anymore I had to figure out if I can do it a few days in a row without developing backache or other discomfort. No problems. In the following weeks I slept more times outside than in my bed.
September 2014 – First time traveling abroad alone
Never (really) being abroad before, the first foreign city on my way westward was Venlo. I only had a break for about 30 minutes there and then headed to Eindhoven by train.
As I was there it really got me, all the people speaking a language I don’t quite understand, everything is a bit different than in the country I’m from.
For example, it’s much more common here to go by bike everywhere (to work, going for groceries, meeting friends) in the Netherlands as it is in Germany. You see people riding bikes everywhere. There are broad lanes reserved for bikes on almost every street, in pedestrian areas pedestrians and bike riders get along much better than where I’m from. People are texting on their smartphones while riding bikes (without causing accidents), giving the social other a lift on the bike, etc. It’s amazing.
Loved it. I explored Eindhoven and I had a smile on my face all the time. Despite the blisters I got due to new, not yet broken in shoes.
September 2014 – First time spending a night in a hostel
It was not really the first time I spent in a hostel. Of course I was in hostels before as I was in school. But back then we were there all together as a class. This time it was the first time as a backpacker, alone.
As I arrived in Eindhoven, I had no clue where to sleep that night. I knew there was a Safestay hostel somewhere but that was it. As it became late afternoon I ordered a beer at a pub and searched for hostels online using my smartphone.
There was a Safestay indeed but it advertised with being in a beautiful, quite landscape (read: far away from city center), so I searched for another one.
And found the Backpacker’s Bed and Breakfast, which turned out to be five minutes away from where I was sitting. Nice.
There the first time I said what I said so many times afterwards: “Hi! I’m searching for a bed for tonight …”
I read much about staying in hostel’s dorm room before, so I was kinda prepared. Just be open minded, friendly and have a smile on your face. There was one guy in my room already and I just introduced myself, we shook hands and I began making my bed. He was a friendly guy from Scotland. Second time I was in my room I met another (also friendly, but rather quite) guy from France.
After putting all my “valuables” (sleeping bag, tarp, etc.) in a locker provided, spend some time in the city and had some dinner at a takeaway, I went into my room and after not long, I fell asleep. I really didn’t know how it would be to sleep in a room with (then as I came back) 4 other strangers, but turned out I had no problems with it – and never had afterwards.
That and one time later were the last times I put something in a locker, by the way. All my really valuable things (wallet, smartphone) I had with me all the time, anyway. So after that, I just left my stuff in the dorm room all the time. Never anything was stolen till now.
September 2014 – First time on a ferry
Having spend a few days in continental Europe I finally arrived in Calais. After (unsuccessfully) trying to buy a travel adapter (for my phone charger) in Calais city center I went back to the train station again and from there to the P&O ferry terminal. I bought a ticket there and boarded as foot passenger. Not advisable by the way: the ticket costs 35 €. The same as a Megabus coach ticket from Cologne to London incl. ferry. WTF?
Anyway, it was the first time I was on a ship of that kind and on the sea. Weather was sunny and there was not much wind, so the passage was quite pleasant. And I’ll never forget seeing the white cliffs of Dover for the first time in real life.
September 2014 – First time in England
My first hours in England I spend walking up from the Dover docks to city center, changing money (I only had Euros with me), getting something to eat and searching for a hostel using my smartphone. Found the Castle Inn Backpacker’s hostel and with the last battery power my GPS led me to the right street.
The guy at the reception was really friendly and I booked a private room (only 5 quid difference to a dorm room bed). So the first night in England was the only night I had a private hostel room so far. Only downside was that I didn’t manage to close the room’s window, so it was also the only night I slept in my sleeping bag on a bed.
November 2014 – First time hitchhiking
I planned to travel by hitchhiking now and then in England but somehow it didn’t came to it. Either buses/coaches were so cheap (about 7-10 quid for an hour trip) it didn’t make sense to wait for a ride or I wanted to cover quite a distance overnight.
So the first time hitchhiking happened back at home, literally 30 minutes away from where I life at the moment. Went from my home to the next rest place at the Autobahn A3. It’s not a gas station, only a rest place with a McDonald’s on it. It was Nov 1st, holiday in Germany and a Saturday, so it was quite slow. But I got a ride within 1.5 hours, which is not a long wait I guess given the circumstances.
