Laura Reischle outlines her early experiences of travel and compares them to how she views travel now
The car window is open. I feel the wind brush through my hair as the car drives south. My father sits at the wheel and grumbles about the Italian driving style. My younger sister sits next to me, crying because she doesn't want to sit in the car anymore. My mother sits in front and tries to decipher the map. I turn around and wave to my aunt who is sitting in the car behind us. After a few stressful hours, we all arrive at the campsite near Genoa. As soon as my family smells the fresh air and sees the sun over the water, they are relaxed. We are going to stay in Italy for a week. It's our first holiday abroad and my parents have decided to take my aunt's family with us.
Everything was so exciting and new then. I saw the sea for the first time. I could smell the salt water and see seals flying around. Together with my cousins, I built sand castles, or rather rock forts, as the closest beach to our accommodation was a stone beach. We took our floaties to the pool and tried to jump on them from the edge when our parents weren't looking. Every time we entered the pizzeria around the corner, the owner greeted us with "Ciao ragazzi!" and I wondered what that meant. In the evening, we were allowed to stay up late and played in the street with local children while my older family members had a glass of wine. It was strange to be surrounded by children who didn't speak my language, and I remember how confused I was because they didn't understand what I was saying. Nevertheless, we understood each other quite well, and I think that was the moment when I learned that sometimes you can communicate only with gestures. On one of the days we visited the city of Genoa - the streets were full of people and there were cars everywhere. I remember being a bit overwhelmed. I was only used to the small town next to our village and had never seen so many people in one place. There was too much noise, lots of strangers around me and it smelled funny. I didn't like that at all. I was glad when I came back to the quiet campsite in the evening, where you could only hear the wind blowing through the trees.
I think that was the moment when I learned that sometimes you can communicate only with gestures.
A few years later, I sat in an aeroplane for the first time. It was scary, but I enjoyed the flight because it reminded me of a rollercoaster ride. We flew to Spain for an all-inclusive holiday. I enjoyed my time at the hotel - free ice cream and lots of entertainment for my sister and I. The pool was great; the nearest beach even better. I vividly remember the little path that led us down to the beach through a pine forest. One night we got lost in it because we had stayed on the beach until it was dark and it was difficult to find our way back. I feared having to sleep in the forest, but my father found his way back, and I'm pretty sure the forest is bigger in my memories than it was in reality.
Some time has passed since those trips. They were great but looking back I can see how my view of things has changed. I would never stay in an all-inclusive hotel again because I love staying in Airbnb's in the city centre or finding a local host via couch surfing. I'm still fascinated by the sea and love the smell of the salty air - I think anyone who grew up in a landlocked country can relate, you just never get used to it. Unfortunately, I never went back to Genoa, but I did visit other cities in Italy. Mostly, it was a fantastic experience, and now I enjoy walking through the busy streets, sitting in a café and just watching people go by. Before I travel to a country, I always try to learn at least a few words of the language. Even if it's just "hello" and "thank you", it's worth it. The locals always appreciate the effort and I've had some wonderful experiences as a result. What has never changed is the way I experience flying. It still reminds me of a rollercoaster ride and every time the plane lands, I can't wait to board the next one.