I’ve been a traveller for most of my adult life. My first trip when I was twenty one.
I quit my job working for a Melbourne private school as a Residential Assistant and swapped the afternoon shift work for the mad streets of London, romanticised boulevards of Paris and the shit box taxis of Bucharest.
I’d made the decision to go to Europe because it was the one thing in my life that I’d always wanted to do that was suddenly achievable. Everyone I knew who’d travelled in Europe, had booked twenty five nights on a Contiki bus and had drank and shagged their way around the continent! whilst I wasn’t opposed to this sort of thing, I wasn’t keen on paying $5,000 for this experience. My mother would never have approved and if I’m honest, me as a twenty one year old wasn’t pulling in the ladies anyway! #dork!
In my extensive pre travel research, I found this other company that nobody had ever heard of called Budget Expeditions. I think I paid $1850 for a forty six day camping trip of Europe…the whole kebab! I was totally scared of sharing a tent with some other dude for such a long time and had no expectations of what camping in Europe would be like. Heck I’d barely camped in Australia let alone overseas. It turned out to be pretty bloody awesome!
Fast forward past the planning phase of this adventure. This was to be my ultimate european trip of a lifetime, that no trip will ever live up to! Im on a bus in London after spending the night in the dankest hostel room in the history of all hostel rooms. I was headed for Dover to catch a ferry across to France. Our tour guide Max was this nutcase Canadian guy who thought he was super funny! Max was the kind of guy that had a personality bigger than his stature. He was quite tall so you can imagine how big the personality was. At first, he hurt my head. Not in a physical sense, he didn’t punch me or anything. His loud voice boomed down the coach microphone and this is where I was introduced to the travel bus traffic light system. Red meant “I am taken, don’t even look at me!”. Amber meant, “its complicated but I’m open to some negotiating” and green flat out meant “right here and right now…lets go!”.
After about two weeks, Max’s humour started to grow on me. Either that or I realised there was no way to avoid his daily performances on the coach mic. I had two choices, conform and enjoy his detailed expositions of past travellers and drunken escapades or go completely and utterly mad trying to ignore him! I chose to conform. This trip was a cultural adventure, obviously, because I was seeing countries I had never been to before. Not only that, there was an array of cultures on the coach itself. I met many people from all walks of life and from all around the world. I actually do love most of the people Ive met on tour and still keep in contact with a few of them.
I shared my tent with an Irish guy, who until he came on this trip, probably only owned one pair of shorts, wore them once a year and had no idea how to walk in flip flops. Socks and sneakers were his choice of footwear for this summer adventure through Europe. I soon taught him how to wear flip flops or as we Aussies call them ‘thongs’. I still remember the look of disgust he gave me when I said to him “Hey Seamus, have you seen my thongs?” to which he replied “thats just dirty Wil! Why would I know where your underwear is!”. At the time I was puzzled and it wasn’t until one of our Canadian travel mates explained to me that Seamus thought I was talking about my G-String, of which I don’t wear…just to be clear. Im definitely a boxers boy!
Seamus also found the sun, in Italy. I have vivid memories of his pasty white body frying on the pebbled beach on the Isle of Capri. Clearly sunscreen isn’t a requirement in Ireland. As a fellow Vampire, I knew all to well to lather myself in SPF 50.
I have loads of stories from this forty six day expedition. One springs to mind right now, as one of those experiences that will never leave you! Its the kind of story you would tell your kids one day. As we entered into Eastern Europe after a few weeks of basking in the Mediterranean sun, we arrived in Bucharest, Romania. We set up camp and settled in, we were here for a couple of nights. A night out was definitely on the cards! The coach driver had offered to take anyone who wanted to, into town. He specified very clearly he was leaving at a certain time because there were laws about how many hours he could be on the road on any given day. I made sure I was there on time. I was thirsty and craved the debaucherous night life Max had promised of Bucharest!
My friendship group on tour, did not make it! I quite clearly remember the bus rolling out the gates of our camp ground with them all chasing after it, hurling profanity at the driver for leaving them behind. With a sigh of disappointment I geared myself up for what Max described as ‘a night that could involve excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures’. I was nervous and excited at the same time! We were dropped in town, as close to the party zone as we could get. We ended up in this fully sick Romanian night club, complete with leather sofas, insane lighting and Romanians draped in plastic pants! Lets just say the locals were a few seasons behind in the fashion stakes.
After a few drinks and some awkward dancing I remember standing at the bar with an American girl, Becky. She was as you would imagine, loud, blunt and very drunk! Within two seconds into an attempted conversation with Becky a local fella sidled up beside her at the bar. He spoke basic english and he was quite clearly intoxicated, stoned and whatever else. He offered to buy her a drink to which she kindly declined and went off to dance with our friends, leaving me standing at the bar alone!
I will never forget this dude, now looking me up and down and saying “well, if she doesn’t want a drink, can I buy you one?”. To this day I still don’t know if I should have been flattered or entirely weirded out. All I did consider was that he probably had plans to spike my drink and rob me of all my money! Perhaps things go whichever way in Romania! Who’s to judge, right? At this point I declared the night over and ushered Becky and another guy from our tour out front to catch a Taxi.
Max had warned us about imposter taxis. Choosing one that wasn’t fraudulent wasn’t an easy task! They all looked fairly legit. We finally found one that looked like a real taxi and to top it off, the driver spoke near perfect English! We gave him the address of our camp ground and he began to drive. The drive in on the coach seemed like a five minute trip, nice and quick. This taxi ride felt like it was going forever! I started to panic when I noticed we were on a dirt road lined with trees, a detail of which I hadn’t noticed earlier on the way into town. I began to panic a little bit more!
My companions also started to become agitated, Becky, in her true American flair started shouting things like “where are you taking us?” and “oh my god, what if he has a gun!”. I wont lie, I was shitting myself at this point!! The driver ignored us and was saying nothing. This is what worried me the most. He kept driving and stared blankly ahead. I thought to myself ‘holy crap, this is my demise, in the forests of Romania, they will never find my body!’. I began plotting to myself, formulating a plan of escape. He wasn’t driving that fast, I could body roll out the passenger door but would I make it? Knowing me, in my awkwardness Id probably be run over by the rear wheels of the car and be killed! How would I save the others? Shit!
It was at this point the car came to a stop and as I looked out the window to my left, realised we were out the front of our camp ground. The doors flung open and Becky scrambled to get out of the car. I also didn’t waste any time, getting out as soon as I could, throwing a handful of notes onto the seat through the window. I don’t know how much we paid him for the ride of terror! I didn’t care, I just wanted the safety of my two man tent! Im not sure if he cheated us and took us the long way or if we were all just completely smashed and let our imaginations get the better of us. It doesn’t really matter, all I know is…a Taxi ride in Romania when you are drunk with Becky, was one crazy arse ride!
Note: the names of people featured in this story have been changed