Having decided that this year I am definitely going to do “the big train ride”- the Trans-Siberian (or a version of it) I have also taken the decision to share how I get on in a blog. I suspect that if you are reading this you either (a) know me and will be checking in here regularly to see if I am in a hospital or gulag yet, or (b) are considering this trip yourself having stumbled upon me in your search for more knowledge in preparing for your trip. Either way, you are very welcome! Its also my first ever blog and also a journey of putting social media into practice. However, I have no idea how well I’m going to be able to link it all up so that I can blog, tweet, audioboo, and send a picture all at the same time from a moving railway carriage..
By way of background, most of my friends know me as “Toad” (a slightly long story..) although my real name is Matthew. I’m possibly not the typical Trans-Siberian traveller (but who is?) – I’m now in my mid 40’s and I no longer carry a backpack or wear a straw hat at a jaunty angle. But what I do have is the desire for new adventure. For some reason travel excites me more now than it has ever done before. I’m also now lucky enough to have all the time I need to get away, having quit the rat race in 2011, I now work what is described by my colleagues as “seasonally” in a brilliant marketing agency. I also have a boss who supports my work/life balance in a way I never thought would be possible.
My inspiration for this journey comes partly from the past. Like many I did a couple of Inter Rail trips in the 1980’s, and loved it. I got as far as Istanbul on both trips and remember wondering what it might be like to keep going East from Istanbul’s Asian side. Similarly I crossed East Germany into West Berlin and got a tiny glimpse inside the Iron Curtain. But before I could live out any of my train fantasies, work took over. Long distance train travel didn’t seem the right way to spend those precious few weeks of escape from the office and the Boeing 747 took over.
I’ve done some train trips in Southern China, Vietnam and more recently in Australia. In 2006 I had the chance to travel on “The Ghan” and found the longer journeys by rail to be both memorable and full of unique “experiences” (mostly good!). So I have decided to travel from Edinburgh to Shanghai by train this winter, before heading South to Hong Kong and my usual ports of call in South East Asia.
I’m hoping its going to be a trip that I won’t forget for the right reasons! To quote Eric Newby “the Trans-Siberian is the Big Train Ride. All the rest are peanuts”..