6 weeks in Europe

I did a solo trip to Europe, spending 6 weeks there, from 13th June to 24th July. I’ll give my philosophy of why I travel alone, in this post, and how I travelled in another.The original idea was to do it for longer. Go for the full 3 months that Schengen visa allows. But I couldn’t get a sabbatical from work. I used up my normal leaves to go for this one.

Why I specifically chose Europe is also quite interesting. I got hooked to metal music after listening to Megadeth play live in Bangalore last year in October. I started listening to more metal and now listen to a lot of doom/death/black metal. I discovered a lot of bands that became my all time favorites. I was blown away by their music.

A lot of metal has it’s roots in Doom metal that was originated by Black Sabbath. They are truly the pioneers of metal. 2016 is to be their last year of live performances and I decided to catch them live before they sign off. So I booked tickets to Hellfest with a lot of struggle (since they were already sold out). The festival also had Rammstein and Insomnium playing, along with the other big names like Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax. Only after I got my tickets did I actually start thinking about what dates I would go, applied for leaves and booked my flight tickets. I also found the festival Jalometalli, which was the only place Kalmah were playing. I could also catch Swallow the Sun play live here. I couldn’t get tickets for this one online though, as they had to be collected in person or you had to pay 40 euros to get them delivered, which didn’t seem worth it for 100 euro tickets.

Hellfest was between 17-19 June in Clisson, France and Jalometalli was on 8-9 July, in Oulu, Finland. It seemed like a nice midway point for the trip to have Jalometalli in there. It gave me some structure or goal on my trip. I did end up going to that one as well.

My two main motivations for travelling are:

1) Being Uncomfortable 

You get comfortable doing the same things everyday. Everything is easy. That feeling of discomfort and thinking “WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING HERE!?”, when you are trying to figure things out in an unknown place, is priceless. Hence the solo travel as well. I like travelling with friends, but it’s easy to figure things out when there are more people.

Magic happens outside your comfort zone. 

2) Meeting new people

What do people in these country do? What kind of lives do they live? What do they think? What do they like/dislike?

Travelling alone gives you the golden opportunity to interact with people. You are alone and it’s a natural excuse to be more open.

Sight seeing for me is somewhere way down on this list, if I made one. Sure there are some super classy places that you have to go. But for this trip I had none in my mind. “Maybe Trolltunga in Norway”, was the only thing on my mind.

I also like to go without any planning whatsoever. Going solo rocks, because it’s impossible to do this in a group. People start getting restless, without a plan.

There were days on my trip where I had an idea that I should go to this city next, but would look things up after waking up to see my options for rideshare/buses/trains. Then there were days where even the next destination was unplanned, and I just wandered in that general direction. An example of this in my post: Nomad in Norway.

The pros of travelling this way are that you get to decide places based on what people suggest to you or you can stay longer at a particular place if you like it there. I stayed an extra day in Copenhagen and Tromso, because I had good company. I stayed an extra day in Gothenburg to see Deep Purple play live. It’s not possible to do this if you have pre-booked travel tickets.

I wanted this trip to be a little different and less touristy. So I wanted to go up towards the Scandinavian countries, instead of hanging out in Spain, Italy, Switzerland. Plus, these are the places that you go for your honeymoon, so they could be skipped for now ;-)

This is a map of the places that I went to:

Roughly 7 days in France, 3 in Denmark, 8 in Sweden, 5 in Finland and 12 in Norway is how I spent my time. Only spent 1-2 days each in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, since I wanted to go to Scandinavian countries quickly. Names of cities can be seen here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1ctmD7O1lX1RMZu2vblTfiuvLcZE

I had to and fro flights between Paris and Bangalore. I had to book a flight from Oslo to Paris 2 weeks into my trip since I realized it would be impossible to come down to Paris again, and the flight prices were rising quick. I also booked a flight from Narvik to Oslo 10 days before my flight from Oslo, since I wanted to spend time in Lofoten Islands in North Norway. So at the end of my trip it was 5 flights over 3 days to come back to India. Narvik -> Oslo -> Paris -> Rome -> Kuwait -> Bangalore.

By the way, my trip was 42 days long and I was hitchhiking. So did I get the answers to life, universe and everything? :-)

My upcoming posts will have details on how I travelled between cities (hitchhiking!) and how much money I spent on the entire trip (budget traveller!).


