#5 How my World Trip really Started
I had already been on the road for an entire week, but it somehow didn’t feel like traveling. First, I had traveled through Germany visiting friends. Then, I explored Moscow -the Russian capital- with my boyfriend. Exploring Moscow was exciting, I would even say adventurous… Three nights later, I was ready to board a train to Irkutsk, covering the first part of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The train ride would be 78 hours in total, so I spent more than three days on a train. Before that, though, I had to do something: break up with my boyfriend. So, let’s do this!
My boyfriend and I arrived at Moscow Domodedovo Airport (about 50km from the center) freaking early in the morning. Russia was the first country I ever needed a passport and visa for visiting. My boyfriend was fluent in Russian; I could read Cyrillic and barely knew the language. That combination was a bit funny: he was a very spontaneous person, and I was the (way too) well-organized German. At the airport, I went to an officially licensed money exchanger to get some Rubel (the credit card situation was different in 2012); he exchanged his money for a better exchange rate with some random dude he met in the airport. I looked up shuttle timetables before we even boarded the plane; he just found a Marshrutka (routed taxi cab) that drove to a Metro station in front of the airport exit. Letting him ask strangers for the way sent us along tiny roads that I would never have explored. Hopefully, that illustrated the differences between him and myself. It also shows how extremely scared I was – being prepared helped me to cope with that. Overall, it wasn’t a bad coping strategy: while it helped with the problem, it also prevented me from many adventures. Because of that, I’m still grateful to my boyfriend back then; he showed me a significantly different way that works in nine of ten cases. The case that didn’t work got him bitten by a dog. If you ask Russians for directions, they tend to point in the direction of your destination no matter what is between you and it. In our case, there were rails, some trailers, an angry dog, and a huge wall.
Another odyssey story is about finding the way to the Botanic Gardens in Moscow. Nowadays, it would have been easy using smartphones, but back then, you either needed a map or asked someone. As you might have expected, my boyfriend asked strangers. They pointed us to some dirt road that led us to something that looked like a small forest. I was a bit skeptical but thought that nothing could surprise me any further after the Metro incident. I was wrong! The dirt road led us to a small river which several pipes that seemed like a bridge. We decided to cross it, and just a few minutes later, we found a secret door to the Botanic Gardens of Moscow.
After three nights in Moscow and a shopping tour in a local supermarket for supplies, my boyfriend brought me to the Yaroslavskiy Railway Terminal, which is the train station, the Trans-Siberian Railway starts. Looking back, I think that the two of us dealt well with the situation overall. I was 23 years old. When I told him that I wanted to travel the world, he was highly supportive and helped me with all kinds of things like equipment choices or equipment “tuning”. He showed me a fantastic way to tie the shoelaces of my hiking boots. To this day, there was no need to tie or untie the shoes ever! A bit after I had announced my plans, the two of us decided to break up once I left, which is strange because it gave the relationship an expiration date. We agreed that we would see how it goes and talk again once I am back. So, there we were in front of my “home” for the next 78 hours late in the evening. We said goodbye to each other, and I boarded the train. He left.
I had booked a four-person compartment with two lower and two upper beds. My bed was an upper one. There was just one other passenger in the same compartment: a guy from the Netherlands a bit older than me.
We talked a bit before he finally asked me: “Are you okay?”
I looked outside the window and said: “I just broke up with my boyfriend” in a distant and calm voice.
“So, I guess you will be crying all night then?“, he said.
I looked at him and said: “Honestly,… I don’t feel like crying at all.”
The train started moving, and I realized that this very moment was the actual start of my world trip.
Looking back from ten years later, that very moment when I boarded the train indeed was the moment my world trip took of. That was the very first time for me entirely on my own in a country where I hadn’t been before. I had never slept on a train. Every meter that the train traveled was a meter further away from “home,” whatever the term “home” meant back then. But as I said earlier, I was traveling from Kaiserslautern to Kaiserslautern, but I had several thousand kilometers to go.
We’re at the end of today’s story part. Next time, I’ll write a bit about these 78 hours on the train. There is an old post about that, but I feel I should elaborate on that. What was the furthest that you ever traveled? How was it?