I have said it before, and I will continue to say this because it is such an important and terrible fact of my life, but I am a horrible traveler. I get awful motion sickness, and I already have an extremely hard time falling asleep on transportation, so if I do actually manage to sleep, I get even more sick.
When we traveled from Paris to Florence, we had to take a night train, which required us to sleep because we arrived in Milan (I’m pretty sure it was Milan, but I can’t entirely remember) around 6 A.M. and had to switch to a different train to get to Florence.
I can say, without a doubt, that night train is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me.
I am not just being dramatic for drama’s sake. Its effects lasted for days, and I have stayed as far from trains (other than subways) as physically possible since then.
For starters, the sleeper car was tiny. It barely fit four of us sitting down with our luggage in there, but six of us (SIX) had to sleep in there. Each of us had a suitcase and a backpack and a limited amount of storage space, but we crammed it all in there and somehow made it work.
It’s a bit blurry, but this was our sleeper car. We had space below both benches, above the window, and above the door. We couldn’t stand because of the two overhead beds and how far out the benches went, so if we were in the room, we were sitting. When it was time to sleep, the back part of the benches folded up into a bed, so there was something like two feet of space between each bed. It wasn’t ideal, but it was manageable. I’m not too picky.
We were supposed to have air conditioning, but because the train was almost 100 years old, it didn’t always work. We were unlucky enough to be traveling when it decided not to work. I’ll go ahead and add that we were traveling in the middle of June, so it was hot and humid in Italy, and we were crammed into a tiny space with neither air conditioning nor air circulation.
We kept our door closed and locked because of privacy and security, and for a little while we had the window open so we could get some air, but when we went to sleep and the sun was rising, we had to shut it.
We had power outlets but they didn’t work because our train was old, so we couldn’t charge our phones and we all had to share my portable charger.
There was a little restaurant in the train, but the food was basically cheap TV dinners thrown into a take-out box. Even if it was impeccable, I wouldn’t have eaten much because I had no appetite.
The water was bad. They gave us each a free bottle of water because we couldn’t use the water in the bathroom to brush our teeth because it was gross. It was okay to wash our hands but not put in our bodies, which is why we couldn’t shower.
(By the way, not showering at all after spending a sweaty day in Paris is awful enough, but then we spent a whole sweaty day in Florence, most of us in the same clothes from the day before. Nothing will ever compare to how I felt after I finally got to shower.)
The bathrooms also became like Porta Potties once we left the station. All of the ~stuff~ sat in there for hours and hours and couldn’t go anywhere else because we were on a train, so we only used the bathroom if it was an absolute emergency and held our breath the whole time. It was awful.
All of this, every single part of it, was acceptable. I could deal with a small sleeping space, lack of A/C, no power, unappetizing food, brushing my teeth with a water bottle, and smelly bathrooms because, as I’ve said, I’m not terribly picky. It was only for a night, so I would normally be able to handle all this.
The problem, of course, was that we were on a train. I was dehydrated because of the humidity and the long day we had had in Paris. I hate to admit it, but I definitely did not drink enough water. I was even more sick because the motion of the train took away my appetite, so I hadn’t eaten in hours.
Of course, I was extremely nauseated because it was a type of transportation to which I was not accustomed. I had dealt with planes and cars many times before but not trains, so it was even worse. Since I was lying down while moving sideways, I was experiencing all kinds of new movement.
I managed a few hours of sleep, just as we all did, but I don’t think I have ever been so horribly motion sick in my life.
To this day, almost two years later, merely the thought of that train ride makes me sick. I go out of my way to avoid trains, but I also have started to take motion sickness pills before getting on any type of transportation that I will be on for more than an hour. I have gotten a bit better, but I usually downplay my problems when I go places with friends, which usually results in some less-than-enjoyable circumstances.
If any tip or piece of advice can come from the train ride, it’s this: Always be sure to drink plenty of water, take pills if you get car or motion sickness, and eat at least a little bit. And, as always, have lots of fun!