Early this year, I visited Switzerland, my first time to set foot in Europe. While I cannot wait to share with you all my memorable and breathtaking experiences alongside wonderful photos, this man, who’s typing behind his laptop has to work for a living and doesn’t have much spare time to write and edit photos. So forgive me in advance if most of my posts are late and will sometimes appear chronologically irrelevant. But believe me, I am trying my best to catch up on the blogs that I have to write on and will definitely share with you all of them this year and beyond.
Before I post my Sweetzerland experience, I’d want to share first my pre-Europe travel decisions and struggles. Some things that I wouldn’t forget.
Fear of Rejection
I love travelling, and we are lucky enough to be in the era where travelling is no longer considered a luxury (in most cases) and is very much encouraged both for its economical and personal benefits. As a traveller (or maybe in all aspects of my personality), I consider my self a late bloomer realising that travelling can really be fulfilling. With that being said, you can imagine how giddy I was when I got my first passport last 2014. I felt like a kid who just received the best toy he could ever ask for that is made of blank pages. Not a day passed that I daydreamed not, about where I could possibly go. I thought I was an all-powerful traveller who can go to places beyond the borders of my country. Until I had to apply for a Visa.
Well, it’s not that I didn’t know that some countries require travellers to have a visa. It’s more of the anxiety of an Asian guy applying for his first Schengen visa and the same being rejected. Despite the fact that I prepared all the requirements and triple checked them, thrice, I was still uncertain about the outcome of my visa application. My workmates who knew about my trip also felt my anxiety as I count days after I submitted my application. Then the day came, and my passport arrived, one page occupied with my very first Schengen Visa. Only then, I was able to say: “Switzerland, here I come!”
Should you need to apply for a Schengen Visa, here are some tips:
1. Identify the country of your point of entry. Your point of entry will be the determinant of the Embassy where you will have to apply for your Visa.
2. Check the requirements online. The requirements are almost the same across the Schengen States, however, some states might ask for more requirements compared to other Countries in Europe.
3. Most Schengen States allow you to apply for a Visa, at the earliest, 60 days prior to your trip. Maximise that.
4. As part of the requirements, they’ll ask you to show a booking certificate for your airfare and hotel. You can get airfare booking certificates through a travel agency. For the hotel accommodation, you can reserve at no cost at booking.com.
Quality over Quantity
After receiving my very first Schengen Visa, the next question is how I will maximise it. Schengen Visa can give you access to more than twenty European countries. I only applied for a single entry visa valid for seven days, and the possibility of travelling to more than one Schengen State is definitely a viable option.
Switzerland, which is my point of entry, is just a train ride away from France, Germany, Italy and Austria. It was indeed tempting to go to said countries and maximise the days I have. Not to mention, it was Valentines Week and the main reason I am going to Switzerland is to celebrate Valentines with my very special someone while Eiffel Tower is just a stone’s throw away. It was a tough decision between spending our entire vacation in Switzerland or crossing countries to maximise the validity of our Visa.
Travelling is not just ticking something off your list but really immersing yourself into the culture of every destination.
I asked some friends for advice and most of them suggested that we do a European Tour rather than just staying in Switzerland for one week. While the idea is okay, I realised later on that I’d rather experience Switzerland in its entirety over having bits and pieces of five different countries or so. Looking back, I realised that is, in fact, one of the best travelling decisions I’ve made.
Travelling is not just ticking something off your list but really immersing yourself into the culture of every destination. It’s not about just the number of countries you’ve visited but more of the number of cultures you’re able to experience and come to understand.
Flying Ain’t Easy
The last challenge I had to face is to look for an affordable airfare. Well, this one should be a no-brainer. Haha! But I had trouble finding cheap airfare only because of my own fault. My trip was scheduled last February 9, and I only started looking for tickets a week before my flight. It’s a mistake that I will never do again because it could’ve jeopardised my plans, should anything go wrong. Aside from me not booking a ticket way advance than I did, there are some challenges that I experienced during and in between my flights.
I learned the hard way that choosing connecting flights should be done wisely. Otherwise, you should expect to have your own leg of Amazing Race ahead of you. Another thing I learned is to avoid the window seat at all cost for flights that are probably longer than 3 hours. I love choosing the window seat since I love taking photos and videos of my trips and the window seat is obviously the prime location for that purpose, and that purpose only. Since two of my flights took longer than 10 hours, I had to annoy people who were sleeping just because I had to go to the restroom or simply stretch. Lastly, do your best to sleep during flights. I know, watching movies is tempting especially if you have a virtually limitless supply of beer or wine. However, lack of sleep can give you a bad case of jet lag plus alcohol and coffee will just push you to dehydration. I don’t think you want to look like a dehydrated zombie on your first day of vacation.
And the trip begins…
This is just a prelude to what happened to my Sweetzerland trip, and please stay tune in the following days while I tell you about my experiences as I travelled in the Land of water (and chocolates and cheese!). I’ll do my best to transport you to the places I’ve been to and provide as many details as I could about my trip and how I made sure that my work leaves without pay are all worth it.