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January 13, 2015

Have a Cigar

I’m nearly at the end of my third Trans-Siberian adventure. I have completed another chilly 15000 km, making over 49000 km since I embarked on my goal to become a Trans-Siberian explorer and train travel writer in 2012. This time I made the journey on just eight trains, covering ten time zones seven countries and 135 degrees around the globe. Of course within that is the Trans-Sib train 002 from Moscow to Vladivostok – still the longest single train journey in the world covering 9288 km and seven time zones.

You might think that this post title is a fairly cheap way at getting a Pink Floyd song into my blog title list for this trip, and I suppose that you are right. But actually it reminds me that I have been carrying a small mobile humidor across the world, so perhaps it’s time to have a cigar to celebrate crossing the finish line.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog and thank you for being tolerant of the occasional poor spelling and grammar. It’s quite hard writing this on an iPad in a bouncy train with an at times overly enthusiastic autocorrect tool.

In case you are curious I have written a few notes here on my inspiration and motivation.

I hope Alan Whicker will never be forgotten. He once gave Michael Palin some great advice which I follow to this day. Anyone can be uncomfortable travelling, but what can you do to make your conditions as good as they possibly can be? I always try and make the effort to make a few creature comforts really count. An espresso machine, some decent wine, a Christmas tree, a “Red Cross Parcel” from the¬†Edinburgh Explorers Club –¬†they all helped me to keep smiling and stay sane.

Robert Twigger is a modern day travel genius. He thinks deeply about the motivations and satisfaction that you can get from travel at a spiritual level. Talking to him last year was a real boost to my resolve to keep going with my Trans-Siberian plans (even though I ducked out of the Kazakhstan route).

Having also had the privilege to meet Ran Feinnes last year, I can tell you that the glint in his eye and his quiet and polite spoken manner are just so infectious when it comes to just making a decision to get on with doing something. To him failure is not a remotely conceivable option.

I met “Zaz” Shackleton (Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grand daughter) last year at the Royal Geographical Society. This set me off on quite a bit of research on Sir Ernest’s life, and together with Keith Parsons, my expedition fitness coach, we became semi obsessed with finding some of the places that he lived and worked during his short but incredible life. Probably best of all was finding that we could meet in the front room of his 1904 Edinburgh residence to discuss plans and progress (it is now a little known hotel). I love the phrase “a sense of place”, and it is very apt in this context.

Keith never lets me forget how he thinks everyone else secretly wishes they had the focus, time and temperament for my adventures and keeps reminding me of the real “wonder” value of my journey – something that at times I can easily overlook when I’m bogged down in red tape.

So without knowing too much about me, or my plans, Alan, Robert, Sir Ran, and Sir Ernest, along with Keith, have provided my inspirational and spiritual support. What a team!

But my travels are always made most memorable by things other than rolling stock, or even the satisfaction of thorough preparation. Like all of my journeys, I once again met some incredibly interesting people, and this is what can transform a great journey into an amazing one. There are too many people to name here, and in fact many people who’s names I just don’t know, as we speak different languages..

I hope that this post doesn’t sound too sentimental. When I’m on the rails I tend to focus on just a day or two ahead. To look a week or more ahead would almost certainly induce a form of train travel “vertigo”. Far too scary! But when I look back on my exploits I have to pinch myself. How lucky I am to be a Trans-Siberian explorer, and just how did I manage to actually do that?

I hope you will join me on my next adventure. I have a pretty good idea about where I’m going, but it’s too early to publicly commit to it right now without some more research to give me confidence that I’m really doing it.

When I used to work in the rat race, my “HR Business Partner” (sic) used to tell me that “feedback was a gift”. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on my blog, good and bad. How can I make it more interesting to you? You can leave comments here without needing to register or log in, but do let me know who you are if we met “on the rails”. You can also drop me an email if you prefer from the link – above right, but ask any travel questions via the Trans-Siberian Travellers Club forum please.

Thanks again and farewell for the time being.

2 Comments on “Have a Cigar

Rich Bernard
January 22, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Matthew, I've found myself eagerly awaiting the next update and seem to itched an urge to travel vicariously through yourself.

When we finally meet, cigars will be on me.

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Trip Reserver
April 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm

This is a great post thanks for the information.

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