On one episode of the hit HBO show “Sex and the City” Carrie and Samantha boarded a train to travel from New York City to San Francisco. Neither woman had ever traveled by train before and was looking forward to an idyllic experience. What could be better than traveling across the country in a train?! However after discovering that their “luxury suite” was not so luxurious after all, their opinion quickly began to change. Both women were appalled to discover that the shower in their suite was situated right over top of the toilet and there was very limited space for them to move around in. This prompted Samantha to utter,” Now I know why there was a murder on the Orient Express.”
I used to feel exactly as Samantha did and then I wised up and taught myself a few tips to help ease the discomfort of train travel. However, unlike Carrie and Samantha, I have most often traveled coach as I could not afford any kind of suite (luxury or otherwise). These tips would apply regardless of what type of ticket you purchased. Train travel is train travel, that’s all there is to it.
First of all make a trip to your local health food store or the natural alternatives section in your grocery store before you embark on your journey. What you are looking for are ginger, papaya, and valerian pills. All three of these are made of herbs that are a healthy and natural substitute for problems that might arise on the train. Ginger pills are excellent for preventing nausea and I generally take one an hour or so before getting on the train. Unlike antinausea pills sold in pharmacies, such as the ever-popular Gravol, they have no side effects and will not cause drowsiness.
Papaya pills, or super papaya pills as I sometimes buy, work as a digestive aid. It is recommended that you take one before a meal but I quite often take one directly after as well. If you are overly concerned that the food you are about to eat could disturb your stomach in some way then what I would do in this case is take one and a half before a meal. This is a preventative measure after all. Generally papaya pills come in chewable form and are pleasant to the taste buds.
The herb Valerian or Valerian root is excellent as an aid for occasional sleeplessness and restlessness. On the train I find it is something I would not want to be without! I take one or two pills an hour to an hour and a half before bedtime and then sit quietly in my seat to wind down from the day and prepare myself for sleep. Having some soothing music to listen to on a Discman or MP3 player goes a long way in facilitating this process.
Something else to remember is wear clothing that is loose fitting, comfortable and can breath while on the train. There’s nothing worse than tight, constrictive, too warm clothing when you are in close quarters with other people and have so little space for yourself and your belongings! Also pay attention to your feet. If my feet feel tired and sore then my whole body feels it too. I like to slip my shoes off whenever possible and I massage them as often as they need it. In the evening I don shoes that are a combination slipper/shoe. Whatever you choose to wear on your feet on the train always keep safety and practicality in mind but also your own level of comfort.
I learned from many sleepless nights on a train to bring an eye mask with me, especially if my seat is close to either end of the train car where a light is left on all night to ensure the safety of the passengers and staff. Another suggestion I have is, if you have the room in your carry on bags (and my experience with trains is that they afford passengers a fair amount of leverage when it comes to carry on luggage) bring an extra blanket and small travel pillow with you. I’ve ridden coach and had times when I wasn’t given anything at night to keep me warm and other times where I was given a barely there, thin, scratchy blanket and a miniscule flat pillow. Better safe than sorry- bring your own.
What can I say about the water dispensers situated near the bathrooms? Avoid! Yes that’s right, don’t drink it! This is my sincere advice to you. I learned the hard way and so did the party I was traveling with. Your train experience will be made a great deal worse if you find yourself violently ill and hours away from your destination. This is no way to begin or end a trip anyway. Instead bring your own water. I freeze bottles of water at home and then an hour of two before I am to leave for the train station I take them out of the freezer and let them begin to thaw. Take care not to fill your bottles right to the top though or you will end up with water all over yourself when you do finally open it. I bought myself one of those bags for babies used to keep bottles warm or cold, whatever the case may be and it works like a charm! The bags are insulated and hours after the train pulls out of the station you will still have refreshingly, cold drinking water! There might very likely be a piece of ice still in the bottle the next day. It has happened to me. The bags are an excellent “must” for train travelers. I take them on planes and for car travel as well. I cannot be without my water!
I recommend bringing nutritious snacks from home with you on the train and not buying any from the snack cart. I enjoy going to the dining car for meals but I never buy food otherwise (too risky!). If you are a tea drinker like myself, bring your own. This applies to coffee drinkers as well. Most of the time there is a room containing a sink, microwave oven and small refrigerator for passengers to use. Make good use of this room! Chamomile tea and also mint tea is very relaxing to an upset stomach so I never forget while packing for a trip to throw in a few teabags, just in case.
What other pearls of wisdom could I bestow on would- be train travelers? The bathrooms on trains are very small and very busy so bear this in mind. I wear a minimum of makeup on the day I board the train so my night routine will be reduced. Also I wear my glasses on the train instead of my contact lenses. Believe me when I tell you it is not the easiest thing in the world to put in or take out contact lenses in a small bathroom, when you have people knocking on the door, and you are constantly rocking. I have poked myself in the eye and fallen backwards or pitched forward so many times it is not worth recounting! Bring hair accessories such as clips, barrettes and ponytail holders with you as most passengers look like they are having a bad hair day when they disembark from a train. It’s hard to look your best when you have so little room and so little time, plus not being able to shower kills me every time. It’s one of the first things I want to do upon reaching the end point of my train trip.
There are so many lessons to be learned when it comes to taking the train. The greatest piece of advice I could give anyone will probably sound a little unusual but it was a lifesaver to me. Study and learn the art of self -hypnosis and you will never again have to endure the train experience but rather enjoy all it has to offer.
I suffered a panic attack on an eighteen-hour train ride from Montreal, Quebec to Halifax, Nova Scotia in the middle of the night a few years back. Everyone in the car was asleep but me. Every attempt to lull myself to sleep had failed. It was one o’clock in the morning and I was in a word, miserable with a capital M. I could no longer feel the lower half of my body from sitting in the same position for too long and not being able to stretch my legs out. I was cramped into such a small area and suddenly I felt like everything was closing in on me. Not being able to breathe any fresh air only added to the problems. A feeling of claustrophobia took over me and tears began to fall from my eyes. For a few minutes I actually thought I was going to lose my mind. It was horrendous.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? I had never had an experience even remotely similar to that one until that day. Panic attacks meant nothing to me until I had one. I decided then and there that I would find a way to center and calm myself whenever the need arose. I found my solution in self-hypnosis. First you begin with simple breathing exercises, then you learn to rid your mind of all thoughts and just focus on what you are doing. Finally you learn to access what is inside of you and can call upon it whenever you are faced with a problem. Self-hypnosis is a way of effectively dealing with the stresses of life and it is an amazing tool. It worked for me and it can work for anyone who is willing to take the time to learn it. Guaranteed.
Train travel is not supposed to be excruciating, it is supposed to be enjoyable and satisfying. While airplane travel gets you to your destination swiftly, train travel affords you the opportunity to see the world in all its splendor as it goes by. What could be better than that? My suggestions should serve to help turn even the most cynical train passenger, into a blissful train traveler.