I thought it would be a nice idea to give you some insight into what our travel days have been like so you can read a first-hand account. For some of you the whole idea of backpacking and train travel may be a very foreign idea. For some, it is something they know well so they will be able to relate to these experiences.
Leaving your hostel you load your life (aka, your pack) onto your back, usually with a smaller pack on the front of you and figure out how to get to the train station. Sometimes that means a walk that is supposed to be 20 minutes but somehow feels like 3 hours….in 104 degree weather. Other times it means cramming yourself and your protruding packs into a tiny metro or tram. But no matter what there will be some looks from the locals who are likely thinking “how the hell do those girls think carrying those bags are a fun time”.
Once you make it to the train station, next you have to figure out what platform you are leaving from. Sometimes it will be platform 3 which is a short walk, or it will be platform 28. In the latter case, it is usually when you are connecting to another train and you only have 15 minutes so of course you have to run to make it to your next train in time with almost thirty pounds on you. Because god dammit life just hates you at this point. In some cases the first three cars of the train are going to your destination while some are not so you have to make sure you won’t be left in some country where you can’t even pronounce the name or identify where it may be on a map. Of course there will be no indication so you gain this information because someone took pity on you clearly being in the wrong place and they give you the heads up.
Then this is just my personal absolute favorite part. (I hope you pick up on my virtual sarcastic tone) Some of the longer trains require a reservation. This means they will print you out a ticket that says what car you are in, what cabin you are in and what seat you are sitting in. But in some countries (em, em, Croatia) there is absolutely no indication to car number, or cabin number. If you’re lucky it won’t be a crowded train and you can just plop down in whatever cabin and nobody will bother you. But in some cases each cabin will be packed and then you have to tell a local that they are sitting in your seat, also a really fun time (sarcasm, just can’t get enough of it right).
Then comes the actual train ride. All of them are really beautiful and you will see landscapes that look like paintings that belong in famous museums. This is also a great time to sit back and appreciate all of the travelling you have done thus far. Other times, they are in a packed cabin with 5 other people with no air condition and it’s 90 degrees out. That means on a 6 hour train ride, things start to get real smelly about an hour in when everyone’s sweat starts kicking in. I mean of course you are just smack dab in the middle of two older men who started sweating through their shirts before the train even left the station and they smell so good you consider on more than one occasion offering them the deodorant that is in your pack overhead.
After an…..interesting train ride you get off at the station. You made it to your new city, you load up your pack again and set off to get it the hell off your back as quickly as possible. You are instantly welcomed by train stations that are so gorgeous you know you’re in for some serious sights. Next it is time to get to the hostel or campsite, or airbnb, whatever it is you saw fit to sleep in that night. Some places will be a short walk from the train station. Others entail a metro ride where you have to transfer onto three different lines to finally get to the right stop. Then there’s the times where you can hop on a crowded bus or tram and pray that nobody noticed that you skipped buying a ticket.
Most times you will have really good directions but that still means that there will of course be massive hills you have to walk up or thousands of steps to climb. Because every now and then a girl needs some cardio right? This is usually when I take to internally repeating “FML” over and over again while climbing my 300th step. After probably walking down a couple of wrong streets usually in the opposite direction of where you should be heading you then spend about 15 minutes trying to figure out where the hell the street names and numbers are. Finally you spot a tiny little sign that has the name of your hostel on it. Thank God, at this point you are so damn close, the hallelujah choir is going off. You are about to get this massive beast off of your back. Up 6 flights of stairs and a speedy check in process you throw your stuff down onto the floor and that’s when it all hits you.
You are in a new city. You are here because of your own efforts, nobody else’s. This is a new place for you to explore, new foods that will stay in your fondest memories and new people to meet who will become friends. You have carried this pack all by yourself and did not need someone to help you with it. There are a lot of feelings of accomplishments when you get to this part. So while the day may seem grueling especially when it seems shade is nonexistent it is all worth it once you look out that window and realize that you are making your dreams come true.