After one whole week of being back in the country FINALLY my brain is working again and it’s time for me to do a holiday re-cap.
Truthfully going overseas to me was scary. So many people brushed it off like I was being precious or over-exaggerating when I said it, but for me it truly was.
I was scared because help wasn’t a phone call away and if anything should happen, my lifelines were going to be on the other side of the world. I was nervous because for so long I’d been working towards this and I didn’t know what to expect or how it would all play out - all of this might I add was my anxiety.
So in true me form, I decided to do a big project plan. Before I left I decided that I would build an entire file around each city I was going to visit, do mass amounts of research and kind of prepare myself on what to expect and also educate myself on each cities history - this took me two months full time to build, but it helped me keep my nerves under control and start to get excited instead of being scared.
The day of my departure I was picked up by my old boss and work Dad David Rudkin and to my surpriseStacey Gadd who would join me on part two of the trip popped out of the car to take me to and see me off at the airport - neither David or Stacey had to do that, but it truly meant the world to me!
After they left me I walked up to the departure gate and waited to board the plane. A wave of panic came over me - I broke out in hives, had difficulty breathing and stared crying for absolutely no reason what so ever - I was having a full-blown panic attack. Luckily my parents and sisters were on standby and were able to calm me down because that feeling was awful, but that’s anxiety for you right? It hits you when you least expect it and it will stop you from whatever it is you’re doing, even if that is boarding a plane to go to Europe.
Once I was on the plane I was fine, the staff let me board before everyone else and the flight attendants keep checking on me (thanks Singapore airlines) finally after seven years of hoping, wishing and planning I was on my way to London!!
When I arrived, it was all systems go! It was 5am London time and I needed to make the most of the very little time I had there!
On my first day I went to the Tower of London, walked over London Bridge, went to St Paul’s Cathedral and watched a Scottish guy play the bagpipes out the front on Westminster Abby.
The following day I did a day trip up to Bath and visited the UNESCO World Heritage site Stonehenge and drank water from the spa water fountain at the ancient Roman Baths.
On my last day I gave myself some time to relax and unwind and prepare myself for my 37 day Top Deck tour.
That evening I caught up with what would be the first of many friendly faces on my journey. Hayley Fosterwas kind enough to take me out to the most amazing little restaurant that was right up my alley The Follyand we enjoyed many cocktails and an amazing meal - I will treasure that dinner always! Thank you Hayley, I promise to return the favour if you ever come to Sydney town.
The following morning it was time for me to meet up with my Topdeck Travel group and start my 37 day tour venturing across Europe! For those wanting to know the tour I did, it was called the “European Pioneer”.
This was the first stop on our tour and much to my surprise, my cousin Matty Kinsela (who I happen to live here in Sydney with) was on his own adventure en route to Tomorrowland. He text me and said ‘Hey, The World Cup final is on today are you in Paris yet? because I’ll catch a train from Belgium and meet you’.
Sure enough within a few hours my cousin was sitting there next to me on the other side of the world, drinking beers and celebrating the WIN of France!!! We had the absolute best afternoon partying in the streets which absolutely set the tone for what would be the most amazing adventure of my life.
I faced my fear of heights and went zip lining on the highest point of Europe, Jungfrau.
I saw Ballerina gracefully dancing in the streets of Avignon in what was their version of our fringe festival.
In Nice I swam in the ocean had a possibly one of the most random nights out with two other Sydney-Siders not from my group and soon discovered that for a piece of bacon, a fried egg and a tiny pancake you can expect to spend approx €30 per plate.
I learnt all about Gaudi and seen some of his incredible architecture all throughout the city, all of which wouldn’t have been possible if my little adopted brothers of the group Angus Taylor andLuke Watson didn’t make me get up and go for a walk after dancing pretty much all night at one of the biggest nightclubs in the world – Opium, also it’s worth noting I have a somewhat vague recollection of this thanks to Graeme Steel. Graeme I still think you set me up to fail with that final shot LOL.#stillloveya
Running on around two hours sleep from what I would say was a relatively HUGE night the night before, we headed to Monaco where somehow (I don’t know how) I managed to do possibly the best make up of my life (probably because I was overly paranoid I’d look like shit there) and I crashed and burned at around 9pm.
After spending what was 27 hours of hell on an overnight boat that had ‘No Camping’ signs that was full of Gypsies literally camping, we were finally made it to Mykonos.
This place was insane! It was everything I imagined it to be, but my two highlights were getting invited on to some table with Shannon Marie and drinking zero of their drinks and going absolutely berserk on the table tops. We expected to get kicked off the table after the owners left, but sure enough the security guards just let us do our thang and we danced until we couldn’t dance anymore - I’ll cherish that memory forever Shannon, you were truly my little spirit animal.
Highlight number two was making my way back to the group at around 9am after going on my own little adventure on the back of a Vespa up to Mykonos city to keep partying with some people I’d met from Melbourne, only to realise there is no uber on the island and there is literally only four taxi’s.
