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Need to work on the move in Europe? Take the train.
I’m sitting on a bus as I write this, somewhere on the Bulgarian side of the Turkish border. My seat is cramped, and the tray table is far too small to sit my notebook on. My neck is already aching from looking down at my lap, and it has only been an hour.
Every bump in the road jolts the screen into the seat in front of me. The internet that was advertised for this seven hour trip doesn’t work, and while there’s a USB charger in each seat, I can’t charge my laptop with it.
Now the thing is, this isn’t a bad bus ride. In fact, with the free snacks and (believe it or not) on-board coffee machine, it is quite probably the best bus trip I’ve ever been on. When it comes to getting any work done, however, my hopes are fading fast.
I can’t help but think back instead to the innumerable train rides that I took around much of the rest of Europe over the previous month. While they were usually no faster (and in Eastern Europe, often much slower) than a bus, I preferred the train every time.
Well, other than the extra leg room, buffet cars and ease of use, when it came to getting work done there was no comparison. I used a first-class Eurail pass (the only available option for people over 26), and found that my productivity was far higher than on buses or plane flights.
Particularly in Western Europe, the carriages were almost luxurious. Power sockets at every seat, and large tables with plenty of room for laptops. Wi-fi was sometimes available, although I usually found I could do more work without its distractions. There was even a drinks service that came through regularly, meaning I didn’t even need to leave my seat to keep my caffeine levels up. Perfect!
Heading further east the comfort levels dropped a little, but the work output stayed high. Even when there wasn’t a first class carriage, the extra room and smoother ride meant that I was able to get plenty of writing done compared to a bus or plane – especially without having someone coming around telling me to turn my electronics off for half the journey! The biggest impediment was often the scenery, regularly pulling my gaze away from my laptop screen in favour of a view that was far more interesting.
As the frequency of power sockets decreased, I discovered that having a time limit (my battery usually lasts between five and six hours) served to focus my attention on getting things done.
It made for the perfect mix for a travelling blogger like myself – I was able to spend my days and nights exploring new places, and get most of my work done in the few hours it took me to get somewhere new. Now that I’m in a part of the world where buses are more common than trains, my "travel" time won’t also be "work" time – and I’m quite sad about that.
Forget the bus, forget the plane. If you’re in Europe and you need to work while you’re on the move, there is only one answer.
Take the train.
Eurail.com was kind enough to provide a complimentary pass for my trip around Europe.
Image via Penningtron