Despite a roller-coaster ride in Ukraine leaving me feeling higher than lower, I roll into Moscow (literally “roll”, on the overnight train, as part of the Ultimate Train Challenge) feeling pretty flat.
This post was originally published in 2011. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Although I’m very excited about the Trans-Siberian rail experience, there are a few things pressing on my mind:
- Between Sept 17th – Oct 1st, I’ll be spending a grand total of three nights in a bed that’s not on a train.
- I have accepted a house-sitting gig on the Caribbean island of Grenada immediately following the Ultimate Train Challenge (more on this later), and I need to buy plane tickets in the next day. (And traveling from Vietnam to the Caribbean isn’t exactly a hop, skip, and a jump – nor is the laborious process of booking flights my favourite thing to do).
- The Trans-Siberian journey involves one week – solid – on a train, with….no…..internet. (For a gal who gets about 50 emails/day and makes a living online, this is a pretty big deal, as it means one heck of an eventual workload to contend with).
- To compound the above problem, the last week of September involves a mad dash from Beijing to Saigon, with very few rests, and access to China’s notoriously unreliable (and restricted) internet only a couple of times – if we’re lucky. So ultimately – I’m looking at no internet access for the last half of September.
(This post, if you haven’t figured it out already, has been scheduled in advance!)
With these thoughts occupying most of my brain-space, I arrive in Moscow.
Trying to find the hostel is a challenge because, like Ukraine, nothing is in English, and English isn’t widely spoken among the people. Playing a “match-up” game of the Cyrillic symbols on the Metro is a crap shoot, and even when I emerge from the Metro to find the hostel, I’m still not even sure I’m at the right station.
But look really lost and ask enough people to help, and you find help. I eventually arrive at the very cool, super-clean, and funky Prosto Hostel, and happily reunite with my fellow Ultimate Train Challenge compadres.
In our two days (and one night) in Moscow, the weather is rainy, cold, and relatively uninviting. And although this is my first time in Russia, I feel – like I’ve felt many times so far on this lightning-fast train challenge – that I have to pick my battles. I can’t possibly conquer Moscow in a day, and I have a boatload of online work to accomplish before I board the Trans-Siberian.
As irreverent as it may seem, this is one of those occasions when I choose work over touring. There has to be a balance between work and travel, and when you travel full-time as I do, that balance is very difficult to achieve and maintain.
This is why I’m ultimately a proponent of slow travel. Slow travel gives me a chance to both work and live around the world, and to really sample what local life is like. I learn where to shop, what to eat, what activities people enjoy in their spare time, and experience the pace of life. I make friends, and avoid the motion sickness you can get from traveling too fast.
My slow travel preferences, combined with the contradictory fact that I’ve visited seven countries in the last two weeks, contributes to my sense of feeling flat in Moscow.
So unfortunately, this post has no pictures or stories of the Kremlin, Red Square, or the many galleries, markets, and museums. Instead, my 36 hours in Moscow are spent sleeping and working (as is the case for my train challenge partners Michael and Jeannie).
Lucky for us, Prosto Hostel is a welcoming and comfortable place for us to hang around.
As you read this, we will be nearing the end of the Trans-Siberian rail journey – one solid week on one (hopefully-solid) train. We look forward to arriving in Beijing, stretching our legs on The Great Wall, and reconnecting with solid ground (and possibly some internet too).
One more week to go, and we’ll have traveled 25,000kms by train from Lisbon to Saigon!
Thanks to HostelBookers for hooking us up with Prosto Hostel – a place I’d recommend in a heartbeat.