Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Why Tommy Girl hit the road

It’s time for some background information, focusing in large part on who is Tommy Girl, and why on earth is she travelling? Well, my hypothetical inquisitive friend, she is a 22-year-old graduate from Britain who has been driven to where she is today by her three great passions: languages, travelling and writing. Oh alright, there may be a boy involved too…

Whilst studying for a degree in French and Spanish I was required to (like it was some kind of chore…) live and work or study abroad for my third year. I had always intended on going to Lyon in France, probably to study, or maybe to Paris if the right opportunity came up. But one Friday afternoon a friend persuaded me to go to a lunchtime talk being delivered by a professor from the Université de la Réunion. Reunion Island? Never heard of it, but hey ho I can spare 45 minutes to be enlightened on this particular topic. And thus the seed of thought was planted, taking root in my subconscious and growing slowly day by day until I found myself, six months down the line, filling in a form expressing my intentions to travel 6500 miles to spend half a year studying on this little island in the Indian Ocean.

There is obviously so much that needs to be said about this unique spot in the Southern Hemisphere, a hotch-potch mixture of Indian, African, Chinese and European culture all squeezed onto one tiny volcanic Island, officially still part of France.  However, I will save such elaboration for later, as the once-in-a-lifetime, colourful experience I had there is not conducive to a short summary such as this!

Romance comes easily on a tropical island...!

As is inevitable when a bunch of international students are thrown together on an island where beach parties rule the social calendar, hormones were flying around all over the place. For me what started out as a romantic fling with a hunky German guy, no doubt encouraged by a permanent backdrop of palm trees, rippling ocean and mesmerising sunsets, ended up in a teary goodbye as said ‘fling’ walked away from our apartment in Mauritius two days after Christmas, backpack nearly toppling him over, ready for his next adventure in Madagascar. The moment of realisation: the Island Monkey and the Sauerkraut had gone and fallen for each other.

Three agonizing months passed by as he roamed the wild African island (getting stranded in the middle of nowhere by clapped out minibuses, and spat on by the chief of a local tribe during some alarming ritual to cure the mysterious boils that had sprung up all over his body). Meanwhile I struggled to find my feet on my own in Spain, where the Costa del Sol was failing to do what it said on the tin, and my desire to sort an apartment out ASAP had landed me in Torremolinos (aka the worst possible place – a ghost town before the summer season, and from that point onwards swamped with overweight and undercultured sun-seekers whose Spanish skills amount to little more than ‘dos cervezas por favor’, despite having holidayed there every year since they were five.)

Celebrating my 21st birthday in Germany
Finally we were reunited when I spent Easter, and incidentally my 21st birthday, huddled around a table eating cake and drinking coffee in his grandmother’s living room in a tiny rural town in north-west Germany; the first of many trips back and forth. I finished up my six-month internship in Spain (which picked up tremendously after the rain stopped and I had escaped Torremolinos for the safe Spanish clutches of Malaga city!) and returned to the UK to complete my final year at university.

Along came June and that greatly anticipated moment of freedom – school’s out FOREVER! After 18 years in the education system, examination after examination, riding the conveyor belt all the way through SATs, GCSEs, A Levels and finally a Bachelor’s degree I suddenly found myself in control of what happened next. This feeling was both exhilarating and daunting, and of course it was not as simple as pick a future and away we go; little obstacles such as a huge surplus of graduates and great deficit in graduate level jobs lay in my path. So, it was time for some prioritising, and here is what I decided mattered to me first and foremost:

I want to write.

I want to travel.

I want to have a real relationship instead of a Skype one.

Et voilà, here I am living in Germany with my boyfriend, working in a bar and a language school to earn money to put towards more travelling, learning a new language and writing about my experiences on this very blog. It’s not all plain sailing, but it’s an adventure, and right now that is what life is all about...

TG xx

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