The Broke Student’s Guide to Discovering Europe

by Michael Nang

Valetta, Malta. Photo by Andrea Santoni via Flickr CCL

Valetta, Malta. Photo by Andrea Santoni via Flickr CCL

There’s something no one ever tells you when you’re young. Well, no, there are a lot of things that your parents try to tell you. It feels like everyone has some piece of advice to chip in about how you should be living your life. The thing is, you’re just having so much fun being young and free that you don’t take it all in.

I remember, as a young student I was bored during the summer break and was looking at the job ads in the back of the local paper, desperate to find a way to supplement my already paltry income. Enter my mother, who uttered three little words that I was yet to realise would be life changing.

“You should travel.”

“What?”

“I mean it. Travelling is good for the soul,” she mused as I peered at her in disbelief over the greying pages of the paper. I mean, couldn’t she see that I was trying to do the decent thing; get a second job to compliment my meagre weekly pay packet from the bar where I worked.

“Mother...” I sighed, putting down the paper. “Travel is great and all, but there’s no way I can afford to get away.”

“Bullshit.” Replied my mother, who normally saved swearing for special occasions, like when she stubbed her toe or unwrapping the Christmas lights. “You can go travelling and you should. You can get flights for literally nothing these days.”

And like an ancient sage, or perhaps some kind of bad idea witch, she sashayed out of the kitchen. Was that her mike drop moment? Wait, was it time I listened to my mother? I don’t remember what I did next, but I didn’t listen. I do remember that I spent the next few months toiling away working for two different bars, working unsociable hours, not seeing friends and being generally pretty miserable.

The next year, I was again sitting at the table, leafing through a paper, except this time, as I thumbed through to the jobs section, I stumbled across a full-page advertisement.

“Cheap Malta Flights”

I stared at it for a while. Could I? Could I just  book a flight and go? The previous summer had been utterly depressing, I’d worked every hour I could and returned to university burnt out, exhausted and unhappy. I grabbed the phone and phoned my friend Mike, who I’d met during the everlasting summer of work the year before.

St. Paul's Catacombs, Malta. Photo by dr_zoidber via Flickr CCL.

St. Paul's Catacombs, Malta. Photo by dr_zoidber via Flickr CCL.

He answered on the second ring, and before I knew what I was doing, I’d launched into a monologue about how horrible the previous summer had been, how I didn’t want to repeat it, and did he want to book a couple of flights to Malta with me, instead?

A few weeks later, our bags were checked in, we had boarded, we had navigated the sea of passengers attempting to put their bags in the overhead lockers and we were ready for takeoff. Mike was holding our Malta guidebook, our bible. My boarding pass was still in my right hand, growing damp with my nervous sweat. Mike glanced over.

“Dude, it’s cool. Relax. Here, read the guidebook. I think Valetta is going to be awesome, especially the catacombs.”

And reader, they were. 

About the author:  Michael Nang is an advertising executive currently working for a full service Digital Agency. One of his passions is travelling to different places around the world, writing about his many adventures and mishaps while exploring life's myriad secrets. He plans to compile all his works into a book that he seeks to publish in the near future. This article was produced in partnership with Thomson.co.uk.

Reference article:  20 Tips to Make the Most of your 20s 

In Pursuit of the Perfect Cornish Pasty

by Katie Richards

It’s probably fair to say that beyond English borders, our regional food doesn’t have the best reputation. But as an English girl who has lived in various parts of England and Wales for my whole life, not counting a brief flirtation with France in my early twenties, I am proud to say that English food is a great deal more than fish and chips.

First things first. You’ll only find a Cornish pasty in Cornwall. Now, while that might sound obvious enough, it took the Cornish Pasty Association a trip to the European Court in 2006 to gain this recognition. The story of the pasty, however, begins some 700 years earlier during the reign of Henry II when it was enjoyed by the wealthy and filled with exotic ingredients such as venison, eel and salmon. By the 18th and 19th centuries, the development of the mining industry in Cornwall meant that the pasty had become the food of the workers who required a nutritious and portable lunch to carry into the mine.

Cornish pasty. Photo by monkeymagic1975 via Flickr.com

Cornish pasty. Photo by monkeymagic1975 via Flickr.com

From the outside, granted, the Cornish pasty doesn’t look particularly appealing. But the buttery pastry shell in a half-moon shape with a characteristic crimped handle made of pastry gives way to a mouth-watering mixture of steak, potato, turnip and onion all seasoned with a liberal dash of pepper. While the crimped handle is today a handy means of eating your delicious pasty on the go, the handle was originally discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in tin mines several centuries ago. The thick pastry handle allowed miners to enjoy their hot meal and avoid being poisoned by the arsenic and tin on their hands as a result of a hard day’s work in the mine. Another traditional characteristic of the pasty which hasn’t lasted to the modern day is the savoury and sweet combination. One half of the pasty would be filled with the traditional steak mix while the other half contained a sweet apple pie-type filling as a welcome end to the miner’s hearty meal.

Growing up with a large family in the south west meant I enjoyed frequent trips to the Cornish seaside and had numerous opportunities to sample the region’s famous dish. Today, if you take a walk along any beach, you’ll lose count of the families enjoying a pasty as part of their picnic lunch, the perfectly portable food reinvented for the modern day.

Mousehole harbor, Cornwall. Photo by Jomega via Flickr.com

Mousehole harbor, Cornwall. Photo by Jomega via Flickr.com

Life in Cornwall largely revolves around the coast and it’s probably for this reason that I can only eat my pasty outdoors, gazing at the sea.  I think it’s the combination of Cornwall’s rugged beauty and culinary heritage that makes this simple lunch a highlight of my time in Cornwall. You are probably looking for a recommendation of where to buy the most authentic pasty, but I’m afraid I can’t help. I always rely on those that are freshly baked by my great aunt in her kitchen in Camborne; unwrapping the greaseproof paper package tied with string is what keeps me returning to Cornwall year after year.

Katie Richards lives in Chester, England and loves to travel. She works for Sykes Cottages, the UK’s leading cottage holiday company, which allows her to indulge her love for travel in the UK and Ireland.

[Photography by monkeymagic1975 and Jomega via Flickr common license.]

Note: this article is brought to you in partnership with Sykes Cottages.