One of the biggest dreams I’ve had, ever since I was a little girl, is to travel across Russia and China on the Orient Express. The decadence of the train itself, as well as the history behind it, completely fascinates me. I think I’d feel as though I’d entered a Poirot story, and would get horribly caught up in things like dressing for dinner, and using the appropriate cutlery for each course. I regularly find myself flicking through the website, dreaming of being able to afford to go on such a beautiful and extravagant journey.
Train travel is rather a reassuring method of travelling, compared to via car, or aeroplane. Trains are reliable, safe; they cross land at a steady pace, smoothly. It lacks the stopping and starting of a car, or the prospect of waiting in endless traffic queues; bathrooms are always available, and the British service station can be completely avoided. Whilst British trains are hardly comparable to the Orient Express, they are functional and serve their purpose. They transport you from A to B. However, the use of the overpass in a railway station is something that continually irks me; when you use the train to travel a significant distance, you have luggage. In my case, I had an entire suitcase, because I was travelling with enough luggage to last me a month. The stress involved in dragging the monstrosity over the overpass was completely disproportionate; the underground ramps seem to serve a much more practical purpose. The elderly find these easier than ninety-seven stairs; I find them easier with a gigantic suitcase. After this journey, I made an executive decision: to travel lighter, and with a backpack instead. It was possibly the best decision I’ve ever made.
This is the reality of my travel aspirations however; I’m not especially concerned with luxury, or seeing the opulence of a location. I’d much rather use the money to travel to the rural areas, live with the locals and experience the cuisine of the area. There is nothing so wasteful as going to an English pub whilst abroad. There’s always one within a mile or two within reach at home. The food of other cultures has always fascinated me somewhat; Japanese food especially, Chinese, and middle Eastern cuisine. I love to try out the new things. Travelling on the Orient Express would offer a plethora of fantastical dining options; I’d know, since I’ve explored the sample menu section of the website frequently. Obviously there would be an appropriate outfit for the consumption of beef fillet. I realise this might be fantasy running away with me, but this isn’t the only fantasy of travel I have.
I do however have a much more realistic aspiration; a trip around all the countries of South America in the summer of 2014, with a couple of friends, a backpack, and an acceptance of limited hair washing opportunities. All my money will go towards this rather ambitious plan, but helpfully, train travel is cheap; flying won’t be necessary very often, which bodes well for me, since I don’t like to fly. (A pressurised metal tube, in the sky? Just, why?) Food is cheap, voluntary opportunities are plentiful, and I think you’d meet some amazing people. It’s going to be fantastic. I just need some money and an itinerary.