Your World No Rules http://yourworldnorules.com Just another WordPress site Fri, 03 Apr 2015 14:18:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.6 From Lisbon To Rome By Rail http://yourworldnorules.com/lisbon-rome-rail/ http://yourworldnorules.com/lisbon-rome-rail/#respond Mon, 16 Jun 2014 12:46:19 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=1840 Southern Europe is famous for great food and wonderful culture, and when it comes to taking a long journey across the region, there is no better way to do this than to travel by train. Enjoying the scenery from the carriage is much more relaxing than having to focus on the road as you drive, […]

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trans-mongolian russian train

Southern Europe is famous for great food and wonderful culture, and when it comes to taking a long journey across the region, there is no better way to do this than to travel by train. Enjoying the scenery from the carriage is much more relaxing than having to focus on the road as you drive, without even mentioning the benefits of not having to deal with traffic jams. Having spent some time exploring the Portuguese coast, it was time to move on to a new setting, and the historic city of Rome was to be my new destination, but with nearly two weeks before I needed to be there, I was able to spend a little more time savoring the journey.

 

Choosing The Route

I had looked at doing a simple transfer by plane from Lisbon to Rome, but after looking at the option of buying an eurail pass, it was obvious that taking the scenic route could be a lot more exciting. If I was traveling purely for speed, the best route would have been to head to Madrid, then Paris, and on to Rome, but with plenty of travel time available I chose to take in a few more sights along the route. Rail Europe offered plenty of freedom, and as long as I made sure I had the seats booked, then I could take whichever route appealed to me.

 

Portugal And Spain

There is an overnight train linking Lisbon and Madrid that is very convenient for those who are pressed for time, but for me, I’d never visited the pilgrimage town of Fatima, and the train from Lisbon was a beautiful route. The Basilica in Fatima was a stunning place to visit, and after a good night’s sleep, I took the train on towards Caceres and Madrid. After another overnight stop, it was time to head on to one of my favorite cities, Barcelona, and the journey gave me another few days to spend there, tucking into the great food of the Mediterranean, and also enjoying a walk down the iconic Las Ramblas.

 

France And Italy

As a train buff, traveling on the TGV has always been a great pleasure for me, and the double-decker fast service between Barcelona and Paris is a great way to see the country, and it makes 180mph seem like a relaxing cruise between the two cities. With a bit more time to spend, I stayed for a few days in Paris doing all of the usual tourist attractions, and getting to return to the Louvre. The journey then turned south, and the train through to Dijon offered more scenic delights, while the town was also a great place to relax, enjoy the local cuisine and to see both of the beautiful churches.

 

The Final Destination

Spending a fortnight traveling the route to Rome had been a great experience, and the scenery across Central Europe is home to some spectacular train lines, but I was still able to get into Rome fresh and relaxed. The train from Milan heading south took me on another attractive line through the Italian countryside, and finally rolling into the grand rail terminal at the heart of the city. Buying the Eurail pass from Rail Europe had proved to be a great investment, and turned a simple move from one city to the next into an amazing travel experience.

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Meet Harry, the 4 Year-Old Doing UTC13 http://yourworldnorules.com/meet-harry-the-4-year-old-doing-utc13/ http://yourworldnorules.com/meet-harry-the-4-year-old-doing-utc13/#comments Thu, 07 Feb 2013 17:57:54 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=1712 Harry is four years old, nearly five. In those years, he’s never found a social group he feels comfortable in. Pretty much everything he does is one-on-one. And here we are – Harry and I – contemplating Lisbon to Saigon. This journey has sort of been in the planning for many months. We’ve embraced train […]

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Harry is four years old, nearly five. In those years, he’s never found a social group he feels comfortable in. Pretty much everything he does is one-on-one.


And here we are – Harry and I – contemplating Lisbon to Saigon.

4 year old harry is doing the train challenge

Harry

This journey has sort of been in the planning for many months. We’ve embraced train travel since one fateful evening back in May 2012, only a matter of weeks before Harry’s 4th birthday.

On that evening, I sat  with Harry in an unremarkable office and listened to an unremarkable man say the words I both longed for and dreaded in equal measure. ‘Yes, Mrs. Bower. Harry is on the spectrum’. Tears followed. Partly relief at finally knowing that this wasn’t in my head. Partly grief at finally knowing that this wasn’t in my head.

The grief surprised me, for this diagnosis was not a surprise though I now realise it’s a common phenomenon and rather necessary as a way to let go of the hopes and dreams that had been held for the child.

Two days later the letter arrived, confirming our meeting and going into more detail on the raft of assessments undertaken on Harry. Harry had a condition called High Functioning Autism.  There were pages and pages of notes, most of which were not new information for me, but one point stuck out. Harry’s IQ was somewhere in the range of 160 to 200… Now IQ tests are, as far as I can see, rather subjective, so let’s just settle on ‘damn high’. This changed everything.

Harry’s speech was still slow, it appeared he wouldn’t or couldn’t take direction or follow simple instructions, he struggled to remember names, was often destructive… It was easy to categorise him as ‘slow’. One friend actually said it to my face.

