Europe, the continent with a thousand different cultures. We’ve written about it plenty of times, whether it is on places to visit or restaurants to dine at. The tourism hotspot has over 600,000 establishments offering weary travellers a cosy bed to rest in, according to Eurostat. While that may be true, travelling in Europe is a feat in itself. You could always join a tour group, which is convenient but unfortunately limits the time you get to spend at each stop. Or you could get in touch with Elgin Xiao, Chief Destinations Planner at Amala Destinations, and work out a personalised itinerary.
“If you just want to see something that’s created for tourists, sometimes it loses the personal touch, or it doesn’t give you the sense of place,” said Xiao when we sat down with him to plan our ideal European trip. We can safely testify to that — we recently joined Amala Destinations on a journey to Gal Oya in Sri Lanka. For those few days, we disconnected from the grid and entered an untainted realm that seemed to belong in another time.
Organising a week in a national park is child’s play for the veteran planners at Amala. Xiao, who was formerly in the banking industry, always had the travel bug. During a sabbatical, he decided to make the career switch, and he hasn’t looked back since. Strangely for a frequent flier, he used to get anxious when boarding a plane, until he found ways to cope with his aerophobia. “What I do is to read on how safe aircraft are, how they’re made to withstand shocks, and that flying is generally safe,” he explained. “If I can avoid flying, I will. In Europe to get around I’ll take the train or drive.”
To get a glimpse into how Xiao gets around Europe, we tasked him to plan a month-long itinerary that takes us from Iceland to Turkey — without taking a single flight. The ideal season to start this journey is from end-August to September/October, where it’s quieter and more pleasant, said Xiao.
(Illustration by Nadine Christmas)