8 Types of Travelers You’ll Meet on Your Eurail Trip
One of the best things about a Eurail trip is the people you’ll meet along the way. Trains are one of the most social ways to get around, and what’s more, as a Eurailer you’re immediately part of a close-knit travel community. You’ll quickly learn that there are thousands of travelers embarking on similar journeys all around you. They could be hanging out at a hostel bar, in the train, or milling about on station platforms throughout the continent. Keep your eyes open, and there’s a good chance you’ll meet one of these types of travelers on your trip.
Types of travelers
1. The Australians
There are two things Australians love – travel and having a good time. Which must be why it’s almost a rite of passage for them to visit Europe en masse each year to cram in as much partying and sightseeing as possible. You’ll meet them everywhere – in the hostels; on the trains; in local bars. They’re the types of travelers making small talk on the station platform, or holding the floor in the hostel common room encouraging everyone to head out for a few “tinnies” or “stubbies”. Impressively, they’re usually also the guys up at first light to see the city’s top attractions. It’s an infectious combination that you should probably go along with on your rail trip for as long as you can keep up.
2. The American Semester-Abroaders
You’ll know you’ve met an American doing a semester abroad because he or she will tell you. They’re usually studying something fascinating but not exactly practical – the history of Italian art; German cultural studies; or Spanish filmmaking techniques. And they’ll inform you of its importance in great detail.
You might meet them in their “hometown” where they’ll claim to know all the local secrets, but there’s also a good chance you’ll find them on the trains on a weekend off. Just look for the shiny new backpacks, college clothing, and bookmarked travel guides. These types of travelers are impressively enthusiastic organizers – they can quote Lonely Planet’s top 10 attractions, the best sandwich shop nearby, and exactly which metro line you’ll need to take to reach each of them. They’re also an immense amount of fun to travel with.
I met my first two semester-abroaders on a station platform somewhere on the Austrian border. I’d just burst up the station stairs in an attempt to make my impossibly tight connection to the Slovenian capital. When all I found was a deserted platform, I sat down dejected on a steel bench. Seconds later, two Americans with bulging backpacks came panting up the stairs after me.
“Ljubljana?” the one said looking at the train disappearing around the corner.
“Nope,” I replied. “It was delayed.”
They smiled and sat down alongside me. Our train arrived seconds later, and we traveled through the idyllic Slovenian countryside making the kind of travel small talk that’s strangely rewarding. We checked into the same hostel, but early the next morning, when I asked the receptionist about the two Americans from the previous night, she simply said: “Ah, they were on a tight schedule. They left for the lakes early this morning.”
3. The Hyper-Organized (Usually French) Families
The family strode onto the TGV train with purpose. They took occupation of their pre-booked four-seater compartment next to me – the type with facing chairs and a table in the middle – with the confidence of seasoned rail travelers. Within minutes there was a picnic that looked more suited to a grassy corner of the gardens of Versailles. They made light work of the cheese, bread, and charcuterie spread, washed it down with wine, and then replaced it all with a complex card game that the kids grasped with ease.
I watched on in envious amazement, tinged with slight embarrassment, given my own meal preparation of a tiny train station sandwich that I’d purchased just seconds before boarding. Though these organized Eurail families have multiple nationalities, for some reason it’s always the French who handle the in-carriage dining situation with true finesse.
4. The Merry Drinkers
The man sat down opposite me in the small compartment and muttered something incomprehensible. It was in Italian, but I don’t imagine English would’ve made any difference. He held up a finger bandaged with toilet paper and waved it in my face. The man continued to chat away to me in spite of my limited understanding, until eventually we pulled into a station somewhere outside of Florence. The conductors kindly eased him off the train and into the waiting hands of some staff.
It’s not uncommon to meet the occasional drunk person aboard Europe’s trains. Some are locals who appear to have nowhere better to drink; but most are rail travelers who’ve decided to drink the remainder of a lengthy journey away. You’ll meet these types of travelers merrily propping up the bar in the dining cart waxing lyrical about their favorite destinations. They’re usually good for a few minutes of small talk while you wait for your coffee, or grab a cold beer of your own.
5. The Exhausted Festival-Goers
The young Australian fell down into the seat opposite me with a look – and odor – that immediately said post-Oktoberfest Eurailer. It was a sight I’d seen (and been) before. If not Oktoberfest, then a big music festival, popular cultural event, or just a weekend in a city that seemed to require several consecutive days and nights of partying.
“Where ya going?” he asked. And then, before I could answer, apologized about his state. “Just spent three nights in Munich. Time of my life. But I’m broken mate. Haven’t showered in days.”
6. The “I’m Over It” Wealthy Scenic Rail Travelers
The woman opposite me started by resting her head on the table in front of her. When that didn’t seem to do the trick, she covered her head with a large wide-brimmed hat. Eventually, she made a small bed by spreading out on the seat next to her. She was horizontal beneath the large panoramic windows of the Swiss train and appeared to wish it all away. Which is remarkable, really, when you consider that this was one of the ultimate rail routes in the world.
I had taken up a seat across the aisle, and was wide-eyed and probably annoyingly enthusiastic about the world passing us by. At one point I considered asking her exactly what she was getting out of this bucket list worthy train ride, but instead decided to let her be. She looked like the type who’d show me her collection of Eurail Passes and yawn while she listed her top five trips on the continent.
7. The Eurailers with the best itineraries and all the recommendations
We’re all this guy or girl at one stage or another. Someone’s just boarded the train from a famous city, and the ultimate “Where ya heading?” small talk leads to conversations about favorite towns or cities. “It’s the perfect opportunity to show that this isn’t our first train ride,” we think confidently. “It’s time to dish out some recommendations.”
There are few things more annoying than the types of travelers who tell you how wrong your itinerary was. But done respectfully, there’s also nothing better than getting some insider tips from another like-minded Eurailer. Who, more often than not, becomes your new best friend by the time you arrive a few hours later.
8. The illusive girl or guy of your dreams
They’re everywhere you look, and if you’re not careful, you’ll fall in love before your train’s even departed. They’re the wistful lone tourists quietly waiting for the train to arrive. Or the enthusiastic ringleader rallying the troops minutes before the last train chugs out of town. Before Sunrise may be fiction, but you’ll soon realise that rail travel is romantic. There’s no way around it, except to seize the gap and not let the moment escape you.
Eurail trips are as much about the people you’ll meet than they are about the scenery and cities you’ll encounter. You’ll never be in such a unique social position ever again. The best thing to do is simply go with the flow, and appreciate all the fascinating types of travelers you’ll no doubt meet along the way.