I am sure many more said it to themselves.

Now, we had something to work with.  Now, we understood why Harry struggled with certain situations and why his fascination and thirst for knowledge were not what you would expect from an average 4 year old. But, in those early days, grief still played a part, and we were not ready to share this information far and wide so we did the best thing for Harry and for us: Cancelled his birthday party and booked him on the Jacobite Express in Fort William instead. Travel to and from Fort William was by the Caledonian ScotRail sleeper train.  Harry had a ball!

 Jacobite Express in Fort William

Since that day, all holidays have been taken to accommodate Harry’s love of all things trains.

We completed LEJOG – by train (And I will be eternally grateful for the wonderful members at LEJOG association for welcoming our rather eccentric form of travel), we went to Soller in Majorca because it has a little wooden tram that runs to the coast and a little wooden train that runs to Palma. And, now, we are here.

We are heading to the USA later this summer to cross it by train, but first… we are looking at travelling from Lisbon to Saigon, by train, in under 30 days.

This trip is not without issues… It means leaving my three year old daughter in the care of my parents and it means taking Harry out of what little ‘normal’ routine he has… but these things can be organised.


Sometimes, you  just have to go with the adventure!

___________________________________

 

Karen Bower and her son Harry signed up to do the Ultimate Train Challenge today.

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Train routes through Kazakhstan??!! http://yourworldnorules.com/training-through-kazakhstan/ http://yourworldnorules.com/training-through-kazakhstan/#respond Thu, 24 Jan 2013 12:00:42 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=1701 When Michael, Jeannie and Nora embarked on the first Ultimate Train Challenge, they all took different routes out of Lisbon before converging in Moscow.  There, they hopped on the Trans-Mongolian Railway to ride across Russia, through Mongolia and into China. My guess is that if you are thinking about doing the UTC this time around, […]

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When Michael, Jeannie and Nora embarked on the first Ultimate Train Challenge, they all took different routes out of Lisbon before converging in Moscow.  There, they hopped on the Trans-Mongolian Railway to ride across Russia, through Mongolia and into China. My guess is that if you are thinking about doing the UTC this time around, you probably have a similar route in mind.

trans-mongolian russian train
But why not mix things up a bit? You’re already traveling from Lisbon to Saigon (or vice versa) in 30 days or less – why not get off the beaten path and check out a country you may not otherwise ever think to visit?

Why not go through Kazakhstan?

Sure, you may only know about Kazakhstan from a certain movie, but it very well could be the highlight of your entire trip. In my experience, the people were ten times friendlier than those in Russia. Where I was met with stone cold glares and complete silence during much of my Trans-Siberian journey, it seemed like everyone was eager to chat with me as I traveled by train across Kazakhstan. From elderly men who shared their watermelon and rambled to me in Russian to why teenagers who wanted to practice their English, I found the Kazakh trains to be incredibly social.

You are also likely to eat really well while crossing Kazakhstan. At nearly every stop, I encountered scores of Kazakh babushkas hawking plastic bags of steaming  hot pelmeni and manty (dumplings), roasted potatoes, vegetables and even shashlik (grilled meat) – not to mention loaves and loaves of fresh bread and the most delicious melons I have ever had. I don’t know if there was a dining car on the train, but there certainly wasn’t a need for one.

Finally, you can make some interesting stops along the way. A quick stop that requires some advance planning is a visit to what is left of the Aral Sea – the site of one of the worst environmental disasters ever. Trains usually arrive at 2:30 a.m., so you’ll want to arrange for a homestay (or a room at the one grungy hotel in town) to take a nap and grab a shower before taking an excursion to the sea and the nearby “ship cemetery.” These are best arranged through a tour company and last just a few hours, so you can easily be back to catch an evening train out of town. If you have a couple days to spare, stop at Turkestan to explore nearby remnants of the Silk Road or stretch your legs strolling through the tree-lined streets of the former capital, Almaty or hiking in the mountains surrounding the city.

So how to do it?

For starters, you will need a visa – but for most Westerners, it should be fairly straightforward, without the need for a letter of invitation (rules can change often, so double check). I would recommend taking the train from Moscow to Samara, Russia and from there, continue into Kazakhstan via Kandyagash and onto the former capital, Almaty (possibly stopping along the way). From there, book a train to Urumqi in western China.
Note that trains in Kazakhstan can fill up a week or more in advance, so you’ll want to purchase tickets ahead of time, especially if you plan to stop. The good news is you can buy tickets online at https://pcentre.kz/ and collect them at the train station in Kazakhstan. The bad news? The website is entirely in Kazakh or Russian. But, with the help of Google Translate, it is entirely do-able.

Good luck!

