There are a lot of seasoned travelers in this community, and many of us are running out of space on our passports. Still, no matter how many miles you collect, how high your status, most of us will never forget our first time traveling abroad. Here’s mine:
I participated in an exchange program at the University of Newcastle in Australia. It was my first time flying internationally, and I was beyond thrilled. I chose Australia over Europe because it is farther away, and I figured it would go to Europe all the time when I graduated from college and became a millionaire.
Six months down under.
Orlando to Sydney (via Chicago and LA – this is how you know I was a novice, and broke), in the middle seat on all three flights. I didn’t even notice. I was going to Australia for 6 months!!
Not having to face a language barrier made things much easier, and the Australian people are wonderful. Always a serious student in the States, I actually allowed myself to spend more time diving, surfing (epic fail) and trying to meet Steve Irwin at The Australia Zoo…oh, and I found my palate for wine in the Hunter Valley.
But it was the day-to-day living, the non-touristy things, that really opened my eyes to the beautiful differences in the world:
As my adventure was coming to an end I didn’t want to leave. I started looking into work visas and considering applying for citizenship. In the end I did come home. I needed to finish my degree so I could start making millions and get back to traveling. Returning to the U.S. felt strange at first, but I volunteered in the study abroad office to prepare other students for their adventures. That helped.
My adventures today tend to be a little shorter in duration, but I still enjoy the path less traveled over tourist hot spots. I think that comes from actually living somewhere internationally for my first out-of-country experience.
So, where did you go abroad for the first time? And, more importantly, what did you learn? About yourself? About the world?
Looking forward to hearing your stories!
Hey, KatieC, how did the millionaire thing work out?
Otherwise, a fascinating topic...
For me, well...
First international trip was to England. I was about to hit 40. Mid life crisis? I took my bicycle and followed the Youth Hostels, choosing my route based on them. I started off at Windsor. Road west to Bath. North up through the Cotswolds then to Nottingham. I have family in Derbyshire. Back down to London and continued south to Brighton. Road along the shore and then back up to London. 700 miles in 3 weeks. No tour. Solo. Best vacation I've ever had.
I love everyone's stories. Mine is small. When I was in grade school, we went to Ensenada. We drove. I remember ocean sunsets, horseback riding (bareback) on the beach, and jelly fish. Lots of jelly fish! And campfires. I learned that real Mexican food is nothing like what we eat in the States, and that the locals were kind, hospitable and happy in their strange life. And that a warm breeze, the rhythmic sound of waves crashing on the shore and the muted light of sunset all combine to be a lovely, wonderful thing.
These are some great experiences. I recall my first international business trip very clearly. I had recently started a new job with international responsibilities in Marketing Research for a major drug company.The first Gulf war started the day prior to my departure, so I was a little concerned. I enjoyed a great flight on BA from Chicago to London, was upgraded from Business to First Class, but made the mistake of enjoying a little too much great wine in transit. When I arrived in London, I was glad that I traveled on Saturday night and had a day to recover. I almost got hit by a black cab as I looked the wrong way prior to crossing the street to my hotel.
I traveled to Europe frequently over the next few years and really enjoyed my experiences. Due to terrorism concerns, I flew non US airlines and primarily took trains within Europe. The train from Zurich to Milan had spectacular scenery and Como Italy is still on my bucket list after viewing it from the train. One benefit of travel during that time is that planes and hotels were empty and I always received first class upgrades, During one stay at the Carlton Tower, I was invited to a private party in the restaurant (as a Gold Hyatt member), and listened to very interesting stories from the head chef about famous guests. Madonna was actually using the health club during one of my visits. (Marriott had few hotels in Europe at that time, so I frequently stayed in Hyatt properties). I feel very fortunate to have traveled extensively internationally during the golden years of travel, prior to 9/11 and downgrades in FF and Hotel programs. People everywhere were great.
It is ironic that the only problem I encountered during my travels is when I was detained one time upon entry into London because they were looking for an IRA member with a similar last name. .
It's no surprise that your experiences involved trains, superchief1, and good for you! I've been wanting to train through the Italian Alps. (Actually I did once, but it was overnight in a sleeper car on one of the old Artesia trains). Your experience makes me wanted to do it again, only during the daytime!
And ah yes, the golden years of travel... We're not in Kansas anymore. Alas, unless one is wealthy enough for private jets or the likes of Jumirah, Inter-Continental or Rosewood properties. Well, certainly I'm not!