After what seemed like the longest mission of my life, I arrived back to the group and deciding to just solider on drinking Strawberry Margarita’s and jumping in and out of the ocean until I literally could drink no more! What a day that was! My entire group heard my life story that day and saved me multiple times from drowning - thanks guys I love you.
Never in my life have I ever seen anything like this. High up in the mountain tops sit six active monasteries that were filled with some of the most incredible religious artwork I have ever seen which dated back to the 11th century.
Then we hit the BALKAN REGION which I had a personal interest in because I have many friends from all around this part of the world:
We had to bribe our way into the country with bottles of water and once we had gotten through we were welcomed by the Albanian PR team. We were given maps but only had a short period of time here, so we weren’t really able to explore. The one thing I did find very interesting was that there were stuffed animals hung from balconies, fences, fruit trees and vines- this is all part of the ‘tradition’ of the dordolec, the ‘evil eye’ and superstition in Albania.
Next stop was Croatia but first we were able to spend a beautiful afternoon in Montenegro - I definitely did not have enough time here.
We stayed in the city of Dubrovnik and it truly was stunning. The club Revelin was by far one of the best nightclub’s I’ve ever been to in my entire life - partying in a medieval castle was the most unique clubbing experience I’ve ever had!
The absolute highlight for me in Croatia though and one of the most memorable things on my trip, was kayaking at sunset around Dubrovnik - that was three hours that I will never forget until the day I die. At one point not only did we lose our kayak, but managed to get towed by some locals for I’d say a solid 10 minutes – so instead of paddling,we were able to just zip across the ocean and take it all in until we were reunited with our group haha.
Going to Sarajevo was an extremely eye-opening experience for me, this place touched my heart and made me feel extremely overwhelmed.
Going to the Srebrenica memorial was by far the most emotional experience I encountered on my holiday. Leaving there my heart was heavy, but I am glad I was able to feel those emotions as I think it’s so incredibly important to understand that what happened was not that long ago and we as humans need to be aware that fighting and war does nothing but cause heartache and mass amounts of destruction.
I was really looking forward to coming here as I had heard some really amazing things, but sadly we only had an evening which for me was not enough time to explore. In the very limited time we had there I am so happy I was able to visit the largest Orthodox Church In the world - Church of Saint Sava and light a candle. The Crypt was unlike I anything I have ever seen in my life – it was filled with art that was covered in gold, the detail was absolutely remarkable.
The following day we were en route to Budapest and after sharing accommodation for almost three weeks with girls (which I did enjoy, but struggled with the bathroom
situation) I decided to be tactical with the rooming and hijacked the boys.
let me explain:
Most of the time when you’re doing a tour there is a schedule and usually this means when going between your day excursion and dinner you have a one-hour window to get ready. Most of the time you’re sharing a room with three other people which means your ‘get ready time’ is cut down into 15-minute time slots, so at this point I decided it was in everyone’s best interest to hijack Andy, Adam Hawker and Gus van Tilborg room because boys are quick and I am not lol.
The universe was good to me and it knew that somewhere on my bucket list I wanted to do to at least one international festival and it placed me in Budapest the exact same time Sziget was on!!!
We saw Liam Gallagher, I sang Dua Lipa’s “NEW RULES” at the top of my lungs and danced to Kshmr which was by far one of the best sets I’d seen in many, many years and to think I was on an island in Budapest doing so, was surreal.
Somehow in amongst all of this I was going to get fined €200 euro from the hostel we were staying at and just as we were about to leave, running on 1.5 hours sleep ‘Business Bec’ came out and I managed to walk away not paying a single cent (To this day I still have no idea how I managed to get out of that).
The city that just reminds me of a scene from Beauty & The Beast. The first night we were there we went to this place where you could free pour your beer and compete with other tables, it was literally called “The Pub”.
The following day we walked up to the castle, snapped some pics and and went to one of the best dinner/shows I have ever been to in my life. It was a medieval dinner that was underground, there were fire twirlers, a live band playing traditional music, dancers and a jester it was called “U Pavouka” and if you’re going to Prague, you must go here!!!
My favourite day in Amsterdam was spent with Andy Crawford, we went for a bike ride with the group around all of the canals and then headed off on our own adventure and went to the Moco Museum to see some of Banksy’s work!!! To me this was unreal, I LOVE Banksy so I truly was so happy that I was able to see some of his stuff in the flesh!
This was followed by an afternoon quest to find crackers for the fancy cheese we’d brought the day prior, a plate for the crackers and a cheese knife. Whilst on this quest we got distracted multiple times because in Amsterdam there are shops dedicated to CHEESE haha.. Finally after I’d say a solid three hours of planning for this cheese party, it finally happened!!! - we ate fancy cheese in a loft of a hostel – That was absolutely hilarious and I will never ever forget that journey and just how hard the street signs were to follow when there are no road rules for the cyclists.
