As you’re reading this I am embarking on a 16 hour journey from one home, Vancouver, Canada to another, Budapest, Hungary. I’ve been away for just over a year, so I’m really excited to be seeing what is the same and different about this beautiful city. But in order to get there, I’m going to be stuck on a plane for huge chunk of time. Not to mention, having a layover for a couple of hours.
Traveling around Europe often involves long bus and train rides. I went to Belgrade by train from Budapest which is almost an 8 hour journey and it wasn’t even the longest train ride I’ve been on – that honour goes to the Budapest – Ljubljana route clocking in at around 10 hours. On this upcoming trip I have an 18 hour bus ride to look forward to. Joy.
So you’re stuck on the train / bus / plane for the next few hours, now what? Depending on whether or not you’re traveling with others and what mode of transport you’re using, your options can vary. Even if you are traveling with others, my experiences show that you can’t keep up a conversation for hours on end and eventually everyone will want some quiet time.
Here are some of my favorite ways to pass the time.
Catch up on sleep
This is the easiest of them all. Close your eyes and just rest. Traveling is stressful and any moment you have to catch your breath and relax take it. Of course, it also depends on where you are. I wouldn’t recommend completely falling asleep on some train routes, especially if you are alone. A friend of mine, traveling alone, woke up to someone trying to steal a bag from the compartment she was in when traveling from Belgrade to Budapest. If you’re on a plane, by all means. Sleep! Don’t forget to bring earplugs so you can ignore everything around you.
If you’re anything like me, my head is buzzing with every little detail that I notice. I take travel time as a means of reflection and writing down what is going on in my head. It helps me process everything that I have seen and done as well as help me remember it in the future.
This standby is a great way to pass the time. Pull out your favorite albums and you’re in your own world. I especially like having music to tune out loud conversations, the annoying buzz of a plane and any crying kids. It also helps me fall asleep by equalizing all the sounds around me to a steady volume.
I love podcasts. There are so many different topics that are covered: comedy, politics, and random general knowledge. My current favorite podcast is Good Job Brain. I love trivia and the format and interesting tidbits they cover in each episodes really fascinate me. Not to mention, they’re hilarious to listen to. Other ones I really like are Stuff You Should Know and The Alton Browncast What are your favorite podcasts? I’m always looking new ones!
But only if you don’t get motion sickness. When I was younger I would read books like I was drinking water. One a day, sometimes two days. I prided myself on how much I read and how quickly I could read it. My weakness? Boxcar Children mysteries. Even now, I’m shamelessly addicted to mysteries. Agatha Christie is awesome.
With technology these days, it is so easy to carry a book or two right in your pocket. I’m always a fan of reading a real book, but you can’t beat using an e-book reader or a tablet to read the latest books without carrying them all. I’m always saying that I never have enough time to read now and being stuck in one place is as good as any time to read. This time around, I’ll be reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.
Most international flights now come equipped with an entertainment system which does exactly that. I catch up on the latest movies that I haven’t seen yet. Alternatively if I have time beforehand, I download a movie to my tablet and watch that at my own leisure. It’s also a good way of passing time at an airport while on a layover.
Harness your inner dreamer and let your imagination go crazy. I find I do my best thinking when I’m in motion from point A to point B. Something about staring out the window, watching the world rush past, makes my mind wander in all sorts of directions. I dream up all sorts of crazy ideas and brainstorm things for work or for my blog. You just need to remember to have a notebook handy to record it all before you forget it!
Meet new people
If you’re alone you can use this time to make new friends. Seek out other single travelers or talk to your seatmate. You never know who you might meet. Just don’t be that awkward person who doesn’t know when to end a conversation.
If I don’t have much time to do any planning prior up to a trip, I try to do it at the very last minute – while I’m en route! I download books and information onto my tablet and use this info to help put together a rough itinerary. I especially like using Pocket. Anytime I find a relevant article online about my destination, I save it to Pocket. Before I leave on my trip, I open the app on my phone or tablet, and it downloads all the articles for me to read later, offline.
Traveling with others means you have a built in entertainment system of sorts. I always try to travel with a deck of cards. You can play a variety of games whether you have just two or ten people. It’s also a great way of breaking the ice to meet people as well. I also like to carry other cards as well. Who doesn’t like a round of Apples to Apples? Or maybe Taboo? They add a little variety to the same games over and over again.
How do you pass the time when you’re traveling?