It’s been a while since I did a #throwbackthursday post. So I suppose this is a throwback to my throwback posts, as well as being my ultimate throwback post because this one’s about the first time I ever went abroad.
I was actually a late bloomer to travel. Being from the literal middle of nowhere (eight miles off the north coast of Scotland definitely comes under that category) makes it rather difficult to be a traveller.
Then, at the tender age of 13, I got the opportunity to go to Switzerland with the Girl Guides during the summer.
I knew nothing about Switzerland. I’d always had an interest in “the world” – I don’t think anywhere had particularly crept onto my bucket list as a child apart from Disney and probably Australia (I always did have an obsession with Aussie animals and we learned about Australia at primary school!), but I loved maps and was known for my unnatural knowledge of geography and capital cities.
In fact, geography was my favourite subject at school right up until I hit secondary school and it was all about rock formations and the earth. I wanted to do geography, dammit, not geology!
Of course, Switzerland is a geologist’s dream, but even though I would clearly never be destined to be a geologist, I was so blown away by that trip that I don’t think I could have started off with a better country.
We went to Adelboden, a charming ski resort town with alpine chalets and mountains. Basically: exactly what you picture Switzerland to be.
Let’s start at the beginning, though – because the journey to Switzerland is one of the longest journeys I have even done TO THIS DATE. We started off in Orkney, and after a ferry trip and overnight stay in Thurso (along the coast from John O’ Groats), we drove to Switzerland.
The bus journey, including the ferry to France, took 27 hours.
On the way, we picked up another Girl Guides group from Fife, and I remember them being incessantly annoying for virtually the entire journey and on the occasions we saw them, though I’m certain they probably thought the same of us.
Highlights of the journey included a trip to McDonald’s (really – Orkney doesn’t have a McDonald’s and some people had never had it before!) and a drive through a long tunnel somewhere in Switzerland because most of us had never been in one!
Unfortunately, my first steps in a foreign country were unglamorously to some toilets in France.
I can’t remember exactly what we did once we got to Switzerland, but through some googling I know that we went to Oeschinen Lake, where we went toboganning. We went whitewater rafting somewhere and one of our Guide leaders fell out of the raft. We took a boat trip on another lake and were amazed by a boat we passed shaped like a dragon.
We went to a wood carver and got personalised “tree” keyrings (I still have mine somewhere, I attached it to a chain which was never away from a pair of “skater punk” trousers). We very excitedly went to an outdoor swimming pool, because we’d never seen one before. We took a cable car to the top of a mountain and saw people yodelling (a bit more cultural than outdoor swimming pools). I bought a newspaper and pretended I could read German. We spent evenings being stupid in the hostel, and during one of those saw one of the best thunderstorms I’ve seen to this day.
Most of the people I was with had never even left Orkney before, and it was a really fun and interesting experience for all of us. And to be honest, I might not have realised it at the time, but it did plunge me into an insatiable interest in the world around me.
It also kickstarted my love of mountains, which makes this a good time to rediscover the photos from this trip because I’ve just returned home from an incredible time in the Canadian Rockies which really is one of the most spectacular parts of the world! And let’s face it – who doesn’t love mountains?
What was the first country you visited? Was it somewhere you wanted to visit?