Now that the silly season is over, and the new year has begun, the time to start holiday planning is upon us!
Around this time last year, I decided to bite the bullet and embark on the adventure I had been dreaming about for as far back as I could remember! - I was excited, scared, hopeful and anxious. I wanted to see as much as I possibly could in a short-ish period of time, meet new people and learn about cultures that were completely different to mine. I wanted to visit new cities and stand in the exact same places that people who molded life as we know it, had stood before me and I wanted to eat local dishes that were rich in strong, authentic flavours.
The morning I decided that I was going to do this, I must tell you, it truly was a bizarre feeling. I had said the phrase “When I go to Europe” that many times that I sounded like a broken record, but when it came down to planning it, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
I figured out the easiest way to start planning this was to write a list – I live by lists! So, I began jotting down all the places I wanted to visit and activities I wanted to do. I put together a rough budget keeping in mind that I was travelling alone, so the cost of hotels was going to be a killer! Sure enough, the more detail I started to go into the more complicated it started to become - “What about transport?”, “Is that city dangerous?”, “Is it going to be safe for me to go drinking by myself at a bar?”, “How will I make friends?”, “What if I go missing? - by the time Australia realises it might be too late!!!” these are all the types of the thoughts that started to consume my brain. I was beginning to become very disheartened because this dream holiday I had planned in my head was turning into a very expensive, logistical nightmare that I was not overly convinced was going to be worth the money.
I started to explore alternate options and figure out where I’d be happy to compromise. I did my research on a range of different tour companies and spoke to friends of mine who had done their fair share of travelling and before I knew it I found myself 6 pages deep on the Topdeck website reading itineraries and testimonials.
It looked amazing! instead of having to hike around Europe by myself with no real clue of where I was going or what I was doing, this company was going to organise it for me! - all I had to do was make sure I was at the bus before departure time (which I later found out really wasn’t that difficult, generally left at around the 8am mark).
I decided that I was going to do two tours with Topdeck:
The European Pioneer that ran for 37 days which took us through 17 countries across Central and Eastern Europe including France, Switzerland, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany & the Netherlands.
The Espresso Italia Tour that ran for 8 days which took us right through Italy, including Rome, Vatican City, Sorrento, Assisi & Florence.
I did the European Pioneer on my own and the Espresso Italia, a friend of mine from back home joined me. I had two very different experiences because one tour forced me to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends and the other felt like home because I was able to create memories on the Amalfi Coast with one of my best friends!
Would I recommend Topdeck Travel? Absolutely.
Literally it is ALL organised - all you have to do is show up and then chose what options you want to do for the day. You get breakfast every day and some lunches and dinners are included too. You’re given guided tours of all the cities and an extremely knowledgeable guide who I personally felt was like really fun and bubbly, walking encyclopedia.
I was able to experience things on both tours that never in my wildest dreams I thought I would be able to do in this lifetime, i.e zip lining down the highest mountain in Europe, kayaking at sunset around Dubrovnik in Croatia or, diving off the back of a boat into crystal blue waters in Capri.
I walked away from that holiday with so many magical memories and wonderful new friendships. I met people from all different walks of life who too, were on their own personal journeys of self-discovery. All these experiences and encounters opened my mind in ways I didn’t think were possible, which is exactly what I wanted to do whilst on that trip.
Those feelings I experienced aren’t something you can put a price tag on, but ironically wouldn’t have been possible had I not decided to do those tours.
I’ve attached a collection of images; my highlights from each destination across both tours. If you have any questions for me about either of these I will be more than happy to help, just shoot me through a message.
I hope that if you’re someone who decides to travel this year you get to experience some of the same things I did because my European adventure turned out better than anything I had ever imagined it would be.