Nomad in Norway

This is a story about the time I didn’t see a single human being for 2 days, while travelling in Norway as a part of my 6 week Eurotrip. The details of the main story are also the reason for the title of the blog.  


With about 7 days left in Norway, I decided in Tromso that I was going to go to Lofoten Islands and just hike around and free camp my entire time. I had been too comfortable and lucky with Couchsurfing on my entire trip.

I left at 3:30 pm on 15th July from Tromso, and had no plans on where I was going to go in Lofoten. I had heard the name Svolvaer, and kept that as my hitchhiking goal for the day. I started from a spot my Couchsurfing host had told me about, and was lucky to manage my first ride within 5 minutes. An old man who was going back home to Nordkjosbotn, which is an hour ride away, called me. After he left me, I tried finding a good stop at a confusing intersection area where 2-3 roads met. It was hard to figure out which way to stand, since there were multiple ways for cars to go towards Narvik. After asking some people personally and standing at the wrong spot later for 30-40 minutes or so, I moved to the nearby gas station. I wrote Narvik on a board and stood at the space cars where coming out from. Some 20 minutes later a couple was going towards Narvik but not up to there and gave me a ride to another gas station an hour away. From here I got a ride by a guy going all the way to Bergen. He even offered me a ride for the entire way. He dropped me at a spot where a Couchsurfer had agreed to keep my smaller bag, with laptop and a few clothes, to take load of my back while hiking.

I had to wait here for 2 hours from 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm, feeling cold and dreading having to camp next to the highway. Finally 2 guys from Sweden, who had initially gone ahead, turned around and came back to me. They were going to Harstad but could leave me at the bridge that splits Harstad to one side and Lofoten to the other. On the way there, I saw that there is a hiking trail right next the spot I was going to get dropped.

(The guys from Sweden)

I started the hike at around midnight. I was enjoying my hike and thought this was impressive that you could do this in Norway. Hitchhike and then camp anywhere you want! How amazing is that! A little later I saw an animal in front, at some distance. It looked like a fox and I quietly backtracked a few metres and sat on a rock for some time, before continuing again.

(The top of the trail)

It was slightly scary, since this was my first wild camping experience. I had multiple nightmares that night about people rolling my tent down the mountain or squashing my tent or sneaking up my tent at night and so on. I didn’t use my earphones, since I wanted to be aware of potential noises at night. I woke up multiple times but then forced myself to sleep till 9:30 am.

After waking up next day, I went down and hung out by the bed and breakfast place at the base of the hike, asking people for a ride towards Svolvaer. When asking the people there, didn’t work out, I stood by the road. But the spot was quite bad, since I was on the opposite side of the road and there was space to pull over only on one side. After 2-3 hours of effort and still no rides, it started raining. I found shelter next to the building, but couldn’t stand out for hitchhiking. Or didn’t want to for as well, for some time, to take a break from my failed hitchhiking attempts :)
I waited for the rain to go away, but it never did. At around 5, I decided to message a few Couchsurfing hosts in the area to host me for a night. So much for camping around and hitchhiking. I was cold and didn’t really want to stand out in the rain. There were only about 3 hosts close by, with one of them not having logged in for ages. I sent a request to the other two. One of them replied in 10 minutes that he could host me. Knut stayed 20km away in Kongsvik, to the side of Lofoten, and came and picked me up.

Hot showers and a warm bed were definitely better than being outside :)

The craziness

On the night that my Couchsurfing host in Kongsvik rescued me, I saw the weather forecast and it was going to rain for 3 more days according to them. With barely any time left in Lofoten, I couldn’t have really stayed at home, could I? I borrowed a raincoat from Knut and decided to do a 40km roundtrip trail close to his place over the next 2-3 days. I would start this from the next day with my 12 kg backpack, with food for the entire time.

I started at 6 in the evening next day. Knut dropped me at what he thought was the starting point of the trail. After wasting an hour or so around the wrong trail, I found the right trail path at around 7 :-)

It was raining continuously the entire time. Four hours into the hike, I was thoroughly enjoying myself and thinking about quotes such as “Sometimes you do things in life, like walk 40kms in rain, because that’s how life is.”

