What I learned taking one of the longest train journeys in the world… (Hint: writing can pay for your adventures)

Earlier this summer I spent some time at my parents’ house. They have a large shed in the garden which my dad has turned into a creative den. The walls are covered with old photos of us as children, and while I was perusing them this time I noticed this on the wall. It’s a framed copy of an article I wrote for The Daily Echo back in 1997, my second ever piece of professional writing. (Bless my parents for still having this, encased in a clip frame no less!)

My first was a commission from Wanderlust Magazine, to write about Kyoto where I was living as student at the time. I took the money from that article, and cashed in my return airline ticket, and traded the lot for a one-way train ticket home, from Beijing through Mongolia and Siberia, all the way to Moscow, and from there onwards home to England with an Interrail pass. I think I aged about five years on that trip, after being attacked by bandits, having the train stormed by Russian police, and seeing someone have their foot amputated by the moving train…

When I got back to England I wrote the piece that still hangs on the wall in my parents’ shed. I remember the very last leg on a stopping train to my local train station, so excited to see my family after my year abroad. Looking at the stinky dirty rucksack on my lap, the old lady in the seat opposite asked, “Where have you come from with a bag that size?” “Umm, Beijing.” “Oh really?” she replied. “I thought this train came from Portsmouth…”

As I looked at the fading brown crispy newspaper pages from more than twenty years ago, I saw how it was that trip which made me realise what words can do. Never believe anyone who tells you that you can’t make a living from writing. You just need to be creative, flexible and willing to put the work in.

Have a lovely week,


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