My first international trip was across the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit into Canada. My mom took us to visit the Jack Minor Bird Sanctuary somewhere in Ontario. I do not remember much about the trip with the exception of reentering the United States and going through Customs. The agent asked if we bringing anything back from Canada and we were not. However, one of my brothers decided to have some fun and asked our mom about the whiskey she had hid. The Customs people tore the car apart looking for the nonexistent whiskey. I do not remember the birds, but I do remember my mom standing next to car crying and the back seat on the pavement at her feet. The interesting thing is that I am quit sure that my mother never consumed alcohol in her entire life. Needless to say, the remainder of the ride home was very unpleasant.
Great question, and thank-you for reminding us of these experiences.
My first was to Europe, the only time I ever did a "Tour"! It was exactly like the famous movie, "It's Tuesday, it must be Belgium", (Loved the movie, hated the experience). It was all "Hurry-up and Wait"! 1973, and like you Katie, I could have cared less, what airline seat I had, I was going to Europe.
The trip was something like 14 days. Everyday, you had to put your bags out, and then get on the bus. Most of the people were "Retirees", and this was their "Trip of their lifetimes", (At the demands of their wives! )
Oh it was memorable, and it was a Globus Tour. Everything was "Cheap", and it was a great way to see places, you did/or did not want to see again. Loved Italy, England, and France. Have now been back over 100 times, and each time is special.
Thanks for the chance to share these memories!
A memorable day outside Florence, Italy, with my late, wonderful wife, Charlotte. We had never seen a "Wine Train"!
First time at The Roman Colosseum, Do I look like a "Tourist", it's 1973, I think I left the slacks in Rome! ( Or should have!)
Again, thank-you for allowing me to remember this wonderful time!
My first int'l trip was when I was in 11th grade, when I was 16 or so. For our school trip we went on something called the March of the Living. I flew from FLL->JFK, where we all met up for flights to Poland. While in poland we toured the concentration camps there, along with holocaust survivors who had been at those same camps. They told us about their experiences there, about their families and friends some who made it, some who didn't. It was an emotional experience to say the least. We were in poland for a week, travelling around the entire country doing this. Something like 10,000 kids my age from all around the world travelling around poland. We eventually all met up at the same time for a ceremony in Birkenau before we all left to travel to Israel for another week. Israel was a bit of a different story. It was a happier time as when we arrived it was the week of Israeli Independence Day. We did bedouin tents, planted trees, all that jazz.
This is a bit of a downer compared to some other first trips, but it was a great experience.
Poland, is no "Downer"! It is a fantastic place to go, especially on a budget. Having been to The Marriott Warsaw, and traveling to Krakow, a few times, my memories are as good here as anywhere. I am not Polish, nor Catholic, but to be in Poland on "All Saints Day", is fantastic. Likewise, the experience at Chopin's home was especially moving.
Yes, I did the "Holocaust", experience, and it was so fantastic to see the Jewish people there, waving their flags, and remembering. (No, I am not Jewish either, but I loved the memorable experience)
Thank-you for sharing your story!
I agree with you, jerrycoin! Poland is BEAUTIFUL, the food is amazing and people were very friendly. Not to mention, everything is so inexpensive. One of my favorite places in Europe.
When I was a toddler, my family lived about 8 miles south of the Canadian border, so I was along for numerous excursions into Canada -- shopping, dining, etc. Although I remember some of what happened on some of those trips, I'm not counting those. My first "real" international experience came when I was 8 years old. My family camped from Georgia to the California coast and back, brought about by my father attending a conference at the Univ. of Arizona in Tucson. In 1963 that vacation was an adventure in and of itself: a 1962 Rambler Ambassador wagon loaded with a family of five, towing a Montgomery Ward (I kid you not) fold-out camping trailer, retrofitted with two 20-gallon water tanks. Along the way we visited many of the major Southwestern US tourist destinations of the day: The Alamo, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park (then SN Monument), and the Sonora Desert Museum.
My mother insisted that we camp at least one night in Mexico, being that we were often within 100 miles of the border on much of the route. At his conference, my father heard of a "campground" near Santa Ana, Sonora, Mexico. It was actually a ranch, the owner of which allowed campers (mostly American) to camp on the property for a nominal fee. Sanitation facilities were primitive -- as was the case even in many American campgrounds in '63 -- but the water was pure and clean, and the host family was congenial and welcoming. My father, a dairy scientist, and the rancher hit it off immediately. The rancher's two sons threw baseballs with my brother and me. And the rancher's wife brought a platter of tacos, enchiladas, and tamales to our campsite, which were the first we'd ever had -- Mexican cuisine had yet to really make it to the deep South. The next day we thanked our hosts, headed west to the Gulf of California, skirted its northern coast, and re-entered the US near Yuma, AZ (with a tourist stop at the old Yuma Territorial Prison).
