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