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[Backpacking] 유럽 배낭여행 체험기

Onepark 2007. 8. 31. 03:38

When 1996 fall semester just began on campus, most of the students who had backpacked around the world came to the class with numerous experiences.

While I traveled around Europe last summer, I met with tens of Korean students. Each time I talked with them somewhere at the station or on the street, my previous opinion that they merely wanted to spend their parent's money just for sightseeing gradually changed.


Prejudice of Old Generation


I came to know that I had been prejudiced as one of the old generation. There is an argument that the more Korean citizens including young students go abroad, the more current account deficit accumulates. It's true the foreign exchange which they bring out of country is calculated into the debit of the invisible trade balance, which contributes to the deteriorating balance of payment situation of the nation.


However, if we find the credit of the invisible 'cultural' balance is more valuable than the debit of the invisible 'trade' balance, it must be profitable for the nation. Those Korean backpackers whom I encountered were not traveling just for kicks nor leisure. In fact, they didn't have enough money to go shopping. Most of them had a limited budget, say 25 to 30 thousand won per day. If they spent more money for a comfortable bed or good food, they had to shorten their itinerary. They know the exact value of one U.S. dollar. I saw a Korean student consult his pocket calculators in front of a store.


Most of all, they understood the utility of planning and information. They said that they could see as much as they gathered information and planned in detail. A student traveler spoke boastingly that information is money.

On the other hand, some students made a royal trip, like sleeping in a three-star hotel which their travel agents had reserved and dining at an expensive restaurant. Out of question, convenience-seeking travelers have nothing to say to their backpacking fellows. It's because only those who went through troubles can make their experiences plentiful and unforgettable.


Three Groups of Students


This semester, there must be three groups of students. The first group comprises those students who went overseas during the summer vacation or plan to do so or study abroad in the near future. The second group consists of the activists and sympathizers of Hanchongnyon, a militant group that staged a war-like protest at Yonsei University in August 1996. Considerable number of students are said to have been brainwashed with the juche doctrine of North Korea, and they used to denounce the foreign influences. The students who are only interested in job recruit or mate hunting 'domestically' belong to the third group.

We live in an age of the global village. on one July weekend this year, some 750 thousand youngsters from every corner of the world gathered in Berlin to celebrate the eighth annual "Love Parade". If some of Hanchongnyon members participated in the international event which took place in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the very symbol of unified Berlin, they would acknowledge that there are lot of things to do for the unification of two Koreas.

Love Parade at Berlin in 1996 (pictured right) was really spactacular!


As I mentioned before, those students who spent valuable foreign exchange during traveling abroad would make more money by engaging themselves in foreign affairs or external trades some years later. Also, the experiences they have gained will never be forgotten. Take an example of my experience aboard a Dutch train.


Valuable Lesson to Be Learned in Europe


After I visited a small town north of Amsterdam, I came back to Amsterdam by train. At the station, there was no staff and I had to buy a ticket from a vending machine. Alas, the instruction was in the Dutch language, and there was no person around to ask for help. I inserted coins worth seven guilders. I managed to get a ticket after several trial-and-errors, and got aboard the train. When a conductor came to check my ticket, he found fault with my ticket. There was no value date printed on the ticket.


I defended myself, "I am a foreigner and cannot understand the Dutch language."
He charged me 22 guilders in accordance with the regulation, but advised me that my ticket is still effective.
Yes, it really worked. As soon as I arrived at Amsterdam Central Station, I asked the ticket counter clerk to change my ticket into six-guilder ticket for Schiphol Airport. She gave me a new ticket with a change of one guilder! I realized that in the Netherlands, being a foreigner was no excuse. A reasonable way of thinking and doing business has been established in that country. It must be a invaluable lesson that I will never forget when I deal with European partners.

⇒ For more stories regarding my traveling experiences, visit the English corner of  Park's IBT Forum.