When I set off several weeks earlier I was hoping for a trip where I travelled as far as possible without flying, starting on a train at my local station in Glasgow. A long, solo trip like this was my way of closing the loop on what had been an extremely difficult few years. It was to take the chance to unwind, spend time doing nothing but what I wanted to do and to see parts of the world that I hadn’t been to before.
Arriving in Tokyo on the train from Kyoto, and after the fairly long walk from the train station, Tokyo Tower seemed like a good end point. After boarding the 0900 Cross Country train at Glasgow Central with a ticket for York, I ended up in Tokyo two months later having never boarded a flight.
It was a route which took me through Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia, China, South Korea and Japan. The longest stops were the places I was most interested in, those being a few towns and cities in Germany, Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk in Russia, Mongolia, Seoul and Tokyo. But every place, even the shorter stops, even the overnight stops, were fantastic.
When I got to Tokyo Tower I had a wee emotional moment. During the final train trip from Kyoto to Tokyo I had been thinking what I would tell my Dad about the trip if I could chat with him now. And I wondered what he would say about all of the places I had seen and the stories I had to tell. He would have loved hearing about every part of it.
If I had to pick a single highlight of the trip it was crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Breaking up the journey meant being able to see lots of different parts of Russia and it provided the chance to meet even more people along the way. Alongside that, the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Ulan-Ude to Ulaanbaatar and on to Beijing, while much more touristy by then, was brilliant – really sociable. And as a third, getting from China to South Korea without flying given how much digging and effort it took, it felt like a bit of an achievement.
Throughout the whole trip, from the first train journey to York, onward to Hull and the overnight ferry to Belgium, I have never felt so switched off and relaxed for as long as I can remember. And that feeling is still with me several month on.
I wasn’t quite finished, though. I had to get home from Tokyo and still had some time off work left over. While there was the temptation to see if I could continue without flying, the idea of a few weeks on a ship to cross the Pacific didn’t appeal and instead I was on my way to Tokyo Haneda airport. Next stop: Hawaii.