The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience is a worldwide organization that sends students to internships in foreign countries. It offers its student members a work as well as a cultural experience abroad.
North. The furthest North I've ever been was Copenhagen, in an IAESTE trip to an event called the Copenhagen Get-Together. It was a great city, and a fun weekend, but I felt one weekend was a bit short too see everything. Besides, we had a bit of a "package tour", so we only saw parts of the city the organizer wanted us to see (part of that was going to a coal powerplant, interestingly enough). So I looked at the map and looked at the northern part of Europe. Considering I am on a low budget, somewhere in my mind I had made it that I was just going to hitch-hike to get to where I want to go. I don't remember if I thought I'd go to Stockholm, or Oslo, or Helsinki, or all three, but all of a sudden the plan grew in my mind, "Why don't you go to Trondheim as well? Or Tromso?".
Then I thought, what's the northernmost point on the map anyway? I looked at the map, or was it Google Maps, or Google Earth, and I found out it was Nordkapp. So I thought, let's go there! And I'll hitch-hike there!
At first Finland wasn't part of the plan. Googling told me that hitch-hiking in Sweden is hard, so I thought I'd just go up north through Norway and avoid Sweden, except for a little stretch when I have to get from Copenhagen to Oslo. I suppose I thought of going down through Sweden, but I wondered what would be interesting in the north of Sweden, and then I thought, what the heck, why not go through Finland as well. When I found out the cruise ship from Turku to Stockholm costs as little as €10, I decided "I'm going to Finland!".
Actually it wasn't that decisive either. I thought it'd be a fun thing to do, but there was no certainty that I'd do it. I had the idea late 2006 or early 2007, and it kept me entertained at that time, that I had an adventure that I was going to do, something to look forward to. Mostly it was a fantasy, a pie in the sky that I thought was not achievable, but was nice to think about.
In January 2007, I started a new job. I mentioned this plan of mine to my boss, who was actually very encouraging about it. I was surprised about it, but I was glad that the possibility was being kept alive. Back then, I wasn't so sure myself that I would be able to do it, so sometimes I thought about just letting the idea die a quiet death.
Actually, I had been telling some people that I was going to "hitch-hike through Scandinavia", and when they ask about it, I'd say "I don't know. Nothing certain yet.". I told a friend, Elvy, that I might not go after all, it's just a crazy plan. But her encouragements kept the idea alive in my mind, and made me actually realize it.