Amid the current political climate of immigration reform or not, talk of closing borders, etc., I'm glad to have had that experience when I did. We were the foreigners, and we were treated with kindness, respect, and good cheer. I've never forgotten that.
KatieC I failed to add that this is such a great topic. Thanks for stirring the memories!
I went on a few "international" trips to Mexico and Canada with my family when I was young, but my first real experience traveling internationally was to London when I was studying abroad in college.
I lived in North Harrow (one of the further NW Burroughs in London) with these two ladies.
I had just spent the summer interning in NYC and decided London would be a great city to follow. I did the exchange through the Theater department at UofO, even though I was not a theater major, because I wanted to see as many shows as I could in London. And they were amazing. We went to at least on show every week while we were there. I love London and, similar to Katie, thought I would move back and marry a British dude and have kids with adorable british accents. Didn't turn out that way. Hope my American fiancé doesn't' see this! Haha.
melissaerb That photo looks like it could be a Bananarama publicity shot. And I say that as a compliment -- my poster of the cover of their self-titled 1984 LP that spawned "Cruel Summer" still adorns our workout studio.
My first international trip was in 1969, my father was taking part in a Medical Conference Trip to a few European locations so the four of us went along with my Aunt and Uncle who were both in the Medical field at the time.
We toured France, Germany, England, Holland, Belgium, Norway and Sweden for about three weeks flying Pan Am. It was a huge Medical Conference/Tour, but the most remarkable thing I remember from the entire trip was on July 21, 1969 when we were all (conference attendees and family) were in the hotel ballroom in Oslo, Norway watching at something like 2 A.M. when we heard the famous words from Neil Armstrong, "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed". What a night that was and to be in Europe where the BBC was giving us excellent coverage.
To top of the early morning landing of The Eagle, for our continental breakfast some six hours later each roll or pastry was adorned with a small toothpick that held on the top of it the Stars and Stripes. I will never forget that day.
I remember it well as I am still embarrassed at how naive I was.
I was a student and the year was 1969 (June) - Flight from Los Angeles (charter) lands at Gatwick Airport South of London.
Although there is great train transportation (station in airport) our small group was being picked up by bus to be taken to our West End hostel near Lancaster Gate.
(THIS IS THE EMBARRASSING PART) Coach enters on ramp to the motorway (freeway) into London. Not realizing that they drove on the opposite side of the road as we do I jumped out of my seat yelling at the driver he was going the wrong way!!!!
NEEDLESS TO SAY THE ENTIRE COACH STARTED LAUGHING
i remember my first time as a passenger in a car in London sitting in front seat and as we took a turn the car in other direction seemed like a sure accident so i instantly put my feet down hard like i was stepping on a brake and of course there was no issue since yes they do drive on other side of the road
It reminds me of Lloyd Christmas in "Dumb and Dumber", saying "It's all right, I am a limo driver" as he walks to the departure gate, and falls on the runway!"
We have all felt like you, and we were not "Auditioning" for a movie!
Mine was a drive South of the Border to Tijuana. I was 15 years old and spending the summer in LA with my older sibling who lived there. We drove to Tijuana from the Valley, which took forever. Sibling had a fancy little black sports car, but when you're creeping along the 405 at 10 miles an hour, it was kind of a waste. Then we went through border crossing, drove around Tijuana for an hour or so, then drove back to the US without ever stopping the car. I recollection of Tijuana is that every other business seemed to be a proctologist's office. Not sure what that was all about. Haven't been back to Mexico since because Spouse refuses to go there as Spouse thinks it's too dangerous. I disagree, but gotta keep Spouse happy My first "real" international trip was a grand tour of Europe in college for 3 weeks which was quite an adventure.
After having the same thoughts of Mexico and being safe I went down to Puerto Vallarta with some of my golf buddies for a tournament last December and was a bit concerned at first. At the end of the week long trip I decided it was safe, in fact safe enough to take the wife down last month for almost a week staying in Marina Vallarta. Now we didn't go into downtown, but we did walk the streets and did not feel unsafe at any point. Granted, the only night walking we did was from the Marina back to the place we stayed which was about a five minute walk just wanting to be smart and alert.
One of the golfers took his wife down to PVR in June and ventured all over including downtown and found it it be very safe.
Like a few of you, I had a couple trips over the borders of Mexico and Canada when I was little. While I remember bits and pieces of those trips, they weren't very memorable.
