New York, NY to Chicago, IL
Chicago, IL to Portland, OR
Portland, OR to McKinleyville, CA
McKinleyville, CA to San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA to Oakland, CA
Oakland, CA to Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Oakland, CA to Kaohsiung, Taiwan (II)
Oakland, CA to Kaohsiung, Taiwan (III)
Oakland, CA to Kaohsiung, Taiwan (IV)
Kaohsiung, Taiwan to Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan to Naha, Japan
Kagoshima, Japan to Osaka, Japan
Osaka, Japan to Shanghai, China
Shanghai, China to Beijing, China
Beijing, China to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to Irkutsk, Russia
Irkutsk, Russia to Moscow, Russia
Moscow, Russia to Kiev, Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine to Krakow, Poland
Kiev, Ukraine to Krakow, Poland (again)
Krakow, Poland to Budapest, Hungary
Budapest, Hungary to Split, Croatia
Split, Croatia to Ancona, Italy
Ancona, Italy to Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy to Paris, France
Paris, France to London, England
London, England to Southampton, England
Southampton, England to Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida to New York, New York
The Things They Carried

What I brought with me as I arrived home (not including what I was wearing at the time): Drylite Microtowel, radio, headphones, microphone, flashlight, scarf, travel umbrella, winter hat, batteries, 35 liter backpack, drybag, plastic soda bottle filled with tap water, bag lock, two plastic forks, laptop computer, long johns (sorry, “base layers”), razors, hotel shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, toothbrush cover, tweezers, soap in a soap dish, small toiletries bag, jacket, spare pair of glasses, bathing suit, three tee shirts, shorts, dress shoes, pants, USB drive, two power converters, dress, sweater, skirt, metal food container with lid and handle, underthings, and four pairs of socks.

Mister Chen’s list:
Shanghai laundry soap
Toiletry bag:
Dental floss from Beijing
Toothpaste – Japan
Blue razor – US
Orange razor – Budapest ?
Hand sanitizer – from dorothy’s mom
Colgate shaving cream – US
6 bandaids – US
Canker sore medicine – triamcinolone
2 advils – US
Hair scissors – Beijing
Ear plugs – US
Hotel soap – Moscow
Nail clip scissors – US
Shampoo – from US
Gray blazer – Japan
Winter hat – Beijing Walmart
Thermos – Beijing
Paper bag of Jasmine tea – Beijing Walmart
Video Camera – US
Cunard Leather Pocket Folio
Cowboy Shirt – US
Brown Pants – US
Unrefrigerated Cheese from France
Black Swimming Trunks – US
Metal Bowl w/ detachable handle – Beijing vendor
Anna Karenina – Beijing book store
Old Time Advertising Book – used book store, Tokyo
Granola Bar – Winn Dixie Supermarket Fort Lauderdale
Powdered cat nip – Tokyo
Blue Collared Polo Shirt – US
3 Pairs of sox
1 Ralph Lauren undies
1 Hanes undies
1 Fukanglai Undies – Beijing Walmart
Cat Shirt – US
Long thermal pants – US
Long thermal top – US
Macbook White 13″ – US
Waicom Drawing Tablet – US
Waicom Drawing Tablet Pen – US
Around the World on Trains T-Shirt – Taipei Taiwan
3-Piece 4 Button Suit – Custom tailored Beijing
1 Pink Dress Shirt – Custom Tailored Beijing
1 White Striped Dress Shirt – Custom Tailored Beijing
Toilet Paper – Ulan Bator
6 packets of tea – 4 from Queen Mary 2 and 2 from somewhere else maybe Ukraine
2 packets of instant Cappuccino from Split Croatia
1 disposable Chopsticks from Japan
4 Popeners from Roma
1 London Library Card
1 Cunard Pen
1 Brown Pen from Krakow
1 Bag Lock from Taipei Taiwan
4 mini DV cassettes
Hotel Receipt from Moscow Hotel
1 Wrapper for Griskisticks – Split Croatia
1 Packet of Tissue Paper from Train in Ukraine to Krakow
1 Adaptor
Sea Shells from Asaki in Tokunoshima
Dental floss – empty – from US
Queen Mary 2 ID Card
1 Eraser from Taipei Taiwan
Ticket Receipt for Train from Rome to Paris
1 Scrap Paper with Du-Du’s email address – Taipei Taiwan
1 Scrap Paper with Eryn and Tony’s email addresses -Taipei Taiwan
1 Receipt/commemorative card to historic bell tower in Split Croatia
1 Receipt/commemorative card to church attached to the bell tower
1 bottle of unused prescription antibiotics – for the runs –
1 Empty bottle of water – Italy
Peanut Butter from Winn Dixie Fort Lauderdale


The bus arrives and we sit in plastic seats near the back. The bus lumbers slowly and stops frequently. We pull into a large parking lot by I-95. In the middle of the parking lot is the Fort Lauderdale Amtrak terminal.

