You never forget your first love. That right there is a fact. Those first awkward moments – the butterflies – the first silly arguments – the sweetness and excitement of it all. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
I want to talk about first traveling loves. Those relationships I find can be equally as important – earth shaking and core shaking.
My first traveling romance began on Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan on November 23rd 2007 I couldn’t forget that day if I tried. It was my first international adventure as an adult. We had been in Koh Samui for a few days we had our accommodation booked for months in advance. I’d convinced my friend that we could just jump on the ferry and make our way over to Koh Phangan and find some accommodation when we get there (back then you couldn’t book accommodation in koh phangan through a travel agent and all the hotel websites we looked at seemed pretty dodgy). I was so excited bout the idea of doing this – not knowing where we would stay and what we would do seemed all very romantic and exciting.
Once we arrived in koh phangan we trudged around with our backpacks looking for a hotel that didn’t look like someone was going to come and harvest our pre-pickled organs in the night – we eventually settled for a tiny little room above a seven eleven on Haad Rin beach. Not the most tranquil of areas but we were teenagers in search of a good party and wild adventures.
Once we had settled all our bags down we made our way to the beach for a cheap cocktail and some sunshine on our skin. The beach was packed – people were playing volleyball and ping pong on the sand – everyone was young and tanned and having a great time – it was everything we’d hoped for and more. We found a vacant patch of sand and settled our towels down – exhausted and grateful for the cocktails. There were a group of boys on the beach laughing together and taking turns to swim while someone watched the bags. We all got to talking – three of them were English and two of them were Danish. We chatted away and swam and when it was time to leave we arranged to meet up with them again that night.
Steph and I went to go get some food (I lost a bet and had to eat the hottest chilli I’ve ever eaten in my life) got prettied up and went out to experience the legendary Koh Phangan night life. We found the boys at a beach bar drinking buckets of cheap thai rum and coke. We sat on cheap plastic chairs smoking shi sha – laughed and joked together giggling through our language barriers and somewhere along the way we shared a kiss and my heart was a flutter.
We bonded more and more over the next few days and parted ways sweetly in Koh Phangan – knowing that we would see each other again in a few months.
He occupied my brain and my heart and I couldn’t evict him if I tried. He was my first traveling love all those years ago and will forever hold a special place in my wandering gypsy heart.
Fast forward to 2014 and we’re still in contact (as friends) and I even stayed with him on a recent trip to Copenhagen.
Tell me your love stories wanderlusters x
I was staying with my friend in her Clapham apartment. I’d only just arrived in London and I was spending my days and nights looking for flats and jobs and daydreaming of adventure. I spotted a Facebook post from Rebecca Litchfield. She was upset because the model that she’d booked for the job had pulled out at the last minute. I messaged her immediately and she said she’d love to have me involved. We’d both been wanting to work together for a while so it was almost like it was meant to be.
I met Rebecca at Clapham Junction and we caught the train out to a station nearby the manor house we would be shooting in the next morning. Matt and Richie met us at the train station. It was the first time Rebecca had met either of them but they all knew each other from urbex forums. We did the standard introductions and then we were off. It was only a short 15 minute drive to Bull Manor. We weren’t technically meant to be there so we parked the car around the corner and then under the cover of darkness we quietly snuck down a muddy path and… that’s where we came across out first obstacle. All the winter rain had turned what was previously a large ditch in to a rather deep creek. Luckily we came across a fallen tree and we all took turns in crossing the rotting log on to the opposite bank. Richie went first with his sleeping bag in one hand and his camera and clothes in another. He made it nearly all the way across before slipping on the rotting bark and falling in to the water. He pulled himself out pretty quickly but the main concern was the camera. We needed to get in to the manor first before checking the damage. After Richie had slipped we all knew to be extra cautious and we passed all our camping gear across the creek before crawling along to the other side.
Once we crossed we then had a whole new challenge to face. As silent as could be we had to climb a rusted old fence – the boys being such lovely gentlemen helped me across silently we crossed fields and jumped more fenced this time they were covered in barbed wire. I must admit that I was a little apprehensive when we approached the house and I saw the razor wire that surrounded the building. Luckily my new friends knew the way in. The rest of our entrance I’m going to have to leave out but it was very challenging and took us a rather long time with all of our gear.
When we entered the house the first thing that surprised me was all the stuff! No one ever moved out of there. All their things were just there. Left to rot. We couldn’t see much in the night and we didn’t want to turn our torches on just in case someone saw us – so we set ourselves up with a few candles for light and sat around chatting in to the wee hours of the morning. Everything in the house was damp so we sat on bin bags to keep the moisture out. It was a freezing night and I was very grateful to be dry and in a very toasty sleeping bag. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Richie – all his clothes and his sleeping bag were damp from his fall in to the creek. We chatted late in to the night and they all exchanged stories of their adventures. I listened intently – they certainly fanned the flames of my wanderlust fire. Urbex is like a whole new world to me and a very interesting one at that.
By the time we went to sleep I was completely exhausted. We rolled our bin bags out on the floor – jumped in to our sleeping bags with our pillows zipped up inside with us. I slept like the dead. who would have thought? We woke at first light and I saw the true haunting beauty of this abandoned manor house. The house itself was 4 stories high and an impressive stained glass ceiling. We could only reach the first two stories as the other staircases had rotted and fallen down. The boys ventured further than we had using a ladder that was in the house. We got my hair and makeup ready while we were waiting for the sun to rise. Then we spent the next few hours shooting barefoot around the decapitated house… I have never been so cold in my life! My feet completely lost feeling but somehow were still really painful. Thank goodness it was worth it. It was so so worth it.
I had an adventure. I had a brand new experience. I made some wonderful new friends and we created some beautiful images.
Love to hear from you so leave me a comment below or tweet with me @jessicaswander.
Until next time wanderlusters.
One thing I adore about modelling is playing dress ups and creating a character to play around with so this shoot for me was so much fun! This was my first shoot with these marvellous humans and I hope we will work together many more times in the future.
Also, It’s impossible to be unhappy in an Indian Headdress!
Photographer: Damien Bowerman
Hair and Make-up: Brooke Pearson
Model: Jessica Nicole Griffiths
Model: Jessica Nicole Griffiths
This is one of my all time favourites with Peter Coulson. It was such a fun day with some really incredible people involved. You can see a sneaky bit of my own red locks at the end of my hair but the rest of what you see is all individual hair pieces that were put in individually and then cut. Some people are super clever.