I was fortunate enough to have a private education in Melbourne, which meant that we had access to a range of different activities; one of my favourite ones was school camp. It was an opportunity to explore a new environment and hang out with your friends for days on end.

At the beginning of each school year we would go somewhere in Victoria as a class.  Looking back now I feel nothing but admiration for the teachers that agreed to take school camp, it must have been a nightmare for them, trying to control 100 giggly girls. My school camps took me horse-riding, exploring the beach-side near Apollo Bay and camping at the Grampians. But by far the best one was a French excursion that took us overseas to French Polynesia and Vanuatu (yes I now appreciate just how spoilt I was).

I don’t recall my French improving dramatically, but it wasn’t really about becoming fluent, this trip was more about having some freedom.  I was about 16 years old, it’s a weird age, you’re old enough to be treated almost like an adult in some ways (like cleaning the house and cooking your own dinner), but are still restricted (like no nightclubs or late night parties). So to get away, even if it was with some teachers, for a few days in a completely different country really made me feel like an adult.

My memories are of swimming in clear oceans, diving beneath glass bottom boats, snorkelling and shopping for shell bracelets, hanging out with friends and just enjoying having some of my own space. It was this trip that I think sparked my interest in travelling more.

It wasn’t that I had never travelled before, my family travelled a lot in my childhood. We always took a long trip over the summer holidays, it was in my younger years that I first came to India, and visited Kenya and Fiji. We also took a lot of long road trips to Queensland and northern NSW, the kind where you spend 3 days in the car, stopping at motels in small country towns along the way. But family holidays are just that, time spent with your family.

School camps were time spent with friends, and that was a great experience.  The next step from there really was solo travel I guess, although it would still take me several years before I would embark on my first solo adventure. The travel bug had hit and the buzz of freedom is one that I still get whenever I travel.

Where did you pick up your travel bug?

Picking up the Travel Bug: French Polynesia and Vanuatu
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