We all dream of traveling. Traveling to faraway lands, traveling solo, meeting people from different cultures, facing new adventures, and evolving with each experience. But it never happens. We never have enough money, enough time, enough determination to actually take that dream trip.
But like we say, "if opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."
I got a chance to go to Edhec Business School, France as part of an exchange programme, and as an enterprising management student, I didn't let the opportunity go waste. I am no different from you or others. It's just that I decided to take that leap of faith. I just had to make it happen. My name is Prashant Bhansali, and I am final year student at IIM Udaipur, India.
In my journey, I managed to travel 23 countries in the 105 days I could spare. Every year, more than 400 students from India visit Europe for similar student exchange programmes but what became was unique in my case was that I sneaked out time from my class schedules and planned out some of the best solo travel trips.
105 days · 23 Countries · 56 Cities · 13 International Flights · 144 train and bus journeys · 4 Cruise Rides · 15000+ miles covered- My Euro Trip in Crux
Like with all beginnings, it wasn't easy. I always wanted to experience a solo trip but never had the courage to try it in India. So, I decided to undertake one while I was still in Europe. I packed my bags, booked the first flight to Portugal and left in two hours (literally, that was what happened). For the first few days, every day was quite daunting to me. Being an outsider in an unknown country, I doubted every person. You can't even leave your luggage in plain sight while taking a piss. I was always scared of getting robbed. I was afraid of the people, what if they get racist and hurt me? In a totally strange place, how could I have trusted any person? But, on the other hand, I was alone, lonely somewhere on earth which was thousands of kilometers from my family, friends, my people and my country. It was hurting me to roam around alone for days without saying or talking to anyone. Not having anyone to share a sad or a joyful moment. I was craving for human connection. It was like solitary confinement punishment given to me by myself for all my past life sins. This was the first time in my life; I realized the importance of every damn thing and person who I took for granted. The internal fight went on for few days until I started opening up to the people around me. I realized that these people were not different than us. Every smile always reciprocated a smile. They will gladly help you if you ask them for. And the biggest accomplishment of these trips was that I found myself. I understood who am I, what I want in my life and what is my purpose in life! And, that is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life :)
In these 105 days, I have experienced backpacker solo trips to random road trips, slept at airport floor to random street roads, experienced from 35°C to -7°C, travelled 15-22 Km almost every day on foot, hiked mountains, crossed oceans, hooped on scooters, lived life in some of the remotest villages to some of the world's most exotic islands, survived on bread and cheese and met unimaginable amount of crazy and smart people from all over the globe. Indeed, it was an experience which could only be lived and is really difficult to express. Great things happen when you have the least expectations. And, it sure did!
From visiting the picture-perfect Corsica, where parts of ‘Tamasha' were shot, to stepping foot on King's Landing from ‘Game of Thrones' in Dubrovnik, Croatia, it started like a dream. I managed to check off quite a lot many countries and places that were on my bucket-list – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Vatican City, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Netherlands, Monaco - Monte Carlo and islands like - Corsica, Ibiza :)
Nothing prepares you for life better than a trip. And I had my shares of rough experiences. In Norway, I, along with 2 other fellow exchange students, were stuck without any place to stay for the night and ended up sleeping on the streets without any blanket or proper winter wears. The temperature in Norway drops below 0°C at night. That was probably the longest night of my life.
Undertaking a 22-km challenging trek in Norway, the three musketeers (fellow exchange students from my school in France) defied our physical abilities, fought against the worst of weather conditions to reach the most mesmerizing view of our life. It was 10 hours long trek where for many moments, we felt crunching noise of our bones, muscular pain everywhere, doubted ourselves, thought to give up and return but everything fell one-inch lesser to our will power to conquer the so-called "Trolltunga Trek"!
This Euro Trip was a roller-coaster ride with lots of interesting people, experiences and adventures, just like life is. I wanted to travel and explore the places in Europe like a local, so I mostly avoided hotels and hostels. I stayed with a lot of local people in most of the countries I visited. Some of my favorite experiences include: In Croatia, I was welcomed with an Indian curry and rice cooked by a Slovakian girl, a friend of two other Slovakian girls who hosted me for a night. I have been invited to a Polish girl’s (my host) piglet wedding, and she has agreed to be my wing-woman to set me up with a Ukrainian girl :D. I have been taught perfect yoga moves by a Spanish girl(the irony of life). And, I have also met a Syrian girl who taught me the value of life and helped me feel the pain and suffering of people of this world. I have argued and debated with an Irish guy talking low about India, and I have met a real traveler (traveled around 156 countries till now) in Switzerland, who inspired me to travel the world. Every person who I met in my journey taught me something new about life and helped in, my development as a human. There were hundreds of moments like these which made this trip memorable as it seems.
You never return the same person from a trip. Having traveled solo for a good part of the trip, one thing I learned was to be myself. The adventures and the experiences gave me the strength to do something I couldn't have ever even imagined earlier. It was there I realized that I couldn't see myself working for someone else. I always wanted to create employment for people. Thus, I started having discussions with my family; my mentor and my college seniors in next few days who helped me assess the pros and cons of the decision I was about to make for my life, and I finally decided to opt out of placements from my college and work on my dream start-up. This start-up would be soon launched for all the TravelJunkies like me who wants to travel the world and have the experiences they always dreamt off!
I will sum it up with a message that- "No matter wherever you’re, travel and meet people. We need not wait for the perfect moment and perfect time to start traveling. I, myself will start exploring the places I haven’t in my own beautiful country."
Life is too short to wait, so start now. We have so much to explore, and so less of time. Damn, I started so late.