One of the biggest advantages of having a daily life in Finland is the existence of the ultimate holiday month – July. Sticking around your working place that month would make little sense because no one else will be there but you. And even if workaholics block the doorway in your office to prevent your escape, you won’t be able to reach any of your customers.
Because in July, Finnish people pack their necessities and move to a cottage in the woods, far away from civilization, the Internet and phones. Sure, if you are a student, you might need to earn some money doing a summer job, but we claim there’s always some leverage in July.
What if there is time, but no money, you ask? Worry not, our second promise for an awesome experience is based on the assumption that low-budget holidays offer more fun, experience, wisdom and great times than “normal” vacations, anyways!
The options are numerous. You don’t need to fly thousands of kilometers in order to see something new. A good way to travel is for instance by train. If you are under 26, you get special prices for Interrailing.
Through Europe by Train: Interrail
If you want to see more than two countries and have some extra cents to spend, it makes sense to book a “global” pass for up to 30 countries. To keep costs low, you could for example focus on Eastern Europe – this is how Laura Riuttanen and Jere Väisänen did it on their Interrail trip. They visited Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Czech, and the living costs were “nothing compared to Finland”.
“Choose restaurants that are not touristic – if they don’t have an English menu, for example, it’s a good sign you will get cheaper and more original meals,” explains Riuttanen.
Unlike Riuttanen and Väisänen did, who flew to Poland first, Maria Vilas Trias is traveling with her friends now starting directly from Finland. They have 22 travel days and will spend a bit over a month in total, and so far they paid 300 euros each – for train tickets, ferries, and hostels.
If you like trains, there are also options outside Europe. Santiago Osorio, for instance, will go with four other friends by Trans-Siberian express from Moscow to Beijing. That trip takes about two weeks with some stops, and is only slightly more expensive than an Interrail trip. The good thing: the train contains beds already, so while moving forward, you spare costs for a hotel. And in Mongolia, when visiting Ulan Bator, they will stay at a couchsurfer’s place instead of a hostel – low cost, high cultural interaction.
Work & Travel
If this has not convinced you, or you don’t like trains, have you thought of doing something good while being abroad? With AIESEC, for example, in the scope of the Global Citizen Project, you can help in a developing (or any other) country for board and lodge, and you only need to pay for your transportation.
Or if you have Erasmus-friends, how about paying them a visit? Finally, if you are really broke and cannot go anywhere, you could offer your own place for couchsurfers and get to know people from all around the world without moving an inch. You’ll be surprised what a popular destination Oulu is!
The better you prepare, the more you will have from your trip. Eventual visas, vaccinations, what to pack – find information online in blogs or in books. For the Interrail, for example, Laura Riuttanen recommends Europe on a Shoestring.
Don’t be naïve – the world is a little bit less safe outside Finland. Take a lock with you, and don’t leave any valuables ever behind, not even in a hostel. Don’t keep all your belongings in the same place and try to carry important things close to your body. Pack light because half of the clothes you take you won’t need.
Plan variety – after the 7th capital, even the biggest city fan gets tired of hot pavements. Some nature, a lake, some beach in between will keep you interested and relaxed. And don’t ever try to save money on necessary essentials like accommodation or food – you will be thankful for a good night of rest after days or weeks on busy trains.
Just do it
While all this might seem to you like an unfair teaser to show you what other people can afford and you can’t – don’t get us wrong. While we cannot stress often enough how important traveling is, we also continuously show how easily achievable it is. It will improve your knowledge, your language skills, but most important, it will help you to be open minded, tolerant, patient and experienced – great soft skills on a CV, by the way.
No one can take away what you learn in your trip from you: the people you meet, and the cultures you explore. If you are thinking of buying a new TV or of asking your parents for a new phone – rather invest this amount of money in traveling. Especially now, as a student, or as an employee in Finland with mentioned July-sabbatical, you have a chance to experience something great.
And even though this phrase sounds corny: you might regret not taking the chances, later when circumstances change. You never know how drastically it might change your life. Gilberto Oliveira Neto, on his 4th volunteer placement for AIESEC, landed in Oulu – and has been staying here for two years now studying in a whole new program, just because he fell in love with the country.
Life is a journey, so go travel it!