Couple travels 19,000km on land back to Singapore
From living like nomads to nearly getting scammed, this couple turn their graduation trip into a journey of a lifetime
Have you ever thought of making an all-land 70-day, 19,000km trip across 14 countries?
That was what Singaporeans Varun Varma, 30, and his wife Neha, 28, decided to do, turning a trip back home from London into the journey of a lifetime.
In 2015, the couple - who met at the National University of Singapore in 2007 and did their master's in London together - were wondering how to celebrate their graduation.
That was when they had the idea to travel back to Singapore by land.
Mrs Varma told The New Paper: "A lot of our graduating friends were doing trips to different parts of the world. We wanted to do a bit more than visit one or two places, so we tried to think of something else."
She said the route passed through must-see places, such as the Curonian Spit in Lithuania.
Starting July 2015, they travelled from London to Singapore over land, going through Europe, Russia, into China and then to South-east Asia.
They had only two large backpacks and a shared love for travel, having shipped their other belongings back to Singapore.
Mr Varma said: "There was no time pressure, and we had a flexible itinerary.
"In the worst-case scenario, if we missed a train, we would just wait for the next one."
The couple shared about their time in Mongolia, where they stayed at the Jalman Meadows Wilderness Camp. They camped in yurts, a type of Mongolian tent, hiked and rode wild horses.
Mrs Varma said: "It is literally green, open spaces. There is nothing else around for miles."
Although the horses were wild, they were surprisingly calm when being saddled up, she said.
Their time at the camp gave them a chance to live like nomads.
Moscow was also a highlight for them.
"Coming from smaller cities in Europe, the scale of the place caught us off guard. The statues, roads and buildings were so grand," said Mrs Varma.
They had quite a few memorable experiences.
In Riga, Latvia, two big men, started pointing at them, telling them to go into a bar.
She said: "They were very aggressive about it."
The couple decided to take a chance and were pleasantly surprised.
Mr Varma said: "They bought us drinks and tried to practise English with us."
"Everyone wanted to practise their English with us," added Mrs Varma.
However, not everyone they met was as nice.
Mr Varma said he was almost conned in China. A pair in their early 20s asked him to take a picture of them, and afterwards they invited him to a meal.
Mr Varma was suspicious of them, so he declined.
He said: "Then they went to someone else and said the exact same thing."
He later found out from a friend that they were going to make him pay the massive bill.
Other "un-fun things" included a 16-hour bus ride from Germany to Lithuania. What made it even more uncomfortable for the 1.85m-tall Mr Varma was the lack of legroom.
Nonetheless, the entire trip was an insightful experience to observe the cultural shifts.
Said Mr Varma: "First, we had ravioli in Western Europe, then pelmeni in Russia and then dumplings in China. They are all the same thing but with different executions. That was pretty cool."
Coming back to Singapore was bittersweet for Mrs Varma, with the holiday over and "the reality of life starting". She now works at the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Mr Varma, who is a strategy consultant at a finance company, said: "I missed the simple, nomadic life where I didn't have any worldly possessions to care about."
The pair spent about $12,000 over 70 days. They found lodging through Airbnb in Western Europe and booked hotels when they were in the Baltics, Russia and Asia.
Mr Varma also had an international debit card that saved them much trouble in converting money.
They said plane tickets back would have cost $3,000 to $5,000.
Although travelling by air is cheaper, they wholly recommend the trip - especially for those looking to immerse themselves in their journey.