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.
Anyway, for those of you who need a little inspiration, here is my list of things to help you keep busy on the train!
- Write a letter or a postcard to someone close to you
- Discover a new magazine and read it from front to cover (I discovered Flow when going to Tours)
- Talk to your neighbour (if you dare)
- Watch a film that you downloaded to your PC beforehand
- Read a small paperback in one go
- Knit (with short needles to avoid nudging your neighbour with your elbows, this is especially important if you want to try number 3)
- Daydream while watching the countryside fly by
- Listen to your favourite singer’s new album. And I mean really listen, while paying attention to the details
- Think about the days ahead and what you want to do during your trip
- 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
- Send texts to people you haven’t seen in a while, just to see how they’re doing
- Reread a classic from your childhood, like The Famous Five or The Little Prince
- 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
- Sew a button onto a shirt
- Play cards or some sort of game with your neighbours
- 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?