Postcards from Europe

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By 2017-04-16

compiled by Milan Lu

Backpacking through Europe may sound like a dream to some but it isn't entirely unattainable. With a solid plan, perseverance and a lot of luck, you too can go on an adventure of a lifetime. The images you see are from four exchange students from Singapore who got the opportunity to study one semester at a university in Norway. Not letting this golden opportunity pass, they backpacked their way through 42 cities in 24 countries, all in the span of 180 days.

The adventure really began many months before the flight to Norway as it required months of planning, part-timing to earn enough money, applying for a Schengen visa and the UK visa as well as making all the bookings necessary prior to the trip.

The main purpose of the trip was the student exchange programme they were chosen for. In between the programme, they made use of all their holidays and the subsequent semester holidays to complete the trip. There were no stops at fancy hotels or organized tours. The secret to the success of this trip was eating as many simple meals as possible, camping, a lot of hiking, using public transport and even walking across borders. Since their base was Norway they managed to leave behind much of their luggage at a safe place. Booking rooms at a hostel or using websites like Airbnb to find a house to stay in helped reduce the load they carried every day as well. Look up campsites and if you're feeling a little more adventurous, camp out in the wild. Make sure the forests you visit are not protected nor have rules against camping.

A list of cities they wanted to visit were planned out but there were little detours to a town or two while travelling between two cities. As the trip took place between July and January, the group had to be ready for winter conditions as well as the Mediterranean sun.

Brush up on some European languages or use a translating app religiously. Scandinavian countries don't always speak very good English and if you're not careful you just might get into some trouble. One striking experience they had was when they accidentally boarded a refugee bus near the Swedish border and had no idea until the bus was stopped by security forces. The driver of the bus had not spoken English and had simply ushered them to get on. It only took a bit of explaining and producing bus tickets to the security forces before they were guided to the proper bus they needed to use!

Visit little restaurants, farmer markets, museums and parks. Speak to the locals whenever you can and you will hear some amazing stories. Take up any little customary challenge and take as many pictures as you can. Send a postcard back home and disconnect from technology, you might not have much of a choice with that last bit. Adhere to the rules of each country and don't do anything reckless, especially if you're camping alone in the forest. Beware of pickpockets and thieves and try not to get swindled. Having to go to the police station to report a theft can eat out a chunk of time from your travel plans. Although this article in no way does justice to the thousands of images and stories behind each one, maybe it will inspire you to one day backpack your way across a few countries. Travelling doesn't have to be all that complicated. All you need is a good plan and good friends to make memories.

(Pix courtesy Cheryl Joy,
Jia Jun, Jiahui Lui and Iroshan De Almeida)

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