A group that throws up together, stays together…
That’s what my group leader told me one night in Munich while handing me a massive bottle of water and asking me to go around to make sure our 30+ sick students were well hydrated. It had been a long week and the last few days of our trip would prove to be just as trying.
In March of 2014, in my final semester of high school, I embarked with four teachers and fifty two senior students from school on an eleven day trip to Europe. Our travels, which had been in the works for a year prior to departure, took us through Paris, the Swiss Alps, and cosmopolitan Germany. I can’t even begin to articulate how much I looked forward to that trip. I had never travelled outside of North America, and even then, I’d always remained inside the same time zone. I was one of the least travelled students in our group, and my obsession leading up to this trip was proof of the intense wanderlust I’d been feeling.
As March rolled around, all of the difficult aspects were taken care of. I had succeeded in convincing my parents to let me go, I had paid the $3500 and saved up several hundred more to take with me abroad, and I had waited for more than 300 days. I wanted the trip to be perfect. I will tell you right now, perfect it was not.
Our adventure received its first blow before we even got on the airplane when one of our travellers came down with the flu and had to return home. We were all incredibly sad to say goodbye to him, and we boarded our direct flight from Toronto to Paris with a confusing mixture of melancholy and excitement. I like to think of this as an omen for what was to come.
On our second day in Paris, another student fell ill, unable to leave the bus that carted us around the city of lights and eventually having to return to the hotel. After our concerned teacher guides called a doctor to take a look at him, he ended up bed ridden on our third and final day in France.
We managed the ten hour bus ride to Switzerland with no incident, and all of us enjoyed our time in the mountains and the beautiful city of Lucerne in good health. It was while we were en route to Germany when things took a turn for the worst. On the morning on which we were about to take another gruelling ten hour bus ride, five students came down with flu symptoms. Those hours on the bus were punctuated by the sounds of vomiting and general misery. Even better, later that same day we hiked up to see the Neuschwanstein Castle, which agitated the sickness of those already suffering and induced the sickness of several others. By the time we flew out of Berlin two days later, at least forty of the fifty two students were or had been sick during the course of our adventure. Poor things. I was one of the lucky few who did not fall ill. At the beginning of the trip, I was however, recovering from an alarming bout of bronchitis. Sometimes I think my saving grace was the anti-biotics I was taking those first few days.
The trip did not end up being as perfect as I had hoped it would be. But was it life changing? Certainly! Is travel ever not? Embarking on this experience, most of us were either strangers or acquaintances with our own little cliques and pockets of friendships. But for those eleven days and the year that lead up to them, we were in this thing together. When we went abroad, we were family. We weren’t necessarily best friends by the time we arrived back, but that kinship was still there. When we passed each other in the halls, we’d share a knowing smile. In the cafeteria lines, we’d end up standing next to each other and snicker at an inside joke. We even got a shout out on graduation night from a fellow traveller’s valedictory address.
Travelling brings people together, there is no doubt about that. Anyone who travels knows exactly what I’m talking about. For most, it might not be with your classmates but with your friends, families, lovers. Perhaps locals from the country you’re visiting. Perhaps you develop a closer relationship with your own self. This trip did not turn out how I or anyone else expected, but nonetheless, I look back on it with nothing but fond memories. At the end of the day, we took care of each other, experienced wonderful things together, laughed together and most importantly, threw up together.
AUTHOR BIO: Rebecca is a budding traveller whose ultimate dream is to see the world. Over the past few years, she has slowly been making that dream a reality and hopes to continue to do so in the present and future. She loves everywhere she has been, but her favourite place so far is Switzerland. Rebecca enjoys dogs, nature, rain, YouTube, and 70’s music. You can visit her on Tumblr or on Instagram.