Train travel conjures images of romance. Gently swaying side to side within your carriage, watching the world unravel before you spelling out endless possibilities. Perhaps you think of a steam train chugging across the Glenfinnan Viaduct just as the Hogwarts Express does in the Harry Potter movies. Train travel is certainly romantic. It is probably my favourite mode of transport. Nevertheless there is another side to the coin.
Imagine any train journey you have been on. Go on, I’ll wait. Got one? Excellent. You haven’t? Too bad we’ve left the platform now. Choo choo. The purpose of train travel is to get from one place to another. Obvious I know but everything else is a by-product. Good and bad. Enjoyment and scenery being the main two plusses. They usually go hand in hand.
Aside from my childhood love of Thomas the Tank Engine and my first dream job being that of a steam train driver (you’re redundant before you were even born pal), a big selling point of going Interrailing was that it appealed to my inner train geek and as I went from A to B all the way to Amsterdam I would see the landscape I travelled through as it unwound and changed before my eyes from place to place. This proved to be absolutely the case but, as we now turn our attention back to that train journey from paragraph two, it is still a series of train journeys. There is a lot of down time as you pass through nondescript places. The purpose of the train being to get from A to B remember. Not to appease my kinky landscape fetishes.
If I picture the train journey I have taken most in my life, from my local station to London Liverpool Street, the amount of that journey where I can look out of the window and see something picture worthy is a small percentage of time. Interrailing is no different in many respects. There are moments of beauty but the entire journey is not one long trail through paradise. If it were I’d have been hopping off at every stop. This leads us to today’s pearl of wisdom, Interrail Tip 3: Entertain yourself fool!
The beauty of this tip is the simplicity. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself occupied, just make sure they are legal. While riding the rails in Europe I did a lot of reading and I also became a podcast connoisseur. In preparation I downloaded programmes to watch via Netflix and Prime on to my phone but ultimately I ended up coming home having not watched a thing while on the train. My default position was relaxed in my seat, watching the world go by and listening to Talk is Jericho, That Peter Crouch Podcast or one of many unsolved crime pods. Yes, I’m one of those. It does mean that Peter Crouch’s voice is now synonymous with a grey morning staring down the barrel of an assault rifle on the Croatian border to me, but I’ll take that as a positive.
Technology is now such that we can have books, films, music and all other sorts of media in our palms at one time. It is important to be prepared in this respect for the long train rides. It also offers the bonus of not taking up too much precious space in your luggage. I won’t incite an e-reader versus physical book debate here but the e-reader wins every time when travelling. This isn’t the mobile library. You wouldn’t take your record player and all the vinyl you own with you I hope.
Being plugged in this way also offered me a surprising yet pleasant experience. My phone wasn’t cocked (cocked lol) and ready to take pictures the entire time. Of all the beauty spots I passed on the train I photographed very few. By slightly removing myself from the moment I was actually putting myself in the moment. So the gram missed out on a few snaps. But I have memories of the Dutch countryside in all its glory, narrated over by a description of a heinous crime that happened, coincidentally, not very far from where the train I was travelling on at the time was situated.
Ultimately, when it comes to passing downtime while a passenger on the train, be like Aston Villa Football Club.
Overly reliant on the form of Jack Grealish in their hopes of sustaining Premier League football. Prepared.