In Norway, the trails are marked by red paint on trees or rocks every 50-100 metres. After reaching a mini peak sort of area, I couldn’t see any trail markings. I decided to scramble up some rocks and realized after some time that this was completely unnecessary and the wrong way! Getting down was an even bigger pain due to the slippery rocks and backpack. I was furious at myself for doing this stupidity since it would be at least a few days before anyone came here, in case I got hurt by falling or twisted my ankle. I vouched to be more careful and alert from this point on.

I decided to look at my GPS and found at that I was only about 4kms in, out of the first 7km stretch! Although, there was that detour and the initial part of the hike was where the most elevation gain was. I got demoted by this but carried on, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do the entire path. I decided to look at trail markings very carefully. But it was getting harder to find them, since they were on smaller rocks now instead of trees, and my glasses with rain on them weren’t helping at all. I had to stop in between and clean my glasses and look hard to find the next mark.

After an 1-1.5 hours of this, I reached a spot which looked like the ideal place to camp for the night. It was a flat place with lots of grass, surrounded all sides by small mountains and a flowing water stream from the top with a lake in the middle. I started to unpack my stuff and realized my hands were frozen from the rain! The temperature was around 10C. I tried opening the clips of my backpack for 2-3 minutes but wasn’t able to. My hands had absolutely no energy in them. I could open one and then loosened the bag a little to get out my tent. Making the tent was another big ordeal which I somehow managed.

Keeping stuff in the tent was tricky. My backpack was completely wet. My jeans were wet from below the front pockets. My sleeping bag was fucking wet at the head because some water seeped through the opening of the polythene! Before starting the hike I had kept a plastic cover over my socks to prevent my feet from getting wet. Well that lasted about 15 minutes because I had to cross multiple small streams by stepping into the water, which was basically melted snow. My feet had been wet with cold water for about 6 hours now. I was also wearing very basic, torn, running shoes :-/

I slept at one side of the tent and during the night. The base of my sleeping bag and sides got more wet during the night since the tent wasn’t completely waterproof. Every hour or so a very small puddle of water would collect in the tent on the sides.

I woke up next day and saw that almost all the stuff was wet. My sleeping bag was just manageable. My jeans were completely soaked since they were on the wet backpack. I moved my mat to the middle of the tent and kept polythene bags between stuff on the side to protect my sleeping bag and jacket. I used some dry clothes to soak up the water at the base and sides of the tents.
At this point I had no will power to continue further. Going further would mean that my feet would be wet again and that my barely manageable sleeping bag could get even more wet. I didn’t want to risk it. Plus there was also the chance of getting sick. I decided that I would spend the day in my tent reading on my kindle and listening to music on my ipod.

It was a long day. I slept, read, listened to music, contemplated the meaning of life and there was still plenty of time. I went out of tent only twice or thrice. I slept at 10 in the night. That night I stuffed my ears with earplugs and music to get better sleep.

(A beautiful place on top of mountains)

I woke up at 9:30 am the next day after forcing myself to sleep longer. It was still raining and I shouted out loudly “WHY THE FUCK IS IT STILL RAINING!”. I was angry, I was upset. I finally understood why people in western countries curse the rain so much. I finally understood the meaning of the poem “Rain rain go away”. I again said out loud, pleading “Please go away”.

I sat at the same spot, without moving and thinking what I wanted to do, for an hour. I would move out at noon and go back down even if it doesn’t stop raining.

Then at 10:30, something wonderful happened. I saw the sun shining on my tent! FUCK! I shouted out loudly “YOU ARE OUT! THE SUN IS OUT! I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU! WOOHOOOO”. I jumped with joy and stepped out of tent. I had tears of joy in my eyes and said “Sorry, I’ve taken you for granted my entire life. You are the most amazing thing ever and I will never again take you for granted. Thank you”.

I packed up everything quickly and started moving down at 11. I touched a lot of the trail mark stones and said “Thank you” to them passing by. I messaged Knut saying “Hey, so all of stuff is wet. Can you provide me shelter for another day?” He obliged and said that he can pick me up at 4. I made it down with bouts of hysterical laughter in between. Something about the whole thing was really funny.

(The red paint on the stone as a trail marking)

(Happiness or Madness?

 Being an INTP (MBTI personality) I am worried about the meaning of life, what should I do in life and all these existential questions. Midlife crisis and what not. But after getting back, just shelter over my head and food in my belly made me delighted! It was that simple to be happy!
And I saw not a single person in the mountains, for 2 days straight. Something like this would be impossible in India.
Some other pictures from the hike: