I’m currently not the only Australian from the Sunshine Coast on a big overseas adventure, two fellow traveling wombats are currently jet setting around Europe! My adorable friend Aimee Dodunksi, 20, and her boyfriend Trent Connor, turning 21 in a few days, are nearly at the end of their extravagant Euro Trip, and have made me very envious with their beautiful photos.
I’ve known Aimee for five years now, and have witnessed her personal and traumatic struggles in 2013. She is one of the strongest and bravest girls I know, and I cannot think of someone more deserving and in need for a life changing holiday experience such as the one she is currently having! Her boyfriend is also adorable, and I am so happy to see them sharing this once in a lifetime adventure.
Aimee and I talk quite regularly about our traveling experiences, and it feels like we are traveling together as we actually departed Brisbane International Airport on the same day at the same time!
Take the time to read her hilarious responses to a few of my questions, her charm and wit is so catching! She is really one of the most remarkable and affable girls I’ve met! I’ve also added some of her breath taking photos for you to enjoy, and to see more of Aimee follow her @aimeedodunski on Instagram!
Interview with Aimee
Where are you from?
We both live on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I’m a Kiwi (such a load of crud I’ve lived in Australia like 7/8 of my life but still claim to be a Kiwi) and Trent’s a true blue Aussie.
What do you both do on the coast?
I work for the Accor hotels, taking care of consulting for their loyalty program called Advantage Plus, I’ll stop myself there before I go into a full blown sales pitch and you end up buying one for yourself and Trent’s a driller for a geotechnical company – I don’t ask too many questions about it because the words are long and sound frightening haha…
Where have you traveled so far?
Ah dear, so we first of all started our journey in London for about 3 weeks which was the biggest mistake ever… Have you SEEN the shopping in London?! Savings… What savings? I mean who needs to eat the rest of their 3 month long holiday when you can wear a kick-arse pink Topshop coat right? Anyway, from London we went up North to Scotland for a couple of days, which everyone must put on their to-do list, you haven’t seen scenery until you’ve marveled in all that Scotland has too offer, the greenest greens I’ve ever seen!
We then went back down to London (goodbye more money, hello new outfit…again) and took off via bus to Amsterdam; which first of all can I just say buses may seem awesome because they’re cheap but unless you somewhat enjoy having a numb behind, smelling the cold meat sandwiches people are devouring and using your phone and iPod battery all within the space of about 2 hours out of a 10 hour bus trip I do not advise them. Anyway arriving into Amsterdam in the early morning and about 2 hours early would of been great if we were able to check into our hotel room and if we’d been able to sleep on the bus, but as per usual Aimee’s luck we couldn’t. Amsterdam is a definite must for any European travelers! Whether you fancy some culture or a bit of the wacky tabaccy (which we don’t might I add) you’ll find something you enjoy, it’s full of life even on the dullest days.
From Amsterdam we again caught a bus to Paris, the so-called ‘City of Love’ but I was not feeling any of this so called love after a 12 hour bus trip with only one toilet/rest stop and a bus driver who’d gotten lost on the highway… I mean how it’s a straight road?! Much to the French people’s somewhat ‘reputation’ the main thing that killed the vibe of Paris for me was the rude attitude of majority of locals, putting that aside with a quick hop skip and a jump from the Eiffel Tower to The Louvre around to Notre Dame and across the love lock bridge, Paris is an extraordinary city to walk around, luckily enough I was there during my birthday and Paris Fashion Week – twice the amount of people and I still didn’t see anyone famous (sigh). One last thing about Paris, just walk up the stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower, seriously it takes about 10 minutes, rather than waiting in line for about 1-2 hours to jump in an elevator where you have someone’s armpit in your mouth.
From Paris we took off to Grenoble in the French Alps – this time we took a train 110% recommend train travel. Grenoble is a bit of a gloomy old town, not very modern and not very cozy, but the views of the snow covered mountains completely extinguish any doubt you may have about the town, cruising up the Bastille to the top to view the city was an amazing experience and made me forget that our hotel room smelt of mould and mildew. If you visit Grenoble, make sure you do a trip to the ski resorts and have a day in the snow, unfortunately we weren’t very organized and missed out on that this time!
From Grenoble we then ventured to Milan-Italy, the city of Fashion, and that is the city where I left my heart. The most beautiful weather welcomed us into Italy and Milan was the perfect starting point, walking up and down endless streets taking in the surreal atmosphere, history and giant GUCCI and ZARA signs everywhere is breathtaking to say the absolute least.
From Milan we went straight onto Venice, and if you think Milan is amazing, Venice has even more to offer, I could spend days walking up and down the canal streets, sitting on the sideline gazing at the seaweed lapping against the cement walkways and crossing bridges to hidden parks filled with daisies whilst licking my Nutella Gelato. Even though we opted out of a gondola ride, due to a slight seasickness phobia me and Trent both share, and even though it is quite expensive, I would recommend it. There’s no better way to see a place like Venice than to be guided by a local along beautiful canals right? After eating 4 pizzas in about 24 hours we took off to Florence, where I currently am now. We arrived late this afternoon but we still caught the last bit of sunlight to walk around Duomo centre, the architecture is beyond incredible, I could stare at it for hours on end, really makes you question if ‘modern’ art is really that much more creative and detailed as the historic art seen in places like this.
Where else are you two still to travel?
The to-do list as of right now 12:26am in Florence is…
Pisa tomorrow! So I’ve been mentally preparing Trent for the horrendous torture of him having to try and take a decent photo of me doing the classic “Oh look I’m holding the leaning tower of Pisa up if it wasn’t for me it’d fall over” pose. Very excited to spend the day in Pisa, even though it’s a small town, I’m sure there will be lots to keep me entertained. We then have Rome afterwards, we’re there for 9 days and to celebrate Trent’s 21st, best birthday ever or what? So the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps are all on the list. Not too mention taking in the great Roman history and all of the little tales behind it (might need to work on my Italian to understand it though…oh dear). After Rome we fly back to London, and then we take off to Northern Ireland for the weekend to spend some time with some relatives of mine, I struggle with understanding my uncles Irish accent so I’ve mastered the ‘smile and nod’ trick me and Brother came up with when we were younger and couldn’t decipher the Northern Irish accent. After Ireland it’s back to London and then back on the torturous 28+ hour flight back to Australia. I’m not looking forward to that at all, cannot emphasize that enough.
What has been your most interesting travel experience so far?
This is probably a really lame answer to this question, but me (someone who has ordered the exact same subway sandwich for the past 8 years) and Trent were talking about it over night and I’m pretty sure the different foods have been the most interesting and sometimes repulsive experience/s we’ve had so far! From the most delicious London bacon you’ll ever have, to croissants, baguettes, frogs legs and snails. To fresher than fresh real French Creme brûlée to the most heavenly pizzas in Italy, covered in the freshest prosciutto, salami and tomatos. The food is the most interesting part and it’s what we spend majority of our money on (oops).
Where was your favorite place and do you think you will you go there again?
Our favorite place was by far Venice, I don’t even think my explanation of Venice will do it any justice; it’s really one of those places that you NEED to see and experience for yourself to understand. Just picture this… Beautiful blue canals, old yet beautiful architecture surrounding them, pebbled walkways, gondolas cruising past and no cars zooming by, no horns beeping and no sirens ringing… Venice truly is a dream. We will definitely aim towards going back there in the future, two days was not enough! Oh and I finally got to wear a t-shirt and my thongs there! (Side note – thongs are flip flops in Australia).
Have you had any travel issues or hiccups along the way?
Well when Aimee is involved hiccups are involved. We go hand in hand with each other. From leaving my passport, wallet, over £200 cash and all my id at the check out of a busy supermarket (god bless the lady who rushed to me and gave it back) too arriving in Amsterdam nine and a half hours early to check in to the hotel and having no phone battery and sleeping on the couch in the restaurant for 2 hours before paying more money to get a room straight away and I’m not even going to get into too much detail about how many times we got lost for hours – handy travel tip maps are good!
Overall we’ve been more on the lucky side once we found our travel bearings and got confident with what we were doing it’s been smooth sailing since (touch wood).
What made you both decide to embark on this trip?
Without getting into too much detail, 2013 was with out a doubt the worst year of my life, after losing my brother Gareth in June, and losing my Great Grandfather in February, to losing my rental property me and my partner had, to Trent having to leave his job, to losing friends, to basically losing hope, me and Trent spontaneously decided about 2-3 months before we left to go on this holiday, if 2013 proved anything to me it would be that life is short and too not waste it working because in the end it gives neither you nor your family comfort when you’re gone!
What are you looking forward to most when you arrive back home in Australia?
Besides from a big old Mum and Dad hug, and a big plate full of my mums delicious honey soy chicken wings and rice, and some slobbery kisses from my beautiful boxer puppies. I’m looking forward to stepping into a new chapter of my life, well actually, stepping into the same chapter of my life with an entirely different outlook on it, because it’s true traveling really broadens your mindset and opens you up to a lot of things.
Would you recommend a trip like this to friends or students wishing to study abroad?
I see so many young adults wasting money on too much alcohol, clubbing and other silly things and I want to grab them and shake them vigorously until they understand how easy it is to do a trip like this, and how it can honestly be a trip of a lifetime. I would recommend it to anyone looking to travel, whether it be small or large scale a Euro trip is bound to make you happy and full of life by the end of it.
If you could sum up your entire experience in one word, what would it be?
Well Aimee, I think you are inspiring!