My trip ended with an early morning flight from Istanbul to Hong Kong the day after doing the cross-Bosphorus race on a stopover.
To conclude, the objectives of my trip had all been completed, including becoming a marathon swimmer and also getting my best result in TrailO world ranking races. However, the trip was a total hassle dealing with all my planning mistakes and incompetent race organisers which were totally not helpful at all, and totally not worth the money I wasted.
The total cost of my trip was estimated to be about €3300 with the breakdown below:
- €1400 on transport, including
- €450 for flight HKG – SVO – GVA
- €390 for flight HEL – HKG with a stopover at IST
- €340 for flight GVA – SVO – HEL (this routing was a necessity because it was the only routing which fit my schedule)
- €70 for a taxi ride from Siilinjärvi to Nilsiä
- €45 for organiser buses which I could only use the outgoing but not the return part of the it
- and the inter-city train rides were cheap enough to be negligible
- €370 on accommodation for 9 nights excluding Turkey, including
- €295 for 1 night of apartment and 2 nights of private rooms in hostels in Switzerland (I couldn’t find any shared accommodation in Geneva when I booked, my original intent was to only book a private room in Lausanne and try to stay in shared accommodation in Geneva if possible), and also about €20 wasted deposit when I wrongly booked a hotel instead of what I wanted.
- €75 for 5 nights in Finland, including €10 wasted for the 5th night in the school after failing to find anyone carry me from Nilsiä to Siilinjärvi early morning on Friday.
While a 22-day trip to Eastern Europe last year only cost me €300 in accommodation, i.e. about €13.6 per day, mostly in shared accommodations with only 1 night in a hotel. It was not possible to find even a hostel bed for €15 per night in Finland or Switzerland, while €10 was enough to get me a place in a high-quality hostel in the middle of the capital city in Eastern Europe!
- €220 for food and drink, i.e. about €18 per day, even though I mostly cooked myself for breakfast and dinner and only ate out at lunch. The trip to Eastern Europe last year only cost me about €300, i.e. €13.6 per day in food and drink even I dined out more often.
- €650 for the package tour in Turkey, including the race, 2 nights in 5* hotel and transfer between the hotel and the race, but not dinners.
- €500 for the 1 swimming and 9 orienteering competitions I signed up, including €28 wasted for the 1st orienteering competition as I couldn’t arrive in time due to the lack of public transport.
At the time of making my arrangements, there were a lot of things which ran out of my expectation, leading to over-budget. Initially I estimated the trip to cost about €2200 with Finland and Turkey only, or about €2800 after I decided to do the race in Switzerland. The major items which was out of my expectation include:
- I didn’t expect there was no cheap frequent flight from Geneva to Helsinki, a short-haul route between a big city and another capital city. The distance was about 2000 km which was roughly the same as Hong Kong to Beijing, where there were more than 20 flights per day and a one-way ticket could be bought as low as €160, and also overnight high-speed trains as an alternative when flights stopped operating in the middle of the night.
- I didn’t expect there were no shared hostel accommodation for my 2 nights in Geneva.
- I didn’t expect that public transport was so bad in inland Finland where it was good when I visited the coastal areas, resulting in a €70 taxi ride.
- Food was expensive even when bought from the supermarket, much more expensive than in Eastern Europe.
Moreover, as stated in the race reports, the race organisations were not up to my expectation. For the swimming race in Lausanne, the organiser failed to make me clear about the race route even it was a simple straight line, and I tried to read the map the day before and even worse, there was a long stretch of the race where everyone was out of sight. For the orienteering race in Tahko, the organiser failed to provide suitable transport to / from / between the competition places where public transport was not available at all. Only the part in Turkey was worth the money I paid for the expensive group tour in a luxury hotel.
As I have already run over my travel budget, I may have to reduce my travel next year to make up the difference, probably not to Europe again but remain in Asia, definitely not to the expensive country Switzerland again anymore. Even in the future, I will travel more to Eastern Europe, and less to Northern Europe. In particular, I will make sure that the competition is accessible by public transport as a compulsory condition to sign up.
For orienteering, my next major race will likely be the Asian championships in Hong Kong end of this year, however it has not been confirmed as the selection has not been taken place, then the world championship next year, and also possibly a WRE race in Japan next year as well.
For swimming, my next major target will likely be clean half and cold half in Hong Kong, which are 14 km rough ocean races from Stanley to Deep Water Bay, the former held in October, and the latter held in January or February. My current plan is to the former as a 2-person relay, and the latter solo without a wetsuit. As the distance is no longer a problem for me after doing the 13 km race from Lausanne to Évian, my major focus will be to get my speed up such I won’t be cut off at 6 hours, and continue swimming in Hong Kong while the temperature gradually drops to 17°C in the winter.