I came here twice on my trip, the first time withTopdeck Travel and second on my own to meet up with Stacey for part two of my holiday.
I made the most of my time in Berlin but as I had been here before, this time around I wanted to experience the nightlife and artsy side of things as I’d done the historical stuff on my previous trip.
I reunited with Shannon for a pub crawl and met some really nice people! I slept a lot, brought a new suitcase and was trying to kind of hit the reset button in my brain for when Stacey arrived.
On the day of her arrival we checked into the most amazing Hilton I have ever been to Hilton Berlin! The room and view we had was to die for and the bed was like sleeping in a cloud. It was like a mini holiday from my holiday.
We spent most of our time at Hellenic Social Ios and met so many kind people. We were taken on a private pub crawl with the best guide we could have ever asked for Ben Pisani -
All of our memories that we created in Ios were thanks to you!! Thank you.
The sunset in Santorini was by far the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen in the world (we saw it from both sides of the island) Would I go back? Yes, but to Thira not Oia. Sadly still, when I think Santorini, “Logistical nightmare” are the first two words that come to my mind.
I spent the most time on my holiday here. Stacey Gadd and I did another Topdeck Travel tour which took us down to the Amalfi Coast and back up through Tuscany (This tour was called “Espresso Italia”).
Sorrento was absolutely breathtaking, it was everything you see online plus so much more. We stayed on a cliffs edge and played Tina Arena’s Sorrento Moon on repeat.
We ate so much Pasta, Pizza and Gnocchi, but my highlight of the Amalfi Coast was the day trip to the Isle of Capri.
Zipping around on a little boat in and out of caves and diving into the bright blue water was one of my favourite days of my holiday. I will cherish that always and also be so happy that on that day we discovered “Limoncello Spritz’s”
ASSISI & TUSCANY:
Assisi was a very religious city and I learnt a lot about St Francis, but going to the Winery in Tuscany was very much my highlight from this leg of the trip.
We visited a winery called “Villa Buonasera” which was a family owned business where we went on a wine tour and ate a traditional meal prepared by the mother of the house, this food was prepared with so much love – I really felt this place gave me an authentic Italian experience.
I went to Florence twice on my trip, on the second visit on the way there we did a guided tour of Pompeii which was absolutely fascinating. I still can’t believe that there was an entire Roman city buried for almost two thousand years that no-one knew existed.
In Florence my highlights were definitely the sandwiches and the sunsets - Watching and hearing the old man play the violin with so much passion pulled on my heart strings and really made me appreciate exactly where I was in that exact moment - the highest point in Florence watching a sunset that was prettier than a postcard.
I visited Rome three times on my holiday and each time I was there I had new, unique and wonderful experiences. We did a foodie tour which moving forward on all my travels I’m going to do – It took us on a journey not only through the city but gave us a history lesson on a lot of traditional Italian dishes.
I walked up and down the Spanish Steps, I went inside the Pantheon, did a guided tour through Vatican City and walked around the biggest Catholic Church in the world (I highly recommend doing a guided tour if you’re planning on going). We visited the Colosseum, we made friends with restaurant owners and were welcomed on our final night in Rome with a glass of expensive Prosecco.
We navigated the train system and drank more cocktails then we probably should have – but hey, we were on holidays! And last but not least we threw our coins into the Trevi Fountain and in that exact moment all I could think was “The last time I was here, I wished to come back and look, here I am!!”
This holiday was everything I had ever dreamed of and so much more. To be able to do this at 31 years of age with no commitments or ties to anyone or anything was exactly what I needed to do at this point in my life for no one but me.
I met so many incredible people on this journey that truly made this experience what it was and for that I will be forever grateful! (A huge thank you to both myTopdeck Travel Families!!!!).
I was able to experience parts of Greece and Italy with one of my best friends, those are memories that we will forever cherish.
I was so grateful that Top Deck allowed me to do not one but four Instagram story take overs! Which for me, meant so much!
I had the best trip leaders on both tours Alex Hendryand Ru Wanders you guys were both absolute legends and if either of you ever come to Sydney please message me because I would be more than happy to be your tour guide and give you the best Sydney experience - I mean it’s the least I could do right? considering you both took me around Europe! Haha
As for you guys, my online family - THANK YOU for coming on this virtual holiday with me and being patient with all the selfies LOL – my goodness, there were more selfies posted of me in the past two months than I think I had posted in my entire life!!
If you are still reading this, I’m guessing you did come on the adventure with me and must care about me a lot because my friend, you just read approximately 3500 words and this was my European “Summary”, the biggest piece of writing I have ever put on Facebook.
What’s next for me? I really do not know – It’s time for me to set some new goals and carefully chose which direction I want my life to go, because my friends, we only have one life so it’s important to live each and every day to the fullest! Only surrounding yourself with people who make your heart happy.
I’m excited for what the future may bring, but for now I am just so happy to be home in Sydney!!!