Risks and Rewards

Hooray for beautiful Swiss trains!

I have always had an affinity towards transportation. Whether it’s plane, train, car, bus, boat, biking or simply just walking, I enjoy the excitement of going somewhere new and taking in the experience along the way. Even if human teleportation existed, I’m sure I’d find something alluring about the journey it provided.

For my walkabout I was venturing into a relatively blank chapter of my transportation book. I had a Eurail Global Pass for two months that worked in 23 countries and the only real train trip I’d ever taken was from Boston to NYC on Amtrak. Needless to say, I was planning on learning on the fly, or, err, rails.

There were things I knew, things I didn’t know, and things I thought I knew, but definitely didn’t know about train trekking around Europe. Before the trip I had fantasized about going everywhere and seeing everything so I could, as it’s commonly phrased, “get it out of my system”. I quickly learned how erroneous that idea was.

In Melbourne you don't have to be scared of Graffiti. In fact, it's quite nice.

Not only will I, or probably any travel minded folk, ever get “it” out of my system, but also, the sheer idea of thinking you could somehow see “everything” is completely absurd and naïve.

Yes, I had traveled before, but in those past expeditions my itineraries were strictly regulated and planned by someone other than myself. In those experiences I didn’t have the opportunity to break away and see outside the trips constraints, and instead was left living in a travel bubble. I’m guessing these past experience are what lead to my rather narrow-minded expectations.

Don't worry about those Berlin bullet holes. They're from a bygone time.

I have now happily accepted I will NEVER see everything and will NEVER get traveling “out of my system”. Perhaps that’s lesson number one from the walkabout.

Another lesson I had to quickly pick up was minimizing risks while basically living on trains.

It’s not so much I expected something bad to happen, or even that it was a large possibility, but more about reducing my “harass-ableness ” in general so as to ward off any potential harassers.

For instance:

I always did my best to keep my two backpacks as close to me as possible, my passport/money belt on me at all times, and to set an alarm to make sure I didn’t sleep through my stop1. I like to think I did my best to minimize all risks which, is part of the reason, among others (including luck), I had zero safety problems2.

Let’s be honest, are there risks to riding around by train almost daily for months? Absolutely. But, to put it bluntly, who cares? There are risks involved of every part of daily life and the risks in this sort of excursion are minimal at best and will provide great rewards. If you’re not at least a little scared, you’re not pushing yourself far enough. Plus, even if you do get gassed to sleep and have all your belongings stolen, or have bodily excrements deluged all over your stuff, as long as your not permanently scarred in some manner, at worst you’ll have a great story to tell. And what more can a traveler ask for than great stories to write in his blog?

If I had been attacked on that dark Budapest hill, the attacker would have shown up here...

-Phil

1Examples of why these methods may help will follow soon. This includes the “pissa” story. [It might be worse than a Tuesday night sitcom, but I’m not sorry for the double cliffhanger.]

2If you consider walking through the center of Naples after midnight with all your belongings on your back and hookers by your side while trying to figure out where some hostel you know little about is located and that hostel happens to be located in a relatively sketchy dark and dirty alleyway, OR walking up a dark densely forested hill path by yourself in Budapest late at night with only a camera at your side while feeling like you’re being watched classifies as some sort of safety risk for you, then perhaps my safety record isn’t completely clean.

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