Heroine Training on a Train: Things to Do on Long Journeys


Jun 24 2015

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Heroine Training on a Train: Things to Do on Long Journeys

When I have to be on a train for a while, I think Hogwarts. This visualization technique is not too difficult on my route from London to Edinburgh, which departs at Kings Cross, complete with Platform 9 3/4 sign around the corner – except these days it’s occupied by a massive queue of tourists wanting to be photographed with it. So much for the Statue of Secrecy.

The reality of the journey, sadly, is less glamorous. Yes, there is a trolly lady [or dude], but they never sell chocolate frogs, or anything that comes with collectible cards with moving portraits for that matter.

Lately I have been blessed with the misfortune of long journeys. It’s worth it, of course, because of what awaits at the other end – usually good adventures with great friends – but boy does it take up a lot of time. So I have to bring my work on the go.

Sometimes it’s not great, with motion sickness and cramped spaces, and noisy neighbors. But sometimes this is for the best: traveling can feel like free time, and anything I get done is a bonus. Or sometimes what a task needs is for me to be forced to sit in one place for several hours with nothing to preoccupy myself with but a wifi-less laptop.

Here’s how I make the most of my time:

  • Take Dramamine or motion sickness medicine. For longer journeys, I’ve caved into what I formerly thought of as a weakness. “It’s called taking advantage of modern medicine”, says Dr Dad.
  • Read for fun. Always a lovely way to pass the time! Get lost in a good book.
  • Catch up on a self-guided course. I’m loving Miracle Worker, Cubicle to 10K, and Elemental Astrology, but I keep creeping farther behind. It’s work that I love to do, so it’s a treat to work on during a journey.
  • Write greeting cards. Writing meaningful notes in birthday cards and letters is something I always mean to do, and always fills me with joy and gratitude, but in practice, it never quite feels like a priority. Devote a bit of travel time to writing out a card or two.
  • Journal. Journeys are a great – and metaphorically appropriate – time for getting in some journalling time. Reflect on where you are and where you want to go. Deep, right?
  • Do just a little bit of work. As a student I made the effort to get out of Oxford for at least part of the weekend. I brought a short article with me for the first few minutes of the ride there. Set yourself a small, achievable amount of work to complete, then feel accomplished and guilt-free during your time off.
  • Listen to podcasts and your favourite playlists. Sometimes I’m too queasy or tired to do anything but listen to the latest episode of RHAP or Taylor Swift on repeat. I play music a lot in the background, so it’s nice to have concentrated time to pay them more attention.
  • Catch up on your favourite TV show. I subscribed to The Carrie Diaries on iTunes to watch on my Oxford to London bus rides. I can’t get much else done on buses!
  • Look out the window. Grace Coddington swears that this is the only way to spend travel time. Sometimes it isn’t possible [hello redeye flights through the dead of night…] but when it is, enjoy the setting of your trip.
  • Play the alphabet game. This one works best in cars – go through the whole alphabet picking out letters from signs (“A in Parking”, “Z in Pizza Hut”). When you spot a word, you claim it, and no one else can take it. Yeah it can get really competitive.

Time to share with the class! What is your favourite way to pass the time on a long journey? Do you prefer to indulge in relaxation or employ on-the-go office hours?


P.S. Going somewhere? Consult my comprehensive packing guide!

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