Most of us find the idea of a quiet cozy corner with a warm coffee mug in one hand and a book in the other as a perfect relaxing day. A vacation is meant to experience exactly that – relaxation. It looks perfect on Instagram and an enviable life goal.
So when I decided to start my vacation with just that, and plenty of it, 100 hrs of it to be precise, I was looked upon with ridicule, and pity; anything but envy.
Why? Because of the added twist in the tale.
“My cozy corner was going to be an air-conditioned berth in an Indian train!”
It made cool sense to me.
Whilst I can enjoy cups after cups of coffee, tea, lassi served right to my fingertips at loose change prices, I am also being transported to a beautiful place at the end of the journey.
And the vacation has just begun.
Many of us love the idea of being alone and undisturbed by cell phone, social media, clients, friends and daydreaming endlessly. But we get restless very soon, once we get into that situation. Like I said, it looks great in pictures.
The idea was to see if I would really enjoy it.
“So, here is the low down.”
My journey starts from Kalyan on the outskirts of Mumbai, India and goes cross-country up to Siliguri, in West Bengal, northeast of India. It’s a cross-country route spanning across 6 states and 2500 km over two days.
I loved the convenience of trains because one need not pack strategically and weigh each bag. One can casually pack and take things that you always wanted. No precautionary buffer time to reach. No judging stares of the security personnel. No cattle class treatment.
But it’s challenging to keep yourself entertained when you have so much free time and (which you always wanted) and no plans to make the best use of it.
So here’s how I prepared:
• Books – I collected at least two books from my favorite authors that I am sure I won’t get bored of. As soon as I secured my luggage and climbed to my berth I jumped right onto the first page and there was no one to nag or distract me. Bookworm heaven I say!
• Socialising – most people hold up till they reach their destination and meet their group mates (if you are a package tour member) to make new friends. Often people travel with their own group of friends and hardly socialize outside it.
But if you are a solo traveler like me, then a long train journey is an excellent opportunity to meet people. The added advantage is that in long-distance trains people, let their guards down sooner or later. And once they know you are a new traveler to their hometown, the natural hospitality kicks in and they become your insider tour guide. What tips and stories they share can’t be found in travel brochures and google search.
• Food – all of us are foodies. Hands down. I love the fact that across six states, as you travel, you get local fast food served directly to your berth, at really cheap prices. I always hate how airports charge a premium on all kinds of food and water. Trains are for the common folks and priced accordingly. Not to mention tea and coffee at regular intervals.
• Finish pending leisure activities – I refrain from using the word ‘work’ because we are talking about vacation right? That poetry you always wanted to write. Those articles you always wanted to read, but are lying saved in some corner of your phone. Those messages from old friends you always wanted to reply. Those calls to your near and dear ones that you never had time for. When will you get the time? right now! As you enjoy your tea and soak in the lack of urgency of everyday life.
More so, if you are visually inclined like me, one can edit pictures and videos. Backup data. Learn new software. Or better yet, write a blog post about it!
• Sleep – some people just can’t sleep anywhere but their own bed. I agree. But if you can funnel warmth from the bedsheets and cool air of AC plus gentle swaying of the train after a full meal into relaxing deep sleep then there’s nothing like it. No alarms required coz hey, you can’t go anywhere from a moving train!
• Click pictures – trains sometimes cross very scenic locales and if you have your smartphone ready you can have some really awesome ‘travel goal’ pictures.
That was all I needed to keep myself occupied and 50hrs of journey each way was a breeze. No regrets.
What do you think? will you ever do it ? let me know. Peace.