Late last summer Real Russia had the pleasure of working with travel writer Jessica, Collector of Countries (over 50 so far!), of the website How Dare She, as she embarked on the greatest rail journey in the world, the Trans-Siberian railway; well, technically a bit each of the Trans-Mongolian and the Trans-Siberian!
While taking in a hundred new experiences, she found the time to write a few new guides for Real Russia; guides that should hopefully help you, “make the most of the Trans-Siberian railway”, and most importantly, give confidence to solo female travellers that the Trans-Siberian is eminently doable while flying solo.
In addition to this, Jessica has written four blogs exclusively for Real Russia, taking in topics such as what it is like to mingle with the locals, and what it is like on-board the Trans-Siberians famous trains! These will be posted over the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled to our social media channels.
For now, we thought we would ask Jessica a few questions, to get a better idea of why she travels, and what inspires her.
1. What is it about travel that inspires you?
I love learning and creating the opportunity for every day to be different.
2. What is it about rail travel that intrigues you?
In the United States, we don’t travel much by train; so it has always seemed like a fancy mode of transportation from the past, but I know it’s very modern and common today.
3. What do you aim to achieve from your travel blog and Instagram, and what inspired you to start them?
I share my travels because I want people along with me, and I want them to see that the world isn’t so scary. That people are as kind as you let them be. And this is best told through stories.
A view of Nevsky Prospect and famous Zinger House in St.Petersburg, Russia. Photo by Jessica.
4. What advice would you give to people who would like to become travel writers themselves?
I have a degree in journalism, so I felt confident as a writer, I just needed to add in the travel. But the advice I give to anyone who wants to write – whatever the topic – is to read more. Read veraciously and you will find the styles you like and don’t like, and it will help you find your voice.
5. What was your favourite travel experience, and what makes it different from the rest?
I ended up going to a Kazakh wedding because I was eating mashed potatoes with my toothbrush. I was on a train in Kazakhstan and had made a cup of mashed potatoes (like a cup of noodles, where you just add hot water), when I realized I didn’t have a spoon. The closest I had was my toothbrush, so I used the handle to stir and started eating. One of my cabin mates was laughing watching me do this and offered a spoon. That started a conversation that lasted the rest of the train ride, and weekend, ending in me going with him and his friends to their high school friend’s wedding because they thought it would be a neat thing for me to experience. It was!
6. What are some of your most memorable experiences travelling on the Trans-Siberian railway?
The first morning on an overnight train, I was up before the sun. I walked from car to car as the sun rose and delighted in the beautiful sunrise that I had all to myself. A few legs later, I was in third class and ended up playing a Russian card game with my new friends for hours. On another leg, I had the cabin to myself and enjoyed the ride to myself, staring out the window and reading.
7. What was the first experience you had that made you realise your passion for travelling?
The first that I remember is that when I was little, my dad travelled a lot for work. He would come back from cities I’d never heard of, usually with a small toy for me. I didn’t care about the work stuff, but I always thought it was so cool that he went so many places (plus the gifts didn’t hurt).
8. Based on your experiences, what do you get from rail travel that you can’t experience with other mode of transportation?
I think that rail travel is the most social form of transportation. Because you have space to get up and around, and a dining car with beer, there’s no reason not to chat with the people traveling with you.
9. What is the one place you haven’t travelled but would like to go?
Very high on my list is Antarctica. When I get back to South America, I’ll have to go.
10. What is the best piece of travel advice you have ever been given?
Always bring a scarf!
11. For someone who has never travelled the Trans-Siberian, what would you say to them about the experience and the adventure?
It’s infamous for a reason. Several days by train, several countries; there’s nothing in my travel past that I can compare it to. But to best experience it, be sure to stop along the way. I met too many travellers who were stopping in Irkutsk and Moscow only, but there is a huge country between those two cities!
Thanks Jessica for your fantastic answers.
Don’t forget to check out her guides to making the most of the Trans-Siberian, and travelling solo on the Trans-Siberian, and come back soon to read her exclusive blog about her incredible adventure!
Oh, and remember, if you want to keep up with Jessica’s ongoing travels, head over to her website, How Dare She, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at jess_ismore.