by Roma Patel
Photography courtesy of Wendy Xie
Whether you have stood for hours on a crowded train in the middle of nowhere, or spent the summer backpacking through Europe via Eurail, you have experienced the wonder of trains. While a flight or bus ride may get you to your destination faster, these modes of transportation often take away from the enjoyment of traveling. Trains are a great way to escape the crowds and really see a place for its true beauty.
With school, internships, sports, clubs and our social lives always keeping us busy, it is not often we get the chance to go off-piste. Something about the sounds of the train speeding along the tracks, the delicious smells of salty and sweet pastries and the beautiful views from a train window really makes one feel at peace.
“I’ve traveled almost all over Europe by train,” said Helen Houghton (CAS ’20). “I can honestly say train travel is so relaxing and freeing. It’s a very cathartic experience.”
Even just a short train ride will allow you to witness so much more of a destination, as you explore lesser known suburbs and towns through the window. As a train takes you from one city to another, you can count the scattered houses of various styles and sizes, the quaint shops, and the unique public art. Seated on a train you are privy to a country’s raw beauty—which is truly emblematic of the people and their culture.
“Of course, you can’t see a whole city from the window of a train,” said Houghton, “but doing so offers a unique experience, because you see where everyone wants to be and get a really good idea of city’s organization and layout.”
Train travel is also a great opportunity to challenge your language skills. Test your vocabulary words and ask locals questions as you figure out everything from the scheduling to where you need to get on and off. Strike up a conversation with someone else on the platform—they are sure to have a story to tell or insights to share.
“I really enjoy taking trains because they often give some insight into the efficiency or style of the city,” said Caroline Brantley (CAS ’20). “They are an inexpensive and reliable way to explore and either people watch, or let your surroundings go by!”
Trains around the world offer countless cultural experiences. When traveling through the Swiss Alps, one can enjoy hot cocoa or a luxury meal. In India, snack vendors board trains at each stop to offer everything from chai and tiffin services to traditional street food. On the way to Machu Picchu, several trains serve innovative Peruvian drinks and snacks. Each train takes pride in its own way of making the journey enjoyable.
In Europe, South America and Asia, travelers can easily take advantage of day trip offers and can conveniently add multiple destinations to a single trip.
“I have traveled by train throughout the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Switzerland,” said Olivia Rolnik (CAS ’20). “Trains, to me, enable you to get a better feel for the country itself and also allow you to see so much more than you would if you traveled by plane.”
If tracks run through your next destination, consider taking the train. With reasonable ticket prices and the promise of an adventure, trains will certainly give you a more unique experience.