Something that everyone should get to do is those long arse bus trips to another country with their class, school band or similar group. Someone reminded me of the trips I took when I was at school, notably the one almost exactly 15 years ago.
It had been a long standing tradition at my school to do a trip the year before we’d take our finals and leave. The traditional destinations were either Avignon in France or Tuscany in northern Italy. The trip was called a field excursion where we were supposed to learn something about a foreign country: History, culture, art, that sort of stuff.
We just wanted to go on a vacation, have fun, maybe get wasted once. Or twice. Or every day. That and enjoy ourselves, celebrate, that sort of stuff.
About 50 students aged 18 to 19 and 3 teachers met up on the night of May 1st, boarded a large double-decker bus and the party started.
Sort of. Some already were drunk or had a stash of the forbidden fruit1 in their backpacks because, well, May 1st. We’d been threatened with the usual “if you seem drunk before entering the bus you stay here” but…eh.
May 1st is not only a public holiday in Germany, but – especially in our region – an occasion for local youth and young adults to go camping, bbq and drink a lot.
Anyhoo, we all were pretty excited and got hauled 600 miles through Germany, Switzerland and Northern Italy. It took us 15 hours and a few brief stops and only one student almost sent back home when the teacher found out he had a bottle of Vodka in his backpack.
I still remember how we arrived in Marina di Massa at around 11 a.m., everyone was eager to get out and groaned when our teachers announced they wanted us to stay on the bus and wait until they’d sorted things out.
About an hour later they came back. Turned out the hotel that we’d booked had been demolished.
The new one, the replacement? Under construction. You should’ve seen our faces. Of course no other hotel had any vacancies as tourist season was in full bloom.
Our teachers told us to go out and grab some lunch and be back in 90 minutes. Which is what we did. Me and a bunch of close friends went to grab a few bruschetta. I had a budweiser.2
We drank to travel catastrophes and to hoping we wouldn’t have to turn back. No chance of that though, since our bus driver was legally obliged to rest anyway.
It took all of the afternoon and some of the night until they had us all squared away. They put most of the girls into a few spare rooms of the nearby youth hostel. The guys were put into … well, I wouldn’t want to use the word ruins, but there were some unused buildings in the YH’s backyard. They cleaned out a few floors, put mattresses and sheets down in the old beds, distributed blankets and told us to stay out of the 3rd floor. “It’s not safe!”
Some of us were really annoyed, even wanted to go home. I thought of it as a sort of adventure and minor inconvenience. I was just glad we didn’t have to go home.
It turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to us. We were far enough from anyone so there’d be no noise complaints. We had a huge balcony in one room that hosted a party of cheap wine, beer, booze and silly games like therapy pretty much every night.
In one night we’d jumped fence and spent the night at the nearby beach, waiting for the sunrise.3. One of us fell asleep at the beach and woke up with a massive sunburn on his belly. Well, not his whole belly.
And, because we’d paid for hotel in advance, we got some additional luxury to make up for the derelict accomodation, the showers on the other side of the compound and the shock upon arrival.
Breakfast was awesome. Dinner was even better. Pasta, salads, sauces, all kinds of seafood. Free beer on our last night.
A couple of bottles of wine on each table and a nonchalant “Sure, take an extra bottle for each table when you’re done!”
They filled up the pool.
They paid all of our guided tours in Pisa, Siena, Florence and Lucca. A boat trip to Cinque Terre. A several course meal at a fancy restaurant. We had to walk the last two miles up hill because the bus was too large for the narrow turns and low hanging branches and a waiter dropped a large ravioli in my glass of water, but still.
We sang, partied, had fun.
We drank the Vodka someone of the group had bought while he wasn’t there. Bought him Tequila instead.
I especially remember that one night on the balcony, when Sara poured Vodka into paper cups and handed them out. Shouted “Cheers!” and downed it. We followed suit. About 3 ounces. Ow. How about some Sambucca? We drank that too, My throat hurt after that, so I downed two 11oz cans of Coke ((diet coke. caffeine free. vile stuff.) afterwards and belched so massively that you probably heard me, wherever you were at the time.
In short, we had the time of our lives. We partied without and with our teachers. Took group pictures. Did dumb stuff. Spent money. Sang to our teacher playing the piano rather brilliantly.
I wanna be 18 again.