The first international trip that had an impact on me, was a trip I took with my father to Jamaica. My family had a big trip planned to Australia and knowing that we'd be diving the Great Barrier Reef, my father wanted us to get our Scuba Certification. We had gone on a few dives off the coast of Maui, but wanted to be better prepared. Luckily enough for me, I was a freshman in high school, and had a few days off around Columbus Day. So off my dad and I went.
We had stayed at the Marriott in Ocho Rios, which, unfortunately is no longer a Marriott Property. While the hotel was great, it seemed like my dad and I were there with honeymooners, which made for some funny looks here and there. It was odd, but it wasn't too bad, we were there to spend time in the water.
The diving was awesome! The water was a constant 85 degrees and super clear. Our certification class lasted for 3 days and was only the two of us and our instructor, Marvin. He had offered to take us around the island, and bring us to the spots most tourists neglect to see. This is where I really began to appreciate being in a new culture. He had taken us to the local restaurants and villages, giving us the real Jamaica. I was able to try real Jamaican cuisine talk with locals and really get a sense of this country. The most memorable experience was driving through a small village as the tiny school was getting out. The little kids had rushed the car screaming "white man!" while this frightened me at first, I realized that they were looking at me the same way I was looking at them, with wonderment and curiosity. This was where my 15-year-old naïve self woke up and realized the life I live is only a tiny grain of sand compared to the rest of the world.
As I am writing this, I am realizing that this is most likely the trip that put the travel bug in me. The desire to see and experience more. Though we went down for Scuba Certification, we took back so much more. It was a rare opportunity that I am glad we took full advantage of.
My first international trip was over 35 years ago. It was a business trip to London. I remember thinking now this is living. That is where my love of travel came from. I moved there 2 years later.
I don't consider travel a luxury It's an education and all young adults should be given the opportunity to learn other cultures other than their own. I sent my daughter to Europe in 6th grade with People to People for a month. We have also hosted 2 French and one German exchange student. I am proud to say she also loves travel like her momma.
My first trip to Europe was a graduation present from high school in 1968. My aunt (that I was named for) and my uncle lived in Saudi Arabia at the time and they gave me a choice of a week in London, Paris, or Rome. My aunt met me in Rome and with the help of a colleague who lived in the city, treated me to a delightful trip. I must have been bitten by the travel bug really hard because I love to travel today as much as I did then.
I was fortunate to grow up with very adventurous parents. It seemed like every six months or so they'd be off on a new journey, sometimes riding horses across Patagonia or Mongolia, or backpacking through Switzerland. They started taking me on international trips when I was very young, and I have had a love for people and different cultures ever since. The first trip I can easily recall, and the one that made me notice the difference in cultures, was to Colima, Mexico. We stayed with a family my dad is close with for several month, so we really got to know the area, the people, the local's favorite beaches, food, etc. I was born and raised up on Mt. Hood in Oregon, so hot, sunny Mexico seemed so different and exotic to me at first. It was a pretty easy adjustment though.
What comes to mind first when I think of this first trip to Colima are the iguanas. They were everywhere and they absolutely terrified me. They were in the yard, on the porch, in the pool, on the beach, on the side of the roads, in the trees.....Everywhere! I remember endless amounts of screaming and running away from one iguana, only to find another one in the direction I was running (again, I was really young). I eventually realized that they are pretty harmless, but it took me a few return trips to figure that out.
My first international trip was from England to Canada. We were immigrating. We flew BOAC back and forth so many times that I still have my BOAC member badge. It was definitely an elite club back then. We would have to wear our Sunday best, including hat and gloves and little white socks. All the men wore suit and ties. We'd stop in Greenland for refuelling. Times sure have changed.
My very first international trip was when I was 6 weeks old, but the first one 1 remember was when 1 was 7. I'd been flying by myself since I was 5 but this was my first international flight by myself and I was on my way to Amsterdam. I can remember siting in the aisle seat and listening to my Walkman on that KLM flight and then the long hike through Heathrow to make my connection. I felt like a grown up even though I was just 7 and I knew this was just the beginning of my traveling adventures. I look forward to ever trip, be it next weekend when my wife and I go to San Francisco or next month when we'll be in Auckland and Melbourne; I try to make every trip as fun as the first.
I'm a little late to comment on this topic as I've been on "Island time" enjoying much of what Hawaii has to offer.
I was a bit too young to remember my first international trip. My family moved to Sydney Australia a few months before my 2nd birthday. I spent much of my childhood there so coming to visit family in the U.S. is what I remember of international travel.
