Posts Tagged ‘Train’

Trans-Siberian Railway

November 23, 2011 1 comment

Prompt #22: TRANSIT – my tenth entry in the 30 Days of Indie Travel series

The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.

The more I travel, the more I enjoy the journey, at least in hindsight.  While stuck in a small airplane seat, wedged into a bus on curvy mountain roads or trying to sleep on a layover, I have done my share of complaining, but these aspects of travel are far outweighed by the ability to experience something new, to be immersed in a culture unlike your own.  Looking back on the memories of travel these unpleasant events are usually glossed over, replaced by the highlights of the trip.

One trip I have taken that was all about the journey, the experience of getting there occurred in 2007, my first year teaching in China, I decided to take the long way home.  It had long been a dream of mine to take the Trans-Siberian railroad.  While I didn’t have to take the whole trip (Vladivostok to Moscow), the Trans-Mongolian (Beijing to Moscow) journey was a perfect opportunity.  7 Days on a train is a long time, but an experience I would do again in a heartbeat.  

I arranged and purchased everything for this trip from Beijing, meaning that most of the people in my car were Chinese.  I had a very limited budget and as a result had a cheap ticket that went straight from Beijing to Moscow instead of stopping to see some sights along the way.  The seven days I had on the train meant I got a lot of relaxing (sleeping) done, some very thick books (the Brothers Karamazov and others) read and some great conversations with the one other American in my car.  I am not sure I would do it straight through on a repeat journey, but it was an amazing experience doing it straight this first time.

There were some hiccups along the way largely due to lack of funds.  I had expected my debit card to work in Russia but was distraught when I got the message that it was rejected.  Once I got to Moscow I found out that all ATM transactions are blocked in Russia by my bank due to worries of fraud.  This would have been nice to know before departing since it meant that I had no money (and thus no food) for 5 days on the train.  I had a few snacks with me which I rationed and my car mates shared some that they had with me keeping me from completely starving.  Oh well, lesson learned.

This seven day trip was simply about the journey, the sights along the way an accompaniment to the constant movement across Asia and into Europe.  Upon arrival in Russia I had a great time visiting Moscow, St. Petersburg and then on into Scandinavia but the journey remains a great memory.  Sometimes taking a bit longer to get to a place pays off and makes you appreciate the distance we are able to travel these days.

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