Travel on a budget can be difficult, let alone going to several countries at once. However, law graduate Lucas Low managed to explore eight European countries on a tight budget of just £800.
As an undergraduate student at Queen’s University Belfast in 2019, Low found himself in a prime position to travel around Europe to his heart’s content. The resourceful Malaysian took advantage of the cheap fares available during the winter and summer breaks to supplement his money.
Growing up, the Malaysian credits social media, particularly Instagram, with his passion for travel. “When I see images of beautiful countries on the platform, a part of me wishes I could be in that country and have that experience instead of seeing it on a screen,” says the 26-year-old, who is now a lawyer. “It sparked my dream of traveling to a certain country and my interest in traveling the world.”
Before that he traveled extensively to India via AISEC’s Global Volunteer Programwhere he explored cities like Mumbai, Agra, Delhi, Jaipur and a village in Maharashtra.
We caught up with Low to find out what sparked his passion for travel and how studying abroad paved the way for him to redefine the way he travels:
What was the most memorable trip you made alone before studying abroad?
Not many can say that they enjoy traveling to India, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time backpacking alone in India. As a young traveler I was keen to take on the challenge of solo backpacking in India as I knew I would not do so when I am of an older age as the way we travel and our purpose of travelling change.
My journey to India started with a volunteer program at AIESEC. I came across this organization while looking through the student programs available to me as a India travel option. You have many volunteer opportunities that allow you to travel to different countries. It was a humbling experience as I had the opportunity to share my Malaysian culture and tradition with the local students.
During the whole program I was in Mumbai for a month and a half. While spending most of my time there, I also had the opportunity to visit some cities in North India such as Agra, Delhi and Jaipur and a village in Maharashtra.
What were some of the challenges you faced during your trip to India?
It must be the 24 hour train journey I took from Mumbai to Agra. Traveling on a student budget, comfort and safety were luxuries I couldn’t afford. It’s just a mindset I had when traveling solo on a tight budget.
I barely had access to the internet for the entire ride as it was difficult to get a connection, let alone a good one. Without that, it was difficult to pinpoint my current location. Luckily I was thrilled to find out that the locals spoke some English and I was able to figure out when to get off at the correct stop.
I also brought a sleeper train ticket to sleep on a portable bunk bed. As more and more customers boarded the train, my “bed” turned into a seat – making it impossible for me to sleep. The train also stopped at many stations every hour as it was a local train to Agra. This made my surroundings extremely noisy and noisy, making it difficult for me to sleep well.
Editor’s Note: There are many things you can save on when traveling, but safety should never be one of them. Don’t hesitate to whip out your wallet to pay for a service that will help you avoid dangerous situations.
Why did you choose to study at Queen’s University Belfast?
I completed the UK Transfer Degree program at Brickfields Asia College. This enabled me to study law in Malaysia for two years before moving to one of the partner universities in the UK. I chose Belfast for two reasons: it’s one of the cheapest cities to live in and Belfast is a gateway to some of the most breathtaking cliffs in the world.
Tell us about one of your unforgettable trips in Europe.
One of my most memorable trips to Europe was traveling to eight Eastern European countries with two of my friends. In 2019 we traveled to Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Krakow, Prague and Berlin for two weeks. Before I met my friends in Vienna, I traveled to Munich and Salzburg on my own.
Was it difficult to manage your finances while traveling in Europe on a budget?
One great thing about traveling in Europe is the endless number of apps you can use to stretch your budget and plan your trip in detail.
Personally, Skyscanner allowed me to find out the best flight dates as they usually recommend the cheapest option. Go Euro is a popular app for finding the cheapest bus routes. It also saves a digital ticket on your phone and keeps track of your bookings, which is very handy when you travel to many cities.
In total I’ve spent around £800 traveling to these countries. This includes all my expenses for this trip.
What were some of your most memorable moments from this trip?
My travel style changed when I started my Europe trip. I no longer had a list of things I wanted to experience when I arrived in a certain country. Of course there are always the touristy and popular things to see and do, but I would instead take the time to walk around, observing the manners and behavior of the locals, and being a presence on my travels.
For example, I remember getting off the bus from Munich to Salzburg. Seeing the Austrian Alps in the morning light was a unique experience. Walking around the city without a route felt liberating as I wasn’t tied to a specific schedule. Sometimes simplicity can make a big difference.
Was it difficult to balance your preparation for the trip with your life as an international student?
Definitive. I often took part in activities run by the Malaysian Student Society in Northern Ireland and I also worked part-time in a restaurant in Belfast. Given the scale and nature of the trip, doing all the research and booking the bus tickets, plane tickets and accommodation was very tiring.
With that in mind, I always believe that we will find a way to achieve a personal goal or ambition. While it may sound greedy or over-ambitious to achieve everything at once, you will understand the sacrifices you must make to achieve your goals.
Do you have any tips for students who are planning to travel alone or abroad?
Prepare yourself adequately for your trip before you set off. It involves researching the attraction and some potential safety hazards that you need to be aware of. Relax on your journey and enjoy the moment as it may never come again.
For those of you studying abroad, seize the opportunity to travel solo whenever the opportunity arises as I can assure you that it will be a once in a lifetime experience. In addition, as people transition into the world of work and into adulthood, travel becomes more and more challenging.