The Silver Meteor leaves an hour earlier than the Silver Star, and we arrive in time to witness its arrival and departure. It will get to New York eight hours before we do. It costs sixty dollars more than the Silver Star. We are taking the Silver Star.

As the Silver Star starts to follow I-95 north up the east coast we leave our upholstered seats and adjourn to the club car where we sit across a plastic table from each other. The club car sells a slim, overpriced assortment of snacks, sandwiches and beer. Out the window we watch green fly by.

A woman from Key West wearing a black tee shirt that asks “Got ink?” is talking. The woman is talking to a man from Jamaica who says he is in America visiting family but never says where in America that family is. The woman is loud. Key West is awesome because people get totally naked. Her boyfriend is Mexican, and he’s a really big guy so people are afraid of him, bt the big guys are always the sweeties, you know? The man from Jamaica is a good listener because he is busy drinking.

The train stops. The train rolls backwards for a while. The steward must remind the woman from Key West and the man from Jamaica that as this is a family space loud cursing is not allowed. The train begins to go forward again, slowly. The train stops. The conductor’s voice says we will be moving shortly. Two policemen enter the club car. They take away the man from Jamaica. The car starts rolling slowly forward.

We put peanut butter on crackers and eat them at our seats. When it gets dark we are still in Florida. By the next morning we are in North Carolina.

We climb from Penn Station’s dank stomach to the street in worn sneakers and under giant backpacks. And then we are in New York.

We left as residents and return as tourists.

We are walking to Times Square to meet my sister. The signs are too familiar. Bag Man, Jack’s, the Manhattan Mall. In five minutes we have never left.



Victoria Station

The train leaves from Victoria Station. The train ticket costs more than our first-class overnight journey from Shanghai to Beijing.

Waiting to leave

We sit across from each other with a small fold-down table between us and a large, clean window to our right. Trees go by and we eat bread with cheese. Disembarking at Southhampton, we watch the other passengers board shuttle buses or climb in cars. We start to walk.

Guided by an overly optimistic hand-drawn map we walk down Western Esplanade to West Quay Road as it slopes towards the water. We still have five pounds and we are determined to spend it. In a supermarket we debate away our precious travel minutes in the beer aisle, finally buying a six pack of Wells Bombardier because the package says “£5” in white in a big red circle.

Where the public road and private dock meet there is a small security hut monitored by a man in a navy blue jacket. We arrive sweating under over-full backpacks and clutching white plastic bags of beer. We have been wearing the same clothes for so long that the dye has etched itself into our skin. The security man asks to see our tickets. We dig through our packs past worn and stinking clothes for the embossed leather -bound folders holding our tickets. We are waved on.

Once again in the not many pedestrians zone

Twenty minutes of walking later we reach a garage filled with cars and British flags, the foyer to the soft-lit wall to wall carpeted terminal where we stand on several lines and present our papers to deferential people who give us plastic identification cards that will open the door to our room and track our spending. Then we pass through a series of tubes to a series of escalators. We are on the boat.

The shore, from the boat

As the boat launches passengers stand on the deck and make the traditional champagne toast. At least according to the photographs displayed for sale along the corridor between the dining area and the main staircase. As the ship launches we are taking showers and changing our clothes for the first time in four days.


Eurostar tickets go on sale eight months before the date of departure. I book our tickets as soon as they go on sale. I get an email confirmation and put the whole thing out of my mind for about eight months.


It is the day before our departure. I do not know which station our train leaves from. The Pompideau Center has free if tenuous wifi outside. Ten minutes are spent sitting, trying, and waiting in multiple locations before I have copied down the confirmation code, departure time and departure station. I will need all of these things.

The metro is fast, clean and efficient. We reach Gare du Nord in less than half an hour. Check-in is like that at an airport. There are four automated check-in machines outside the Eurostar terminal. Give them five minutes and the credit card you bought the ticket with and there, simply, is your ticket. There are four automated check-in machines outside the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord and they are all broken. We stand in line to give our reservation code and credit card to a lady behind a counter.

