Ambassadors in Action

I’m sitting in a railway station…

Paddington Station, actually. It’s one of the main London rail stations, a hub for travelers of all kinds. Some of those who pass through its labyrinth of platforms and causeways are clearly ‘inter-railing’ – enjoying the freedom of a pass which gives them access to train and ferry travel all over the European continent. They’re not hard to spot; their backpacks and optimism set them apart from the throng of morning commuters.

Germans have a word for the opposite of homesickness; Fernweh. Let’s settle on ‘far-away sickness’ as a reasonable translation. Watching these young travelers spontaneously making plans about where to go next, far-away sickness envelops me. My attention is drawn to the inter-railers again and again; it is for them that I make the following recommendations, and to them that I dedicate this blog.

First observation: sleeping bags. Many have their sleeping bags strapped to the outside of their packs (something I’ll never understand); and many of these sleeping bags are huge: the curse of low-budget synthetic insulation. At the same time, not a single tent is in evidence: inter-railers rarely camp. They go from hostel to cheap hotel to sleeping on trains. “Why the bulky sleeping bags?” I want to ask them. “Get a Reactor Extreme with something windproof to pull over you when it’s really cold, and you’ll save all that volume!”

I don’t say this out loud, of course. Any more than I approach the people waiting in line at the ticket counter and suggest that they be a little more cautious with where they keep their cash and valuables. “Split the important stuff up”, I want to tell them. “Keep your passport separate from your currency and credit card. And keep it all out of sight! You might want to put a Travelling Light Neck Wallet and a Travelling Light Money Belt on your wish list if you ever do this again.

Then there are the people unpacking and repacking their gear. Their backpacks are top-loaders (rather than the panel-loading travel packs I would have recommended), and getting something out involves disgorging all manner of items onto the floor. It would, of course, have cost them some of their travel budgets to buy four or five different colored Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks or Mesh Sacks before they left home; but I have the feeling that some of them would happily pay double the price now for that kind of order in their rucksacks.

What else? TPU Accessory Cases for iPods, Trek & Travel soaps for shaving, hygiene and laundry, an X-Bowl and X-Mug to ensure they have something clean to eat and drink from. And – of course – an Ultra-Sil Daypack for more occasions than I can possibly mention here.

I keep my thoughts to myself. Well, nobody would take advice from a guy sitting next to the statue of Paddington Bear anyway. And besides, it’s hard to speak when you have Fernweh…


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