Its not how it sounds, really, I swear! Ladies and Gents, its been a blissful, busy, bright and brilliant three weeks off. I got my itchy feet out of Vienna and returned to an old love – the Road. That enticing mistress of adventure, uncertainty and joy that I thrive on.
Officially I gave up my Topdeck job last year, after two incredible seasons – moving on to my new life in Vienna and consequently a new, grown-up, real life job. Topdeck was my employment-ex. The much beloved, always wistfully mentioned, ‘dream job’. So when the email came through three months ago, asking if I wanted to do just one cheeky trip…well what’s a restless girl to do?? Topdeck & Trip Leading have been the ‘what if’ spectre hanging about in the back of my brain and secret chamber of my heart for months and I had to find a way to get it out of my system. Not only for my own sanity, but to really and truly start my life here in Vienna, I needed to shake the feeling that I was ‘missing out’. Essentially banish my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for those who don’t speak the slang of Youths these days!).
A short and sharp 11 day trip was the answer – not so long as to cut into my annual leave, and just long enough to hit all the high points of a good solid lap around Europe. The itinerary? Paris – Lauterbrunnen-Venice-Munich-Rhine Valley-Amsterdam. Two nights everywhere except Munich and Rhine Valley where we had one night each. Stunning.
A small visual guide to what I got up to in my spare time. As in, when not managing 46 mostly drunk/hungover hilarious and fun loving passengers that had a fairly tight itinerary to see 9 countries in 11 days!!
Paris – I hired a bike and rode around the sights, stopping in at Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop for a few treats – hipster bliss!
View over the Trocadero Gardens and some old, iconic structure
This is the Eglise Dom where Napoleon is buried, he’s a subtle kinda guy.
Switzerland. Got my inner Austrian on for a hike up the Grunnenwald, I must be integrating better than I thought because I actually enjoyed this kind of excercise!
Up close with some local cows, not as friendly as expected
View of Jungfraujoch Mountain from little Cafe Hut
Italy – Skipped the hot, sweaty crowds wandering the sunny streets of Venice and caught up with some old friends beside the pool. Heaven.
The coolest place to be in Venice – on water. View is from Accademia Bridge
Munich – Beers in Hofbraühaus. Apparently we were having an excellent time ‘cos I have no photographic evidence of this!!
Rhine Valley – managed to take the optional River Cruise down the Rhine River, sipping beers in the sun with some of my favourite passengers. Incredible countryside!
Oh, this was the view from our Hostel room in St Goar, which was, ahem, a Castle.
Amsterdam – Got into the facepainting spirit and night then enjoyed my free day bike riding, visting the newly opened Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandts Night Watch AND got some gifts in the Heinekin Museum. Winner!
National monument – Dam square, Amsters
Brugges – always the final day slog, but this time around, we were on time, relaxed and oh so happy to have such a wonderful last day together.
Final city stop, treated myself to a lunch in the main square. Job well done.
The result? A perfect trip. I honestly could not have asked for a better group, easier itinerary, nicer driver or happier experience. It was the universe gifting me one last hurrah. What I came to realise though, was that as great as the job is – I’ve moved beyond that lifestyle. The thing I love most about it is sharing the excitement of travel with young people who are equally interested and keen to learn more, see more and enjoy everything about their journey. That includes the partying nightlife alongside the historical stories and architectural marvels. I love getting people excited about travelling, sharing their experience the first time they see the Eiffel Tower, or taste Italian Gelato, or try and lift an authentic Stein. Its other traveller’s enthusiasm and joy that I love, above and beyond the job itself. Which means, I’m finally ok with leaving that Job and that life behind.
I have one delightful group of people to thank for this…these guys:
Adorable group shot in the Netherlands
That madcap bunch of people made my trip unforgettable. I am so greatful to have such enthusiastic, excited passengers who were up for any-and-everything! Calling any one trip a favourite is impossible, because each and every single one is special, but this will, I think, be memorable as the final fun one!
Like any good relationship, Topdeck made me grow as a person, figure out who I really am and what I really want. It challenged me, made me happier than I’ve ever been and more exhausted than I ever could have imagined. It was at once uplifting, traumatic and hugely satisfying -sometimes all in one day. To anyone even considering a change of lifestyle or career I can only say DO IT if you have the strength. Its not easy, and its not always fun, but it will change you for the better. It taught me to be selfless, to savour the small moments you get for yourself, to be more helpful, to be thankful everyday for every opportunity. It will always be the most significant ex for me, because it changed my life so completely. I left Australia with a one way ticket, on the hope of getting a job – I really had no idea of what I was in for. Three seasons later, I’m living in Austria with the love of my life, I’ve experienced the best Europe has to offer – counting Rome, Florence, Berlin and Paris as my office – and made friends with the most incredible people along the way. Lucky? No, I worked damn hard for it. Grateful?Hell yes, and always will be.
For now though, I can say (with 98.99% certianty)that my Trip Leading days are done. I’m putting down my roots here in Wien, starting new challenges, and finding a new way to share my love of travel – online here with you guys, and soon, out in the real world with a new venture that’s shaping up to be pretty exciting! Mostly though, this is for myself and S, to banish all talk of ex-loves and truly begin our new life here, together.
The new beginning…
There is nothing more frustrating than being unable to express yourself. At least, for someone like me there’s not. I’m a talker, a social creature, slightly performative (some would say a little more than slightly) and enjoy the banter of conversation with people of similiar interests, sense of humour and intelligence. In short, I love a dinner with friends, I love a picnic in the park talking rubbish and making inside jokes on wordplay. I love words. Reading them, writing them, analysing them, tattooing them on my body, i’m all about language, Words, speaking, communicating and creating meaning from that communication.
So being unable to express all that, to enjoy all of that, is infuriating.
The hardest part is, I only have myself to blame. Well not blame, I am starting my German course next month when we can afford it but it kills me that language is my barrier. The one thing I have always adored, revelled in, studied, explored, analysed, pulled apart and enjoyed – is holding me back. I’m suddenly a wallflower through necessity at the pub. I’m sitting quietly on dinner tables, responding when directly spoken to, addressing direct questions but not contributing in any meaningful way to conversations. I’m having myself spoken about, not to, when meeting new people. That’s part of the deal, I understand it, and people here have been lovely in adjusting conversations to English but for the most part, its like there’s a tiny trapped me inside the girl sitting at the table dying for expression. I can’t be myself without words. I can’t express who I am fully without understanding the conversation flowing around me. And its exhausting. Concentrating on interpreting conversation beyond the words, in catching the few words you do know and piecing them together with the gestures, laughs and reactions around you is do-able, but over the course of an afternoon or evening, difficult. But you don’t want to sit there like a moron staring off into the middle distance for hours. So you concentrate, you put the effort into interpretation and your best ‘interested’ or appropriate to the story (you think) face on. But its exhausting. I want to fast forward the part where I don’t understand and get to the middle where there’s at least a crack of recognition in conversations for me. I know it doesn’t work like that. But it feels like there’s a huge chunk of me trapped behind the language barrier. I’m not the quiet mousey type who lets her partner speak for her. But here I have to be. Not forever, but for now, and its infurating. Unfortunately the only cure is time and patience while I learn. Which has never been my strong point.
Despite the frustration, we did have a stunning weekend hike, and beyond all my expectations I enjoyed it. Weekend one of Sober October and i’m hiking in the freakin mountains, who knows what a whole month will do to me!!