Gare du Nord

We fill in our customs cards and we are ready to go. A bank of entry gates requires a ticket slid into a tray before the green light goes on, the ticket is returned and the kidney-level doors give way for you. I have such faith in systems that I am through the gate, my ticket in my hand, before I realize that the light has never turned green. The doors have never given way. I have muscled my way through. Mister Chen is on the other side of the gates with a ticket that does not work. The lady in charge takes him over to the manned station. I try to go back through the gates to get my ticket properly validated. I am waved on.

About to Chunnel

The duty-free shops in the terminal sell cheap cigarettes and extremely expensive sandwiches. Twenty minutes before the train leaves they announce it on track three, and a polite line forms to the doorway and down an escalator as it flattens into a mechanical incline and then to a motorized walkway. Our car is empty. The tray tables are large and sturdy. There are two levels of overhead baggage compartments. The conductor makes all announcements in French and then in English. Twenty minutes in the darkness of the chunnel and then the conductor is making all announcements in English and then in French. At Waterloo a stout friendly lady in a clean navy blue sweater and white collared shirt asks us why we are visiting and for how long. Tourism and two days are the right answers. We are through.




We bought the tickets online a month ahead of time. That’s what they say to do for the Rome-Paris sleeper train. We got to the station an hour ahead of time. That gave us forty minutes to stare at the display at the Roma Termini station. Track 7! We push our selves and bags over to the track and get in the car. In each compartment a bench of three seats sits across from a bench of three seats. Two levels of beds are above on either side, the middle one folded up to allow seating. Our tickets are for the two bench seats in the middle, corresponding to the two middle beds. The window seats are the beds on the very top and the corridor seat is the bench we will sit on.

We are in the middle seats facing each other when an Italian couple sits in the window seats. The train starts moving. The steward, speaking French and English, comes by to collect our tickets and passports. Another man comes by and hands everyone non-sparkling mineral water and a cup. We eat our cold, last-minute supermarket sandwiches. The Italian couple looks about our age. They are wearing leather jackets, They look like they have jobs.

Their sandwiches look so much better.

Top Bunk

The train is half-full into Firenze, and then everyone else gets on. A quiet man takes one of our corridor seats. The train leaves Firenze. It’s 8:53. The Italian couple begins to prepare their beds. The quiet man leaves.

The quiet man is wise to leave. The top bunks lie flat horizontally and the blankets and pillows are stored on top of them. To take your place on the top bunk you must find an empty place to store the extra blankets and pillows. Then anyone sitting must rise so you can access the ladder that sits under the bench seat. The ladder hooks into the top bunk. It does not hook in readily, but eventually. Mister Chen drags down his middle bunk through a complicated series of levers. And I open my bed, and the quiet man comes back. We would have been fine sleeping in our seats.


The transformation of beds back to seats never takes place. Mister Chen remains sleeping until we pull into Paris Bercy. The steward returns with our passports and tickets. We get off the train. We have no idea where we are.


We ask the lady at the ferry’s information desk if the passenger terminal is near the train station. She calls in another lady who speaks enough English to tell us that they don’t know where the train station is. The lady who speaks English tells us to ask the lady who works at the duty free shop. The lady who works at the duty free shop is pretty sure the train station is pretty near the passenger terminal. But she’s not sure. It’s a Croatian ferry, she explains. And Ancona is an Italian city.

The ferry’s passenger terminal is a parking lot next to the water. A series of signs eventually leads to an actual building housing customs and an information office. The information office opens at 9am. The ferry arrives at 7am.

We walk. If you walk down the shore and keep the water to your right and you will soon reach a train station. It is the wrong train station. The Ancona maritime station sees very few trains. We walk away from the water to a building that sort of looks like a train station. It is not. But it is next to a sign that points to the train station. With a trust born of having very few other options we follow this sign along the train tracks in a convoluted path onward and inland for about twenty minutes. And then, slowly, past the bus station, it rises – the train station.

The next train for Rome leaves at 1:53pm. It’s a little before 9am. We buy tickets. We go to the waiting room and fall asleep for twenty minutes until the police officers ask to see our tickets. The luggage lockers at the station do not inspire confidence. We wander around Ancona with our backpacks, we sit in the sun where we find it. We are glad to board the train a little after 1:20pm. Newspapers lie on the seats.


The route is mountainous, picturesque. The man taking our ticket tells us we should have had them stamped in Ancona before boarding the train, but there are no consequences. We arrive in Rome hungry and on time.

R 2327 TO ROME