At the time of writing this, I am sitting in carriage 7, a 4-berth train cabin heading on a very long ride to Kazan, Russia. Our specific trip started back in Beijing with a journey through Mongolia, and with various stops along the way, but for ease of this post, I'll just refer to it as the Trans-Siberian train.
On such an epic journey, the time it takes to get from one end to the next in total and without stopping is anywhere from 6 to 8 days on a train! As one can imagine, that's more downtime than might be healthy, and you need a way to keep your mind busy (unless you plan to subdue yourself with a bit of vodka and dried fish, of course).
From my personal experience, here are 15 ways I have used to pass the time on the train, some of which you might find useful as well:
1. Read a book. Or, if you read super fast like my boyfriend, read eight. It is best to load up on books or downloaded versions before starting the journey because finding English books on the train will only be possible if there are other English speakers looking to do a swap.
2. Photograph the ride. Spend some time documenting the train and the experience. Even little things like what you ate for lunch and the people you met in your cabin will be interesting to look back on in the future. Read up on some great photo tips.
3. Stare out the window. By far my favorite on the list is to just watch the Russian countryside pass by my window. From green fields to mist-covered and broken down villages, there is something soothing and entertaining about staring outside. It's also a great time to clear your mind or brainstorm solutions to problems you otherwise lack the time to think about.
4. Play cards. Bring a deck – any deck! Even games like UNO are a fun addition to a long, long train ride!
5. Go for a walk. These trains are often way longer than you would think. If you're getting restless in your cabin, try “taking a lap” from beginning to end to pass some time.
6. Pop out onto the platform. Many stops will be for 20 minutes or more, so take the time to pop out into the platform for fresh air and a couple of photos (if that's allowed – don't try this in Tomsk!).
7. Practice your Russian. With so much downtime, it is the perfect place to bust out some of your Russian phrases – either with a cabin mate or with the carriage attendant. Or practice the art of surviving when you don't speak the language.
8. Type future blog posts. I'm doing this one right now! Some cabins will have an electric outlet to charge your electronics, but if not, try the restaurant car.
9. Edit your trip photos. My boyfriend is doing this quite regularly to stay on top of all the photos we've been taking on the trip. They are now ready to be uploaded at the first sign of internet.
10. Drink. Drink tea, drink water, or just drink beer and vodka. This is an easy way to make friends, too, by inviting your cabin mates to have a drink with you.
11. Eat. I love checking out the restaurant car, especially when I'm tired of instant noodles and cups of fake potatoes.
12. Write in a journal. This one should almost go without saying.
13. Plan your next stop. It's the perfect time to dive into your guide book and map out your loose itinerary for your next destination.
14. Listen to music. Stock up the iPod with some of your favorites, or create a trip soundtrack.
15. Nap. Nap until you can't nap anymore. Your body will thank you.
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