 

katie aune train travelerBio: Katie Aune is a former attorney who quit her job in higher ed fundraising to travel and volunteer throughout all 15 countries of the former Soviet Union.  She recently returned to her adopted hometown of Chicago after a thirteen month career break that included running a marathon in Estonia, traveling the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway, teaching English in Russia and Tajikistan, volunteering with the national tourism board of Armenia, living with local families in Azerbaijan, and trying her best to speak Russian on a daily basis. You can read about her travels on KatieGoingGlobal.com or follow on her on Twitter as @katieaune.

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Check out a Trailer from last year’s UTC http://yourworldnorules.com/check-out-a-trailer-from-last-years-utc/ http://yourworldnorules.com/check-out-a-trailer-from-last-years-utc/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2012 21:35:48 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=1115 Check out a Trailer from last year’s UTC!   The wonderful and fun Nora from The Professional Hobo put this video together and it will give you a good overview of some of the excitement you might encounter while you are on your Ultimate Train Challenge this year.     Now that you are all […]

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Check out a Trailer from last year’s UTC!

 

The wonderful and fun Nora from The Professional Hobo put this video together and it will give you a good overview of some of the excitement you might encounter while you are on your Ultimate Train Challenge this year.

 

 

Now that you are all ready to ride the rails this November, click through and check out some of the great prizes and other things we have for you in UTC12!

 

 

 

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Some Great Old Train Photos http://yourworldnorules.com/some-great-old-train-photos/ http://yourworldnorules.com/some-great-old-train-photos/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2012 11:31:44 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=975 One thing I am looking forward to in the coming weeks and months is finding some great train photos to inspire those about to embark on the Ultimate Train Challenge this November to try to win the great Eurail passes for Best Photo and Best Video on UTC12. These photos are from National Library of Ireland […]

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One thing I am looking forward to in the coming weeks and months is finding some great train photos to inspire those about to embark on the Ultimate Train Challenge this November to try to win the great Eurail passes for Best Photo and Best Video on UTC12.

These photos are from National Library of Ireland on The Commons’ photostream. I just love the feeling of the era you get from looking at them.

What do you think?

small train in ireland

 

ireland woman waiting train station

 

ireland train conductor in B&W

 

ireland tran station steam engine

ireland train condutors

 

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You Have More Questions? http://yourworldnorules.com/you-have-more-questions/ http://yourworldnorules.com/you-have-more-questions/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2012 10:08:17 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=713 Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about UTC12. Some of the questions we will be answering in the coming days with posts on our blog, which is here, so you might want to be scrolling through that in the coming weeks.   But don’t wait to ask us a question if you […]

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Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about UTC12.

Some of the questions we will be answering in the coming days with posts on our blog, which is here, so you might want to be scrolling through that in the coming weeks.

 

But don’t wait to ask us a question if you have something you don’t see answered on the website. Please just email us: info@yourworldnorules.com

 

We will get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks!

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Worried about the Weather? http://yourworldnorules.com/worried-about-weather/ http://yourworldnorules.com/worried-about-weather/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2012 18:27:18 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=409 If you have ever wanted to challenge yourself in the area of travel — this is the time to sign up. UTC12 is going to take you almost 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) from one end of the Earth to the other.   All by the best mode of transport, the glorious train.   Are you […]

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If you have ever wanted to challenge yourself in the area of travel — this is the time to sign up. UTC12 is going to take you almost 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) from one end of the Earth to the other.

 

All by the best mode of transport, the glorious train.

 

Are you worried about doing it in November? Fair enough. The weather in Russia, Mongolia and northern China is likely to be chilly. Average temps in that part of the world at that time are hovering around freezing.

 

Why Shouldn’t You Worry Too Much About the Weather?

Two reasons.

 

First, you are going to be mostly in the trains for that part of the journey. It takes a full six days on the trains to get between Moscow and Beijing. Given the pace you are going to have to set to make the whole journey in 30 days, I doubt you will have more than one day off the train (I suggest at Irkutsk which is next to the largest lake in the world, Lake Baikal). While you are on the trains, the temperatures are going to be toasty. Those Russians love to heat their trains. If anything, you will feel more like you are on a beach, getting a suntan, than in any sort of winter climate.

 

Second, think about the photos! Siberia in the late autumn, early winter? Likely snow on the ground. The photographer in me is jealous already.

 

Hmmmmmmm, maybe I need to join this journey yet again this year.

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ULTIMATE TRAIN CHALLENGE 2013 http://yourworldnorules.com/ultimate-train-challenge-2012/ http://yourworldnorules.com/ultimate-train-challenge-2012/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2012 15:11:29 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=164 Lisbon to Saigon… or the other way around.
15,000 miles within 30 days – and only on trains.

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WHERE DO I BEGIN? http://yourworldnorules.com/slide-2/ http://yourworldnorules.com/slide-2/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2012 15:09:33 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=162 What visas do I need?
How do I check train schedules?
What can I see along the way?

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DOING IT ALL FOR CHARITY… http://yourworldnorules.com/slide-3/ http://yourworldnorules.com/slide-3/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2012 15:08:50 +0000 http://yourworldnorules.com/?p=159 We aren’t just doing it for fun.
Meet our official charity,
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation.

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