You’ve been there I’m sure – the 16-hr train ride, or a half day journey by bus. When no one else is headed your way and you’re stuck on a marathon journey by your lonesome, there’s only so much scenery you can take in before getting bored.
Long solo journeys are a great way to unwind, especially if you’re the sort who needs some solo downtime away from everyone. But here are some suggestions to keep you entertained, all without the need for a battery. Smart phones, laptops and ipods are great for long hours of solo entertainment, but here’s a look at the old-school non-plugged in way to do it (just in case your batteries go flat).
Organize and Journal
I try to journal on the go when my memories are freshest, rather than after the fact when I’m struggling to recall what happened when. After some long days, I’m just too tired to pick up my pen or type, so long trips give me the chance to catch up on all these things.
It’s also a great time to organize my stuff – receipts and cash are put in order and my expenses tabulated, memorabilia are packed and put together – it really helps me on my journey because I tend to just shove things in to sort out when I have the time, and it makes life easier when I finally have to unpack at home.
Take Care of Yourself
After being on the road for a few days, having some down time to pamper yourself is a much needed relief. Carry some facial or eye masks for a quick and easy spa and your skin will thank you for it, especially if you’re in a dry airplane cabin! Or break out the enamel board and moisturizer to take care of rough hands and chipped nails. Better still if your ride’s not too bumpy and you have the space to curl up, consider taking a little bottle of nail polish along so you can give yourself a little treat.
It’s a simple way to pamper yourself, and you’ll arrive at your destination looking more spruced up than when you got on!
Get Some Much Needed Rest
It goes without saying that you should try and get some much needed rest so you’re fresh to go when you disembark. I find it hard to sleep in buses, so if I have to pull an over-nighter, I opt for the train where I can stretch out, or take a plane ride for a fast option. Find what works for you.
Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Wear loose long pants and carry a jacket or a shawl in case it gets cold, or so it can double up as a pillow. Or carry a neck pillow or an inflatable version if you have the space.
Or Just Make Some New Friends
If you’re really not looking for solo downtime, just take that first step and make some friends! Start up a conversation with your cabin mates or the person sitting next to you, and the easiest way to do it is by sharing something that you have, whether it’s a snack or a sweet, it’s the best ice breaker you could have!
What do you do when you’re on a long trip on your own? How do you pass the time?
Oh those long, long, long rides. It never sounds as bad when you’re looking at it on paper, but once you’re stuck interminally for half a day or more in a little cabin or seat, you wonder whyyyyyy you didn’t just fly there in the first place (we’re not talking about long haul flights of course, those beat 3 weeks on a ship!)
On our Unholies trip, C thought a loooong train ride from Kaohshiung up to Taipei would be a great idea, and we were poor students on a budget then so that’s what we did. On hindsight, consider the High Speed Rail instead – apparently it reduces that 8 hour train ride to less than 2! Much journaling and sketching did come out of these journeys though.
R also convinced me to take a long train ride at the tail end of our Andalusian adventure, from Murcia in Southeastern Spain we rode for a good 8 hours by SNCF train up to Montpellier in Southern France. I finished re-reading (yup, lots of train rides in this trip) Volumes 1 and 2 of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials on that ride. Unfortunately, I had left Volume 3 of the trilogy at home, so one of the first things I did when I reached home was to plough through the book and find out how it ended =)
Then that was that diving trip to Redang with P, where we spent 12 hours on a coach driving from Singapore to Redang. Going up in the evening, there was still some opportunity to nap as we drove through the night and reached the jetty early morning. But Malaysian drivers are pretttttty scary F1 wannabes and I can never sleep on a jerky bus, no matter how cushioned the seats are, so I was pretty tired by the time we reached the jetty.
Going back was another story though, we were stuck right at the back of the coach, with elevated seats so most of the journey was spend with our hands braced against the roof so we wouldn’t bounce off the seats and hit the roof everytime we hit a pothole. Side note: first time I ever watched the movie Avatar – on a tiny little screen in the front of the bus. I’d definitely consider flying via Berjaya Air in future!
And of course my first overnight train ride from Hanoi to Hue, and the longest train journey so far – the 16 hour Danang to Hanoi leg. Read more about that here.