At my university, we had a month off classes in April that was supposed to act as a study period before exams in May. For once in my life I was not concerned with grades (being on exchange meant I was on a pass/fail system), so my friends and I decided to travel around and ignore our classes.
We caught a bus to Paris (seriously, I can’t handle the travel options available overseas). Travelling on a bus for an extended period of time lost any allure when I spent 10 hours getting to Glasgow, but again I was swayed by the price tag (£20 from London to Paris!). The bus ride was, as expected, rather awful, but that was forgotten once we arrived and got terribly lost, fell asleep outside the Notre Dame, and wandered the streets for about 8 hours til we finally found our hostel. Which was literally a block away from the metro. Pro-tip for future Clemmie: know where you’re going before you go there. Our time in Paris was brief: we mostly walked around the streets – if it’s not obviously yet, we had very little money to spend on anything other than food or accommodation. We did go to Disneyland Paris which was wonderful, and we disney-bounded as our favourite characters.
After Paris, we flew to Rome where we had a much easier time finding our way around. At our hostel we befriended our roommates and explored the city with them. There was a Frida Kahlo exhibit going on so (all of us being art nerds) we went to see her paintings. From Rome, we took a train to Florence and had a week there. Florence was absolutely beautiful. Nothing dramatic or particularly noteworthy happened, it was more like snapshots from a cheesy rom-com (but between a group of platonic friends). The first night we bought a bottle of terrible €3 wine, and wandered the streets of Florence, picking up other tourists as we wandered. Our final day in Florence was actually spent on a day trip to Venice (again, spent wandering due to our finances), and that night back in Florence we hiked up a hill and watched the city at night.
There’s something about travelling that turns everyone into a social butterfly – nearly everyone we met immediately wanted to be friends. Travel friendships have a kind of ephemeral beauty – for a week we would do everything together, and then we’d move on with our respective plans and never see each other again. As a shy, studious NZer, it’s unlikely that I would have met or befriended any of these people in my everyday life. I’m forever grateful that my time travelling forced me out of my shell and taught me how to be both social and self-sufficient.