A BMW driver coming from the fast food waved me over to his car. He was quite friendly, my gut feeling was good and so I put my backpack in the trunk (I know – you shouldn’t do this but there were no valuables in it) and got in the car. Turned out the driver was on his way to a photo shooting in the Netherlands. We had a nice conversation about his holidays in Alaska a few years back and my backpacking trip to England. After about 40 minutes I was in Cologne. First time hitchhiking was exciting and I’ll definitely do it again …
January 2015 – First time spending a night in a squat
After spending NYE with friends in Bradford at the beginning of my second trip to UK I had the opportunity to meet someone I know from a travelling/squatting forum in Bristol. So I headed there and was fascinated by that city instantly. (It was a lot warmer than in North England, too). Found two very nice hostels (Rock’n’Bowls and Full Moon) and spend a few days exploring the city. Then finally I met Sofi, we had a cider and a really nice conversation. After that we planned to get something to eat, but on our way she met a few friends and got word that another good friend was in town. She asked me if it was okay with me to search for him and of course it was. After a while strolling through Bristol we eventually found him and his girlfriend. After a while of talking I was asked if I want to accompany them to their camp site and I thought “well, why not”.
Turned out the camp site was in fact a squat, an abandoned factory with a lot of caravans and vans in and around it. First time I had to climb through a hole in a fence to visit someone’s home. 😉 Met a lot of fascinating people there, the next days were the most exciting ones I had so far. The second day we came from a club late at night (or better: early in the morning) and I spend the rest of the night in a caravan there.
The last evening/night I spend in the squat there was a party. Good music, a lot of talking with interesting people around a fire pit , a lot of drinks (etc.). Spend the second (rest of) night there in a caravan. I’ll never forget those days.
January 2015 – First time at a beach
Having spend about a week in Bristol I decided to go to Brighton, which is a very nice town directly at the beach in South England. First time I was at a beach. (Mildly interesting, I know. Just for completeness …)
January 2015 – First time making money on the road and spending a night outside
Brighton was nice, but quite slow this time of the year. So after two nights I decided to go back to Brisol. Arrived there at about 2am and I thought it to be a bad idea to book a hostel bed just for a few hours. If I could check in that late, anyway. So I walked up Stokes Croft, got a few cans of cider and sat down in front of the Marks & Spencer in city center.
Spend most of the night there, went up Union Street a few times to the ruin of St. Peter’s Church (where the bushes served me as toilet). At about 4am a man was walking by, turned and headed in my direction. I was like “uhm, what is he about” … Well, he gave me a pound and while moving on he asked if I’m homeless. I replied “not really” and he said “I am. Cheers.” and gave me a thumb up. First time I made money on the road.
Later than, as I came back from “toilet” another time, the place I used to sit was occupied and I proceeded to another location. Put my backpack down in front of an abandoned shop, sat there for a while before I fell asleep on top of my backpack. Slept for about 40 minutes I guess, then woke up because I got cold. First time sleeping outside, while not really sleeping rough, though.
January 2015 – First time “busking”
Back in Bristol I met the people I knew from the squat again, busking at Bristol Harbour. I sat with them a few times there and at another places. Not really busking myself, since unfortunately I don’t play an instrument – yet. But it was fun anyway. 🙂
March 2015 – First time at a sand beach
In March I went for a short 4-day trip to London and Bournemouth. Being at a beach before in Brighton, this was my first time at a sand beach. Both days I was there weather was quite nice, not warm enough to take a bath, though. But I walked a bit in the water. Well, again, mildly interesting – but it was another first time.
March 2015 – First time sleeping rough in public
Coming from Bournemouth I arrived in London at about 6pm and decided to explore the city a bit more. I came along (and took some photos of) a squat in Pall Mall – which is a quite noble area, just a minute away from Trafalgar Square. I got something to eat, chatted with a few people and eventually it got really late and I got tired. Had no nerves anymore to search for a hostel’s dorm room bed online, let alone walking there. Also, decent hostels tend to be expensive in London on weekends, especially Saturday night.
I had all the gear needed with me, so I decided to give it a try: sleeping rough in London.
I chose a spot just a minute away from Victoria Coach Station, where I noticed people sleeping almost every evening I was around there. First I sat down on my backpack for about half an hour and watched people and buses passing by all the time. I felt quite save and since other people were already sleeping there for some time I figured out that I most probably wouldn’t be hassled by police.
After one of the guys sleeping there made me aware that I was sitting quite near a corner that was regularly used as “toilet”, I relocated a few meters more to the left, rolled out my sleeping pad and bag and after about 40 minutes I finally fell asleep. Woke up two times during that night (it was still quite cold) but basically I slept well and was quite relaxed at 5am. Packed up and went to Victoria Station to get a cup of coffee.
More “first times” to come …