I have fairly good memories of a trip to New Zealand (around the age of 6) and of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (age 8). Also remember several trips within Australia (Melbourne, Tasmania, Perth, Lord Howe Island).
By the time we moved back to the U.S. (age 10) I had crossed the Pacific and the equator more than half a dozen times. Even after that, I got to visit Japan and China, the UK, Ireland, Russia, Kenya, and made 2 trips back to Australia.
I guess I've been traveling internationally just about my entire life, so it seems normal to me. I don't get to do it as often now as when I was young (maybe every 4 years or so instead of every other year), but there is still something exciting about going places that require a passport. Of course, having just returned from Hawaii, there's something exciting about traveling to different parts of the United States as well. Good thing or my county collecting hobby would be a chore rather than a joy.
My first trip outside of the U.S was actually to Puerto Rico when I was 8, but since that is a U.S territory, my second trip was to Costa Rica. I went with my Spanish class during summer of sophomore year of high school when I was 15. My parents let me and my siblings each have 1 trip outside of a family vacation so when this opportunity arose I jumped on it! It was a small group, only 12 or so kids and 3 adults including one of our Spanish teachers and his wife.
The goal of the trip was tri-fold: to improve our Spanish by using it in daily conversation, participate in community service at the local school and go sight seeing by partaking in pre-planned activities. To this day it is one of my favorite trips ever because I learned so much and was able to see a good portion of the country.
Every U.S student lived with a family in the small mountain town of Sucre, Costa Rica that had a high school aged child who took English class so if we had difficulty communicating with the host family, they could assist. The benefits were that the families were compensated for having another person live with them for 2 weeks and the high school student was able to sight see with our group, which they most likely would not have the opportunity to do otherwise.
The family I lived with had 3 boys, ages 15 - 21, and everyone was really welcoming! They owned and lived above a grocery store in town, and I remember my "mom" being an excellent cook. While I was only 1 of 2 students on the trip that didn't enjoy the luxury of living in a house with hot water , I'm still glad I got placed with that family as Mikel, their 15 year old, was incredibly smart and spoke very good English, so he came to the rescue a few times. I'm glad he got to go on all of our excursions too, which included white water rafting, hiking to a volcano, relaxing at a spa with hot springs, ziplining, horseback riding, dance lessons, cooking lessons, and shopping in the city of San Juan. It was honestly a great opportunity and experience for the U.S students, but for the Coast Rican students as well.
At their school, we made a fenced in vegetable and flower garden and let me tell you- we started from scratch so it was hard work! We did the work while the students were in school so I can only imagine how funny it was to look out and see a group of American students digging and using wheel barrels while they were in class. We also painted several hallways and beautified the school grounds where we could. It was truly a transformation and I'm so happy to have been able to do the work and know our efforts created the beautiful end results.
Before wrapping up, I have to touch on the food, as I wouldn't feel right posting without a mention of the local cuisine. We pretty much had rice & beans at every meal, lots of arroz con pollo, plantains (my favorite way to have them was pan fried, then covered in cheese and baked until bubbly - I can thank my host mom for that!), and it's so silly but all the ticos y ticas (local names for Costa Ricans) were obsessed with this gum called Bubbaloo, which was always some crazy color that turned your mouth blue for hours, but it was gum filled with fruit juice center so it was all the craze at the time.
Unfortunately, I have not actively practiced Spanish since leaving college so my Spanish has definitely declined, but by the end of my trip it had greatly improved and I was even dreaming in Spanish while there! I would love to go back again some day, but if I never do I know that I came back with a greater cultural understanding which made me a better person.
For anyone that's been to Costa Rica - Pura Vida!
Language and culture study via total immersion -- that's the way to do it. Sounds like a great adventure -- with a great service project to boot. Speaking of dreaming in Spanish, I took six years of Spanish in grades 7--12, plus 4 semesters in college. Even as the fluency eroded from conscious thought in the years that followed, every now and again I'd dream of being in a Spanish-speaking setting, and I could converse easily. Sadly, upon waking up, just as I realized, "Hey, I was just speaking Spanish!" it would be like, "Pfffftt!" and be gone. But I like knowing it's still tucked away somewhere in the subconscious -- or at least that's what I choose to believe.
I took about the same amount of Spanish as you, foxglove, and I wish I could have retained it. I also took French and have even less retention of that language. I can read both of them fairly well but that's about it. My kids are doing Spanish Immersion which they started in preschool, and the 4th grader is more fluent than I ever was after all my years of study!