In the margin

16 ways to keep busy on a train

23 December 2015
S'occuper dans le train

I wrote this article when on the train to Tours. The literature student in me can’t help but appreciate the mise en abyme of this situation: in order to keep busy on a train, I wrote an article about how to keep busy on a train. It worked quite well as a matter of fact!

I actually had the idea for this article on the Eurostar when I last went to London (and the photos are from my daytrip to Strasbourg). During the train ride, I made a friend: a little girl who was four and three quarters and who loved stickers and Frozen. I stuck my tongue out at her when she dared steal a glance at me by poking her little head between the two seats, and a beautiful friendship was born. She kept me amused for the rest of the ride, trying to give me sweets and little notes that she slipped not-so-discreetly through the gap between the seat and the window. I had initially intended to read Snow falling on Cedars, but her presence was so joyful that I didn’t really miss reading my book. I was even a little sad to see her go when we eventually got to St. Pancras.

I find that there is a very particular vibe in train stations, and it depends largely on the state of mind you find yourself in when you get there. If you’re running late and you sprint across the station to catch your train, it is unlikely that you will notice the little details that make up a train station’s charm. Several things come to mind, but I am thinking especially of the soft clickety clack sounds the display panels make when changing departure and arrival times. There’s also the aura of growing impatience among the crowd of people waiting for their platform numbers to be shown. Or the slightly nervous tranquillity of the shoppers flipping through magazines in book stores, trying to choose something to read during the ride but constantly glancing at their watches to check they haven’t missed their train.

I truly enjoy these moments where I quietly prepare for the moment I love, where I get to sit down peacefully in my seat with my things and let my mind wander for a few hours.

S'occuper dans le train

Anyway, for those of you who need a little inspiration, here is my list of things to help you keep busy on the train!

  1. Write a letter or a postcard to someone close to you
  2. Discover a new magazine and read it from front to cover (I discovered Flow when going to Tours)
  3. Talk to your neighbour (if you dare)
  4. Watch a film that you downloaded to your PC beforehand
  5. Read a small paperback in one go
  6. Knit (with short needles to avoid nudging your neighbour with your elbows, this is especially important if you want to try number 3)
  7. Daydream while watching the countryside fly by
  8. Listen to your favourite singer’s new album. And I mean really listen, while paying attention to the details
  9. Think about the days ahead and what you want to do during your trip
  10. Write up a list of Christmas presents for your family and friends, taking the time to really think about each person’s tastes and interests
  11. Send texts to people you haven’t seen in a while, just to see how they’re doing
  12. Reread a classic from your childhood, like The Famous Five or The Little Prince
  13. Declutter your wallet: decide which loyalty cards to keep and which to recycle, remove useless slips and check the expiration date on your credit card
  14. Sew a button onto a shirt
  15. Play cards or some sort of game with your neighbours
  16. Count the cars you see on the horizon

I hope this list will be helpful for when you next go on a trip! How do you normally keep busy on the train?

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  • Reply Bouge ton train ! 3 August 2016 at 11 h 25 min

    Liste très utile, et qui change des conseils habituels ! J’ai particulièrement apprécié le 3 et le 15 car j’adore nouer des liens éphémères avec mes voisins de train. D’ailleurs je propose via le projet “Bouge ton train !” des activités gratuites aux voyageurs qui le souhaitent, hésitez pas à partager le site web pour ceux que ça intéresse. Je trouve aussi que les jeux de société permettent des rencontres sympas entre des gens de tous horizons. Et puis c’est vrai que ça occupe bien les longs voyages.
    P.S : Bravo pour ton style de rédaction, ça donne envie de lire le reste de ton blog !

    • Reply Nathalie 3 August 2016 at 13 h 18 min

      Merci beaucoup pour ton commentaire et d’avoir partagé ton projet :) J’espère que d’autres articles du blog te plairont aussi !

  • Reply MG 28 December 2015 at 18 h 40 min

    Bet that little girl’s parents were happy you kept her amused for the journey!!
    I’ve never thought of a train ride as peaceful, it is just a means to an end. I’ll look at it in a different way now. I especially love numbers 6 and 3 of your list.
    I do enjoy your musings.

    • Reply Nathalie 28 December 2015 at 21 h 29 min

      I think trains are the most peaceful way to travel! I’m so glad you like the list and my articles, I really enjoy writing them :)

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