Thoughts from a Ukrainian Train…enjoy the oink!

—Keith R. Sbiral

Red Dot Blue Dot readers who signed up for our email list had the opportunity to choose our next destination around the world.  The readers chose Odessa, Ukraine, so that is where we are headed.  Gotta get there, so here is the story.

Where do I start?  The most reasonably priced way to get from Kiev to Odessa in the Ukraine is a train.  For the equivalent of about twenty dollars and seven hours, you can get a first class ticket on an intercity train that will get you there.  That being said, first class should probably be in quotes, and “get you there” is really the extent of the experience.



When I imagined booking first class for seven hours, it seemed relaxing.  The website promised power plugs at the seat, mobile internet, and evening dinner time.  Based on the train rides we’ve had recently, particularly in Japan, I wondered what could possibly be better than a train ride where I catch up on writing, photos, website work, client work…the perfect scenario.

And don’t get me wrong, the train is relatively smooth, and clean.

The reality of this train is as follows:

  • There are five people sitting in four seats across from me.
  • One of these people has oinked like a pig at least 30 times in the last hour.
  • They are all drunk and on their third bottle of wine as I write this, two hours into the seven hour ride.
  • The rest of the car is full.  First class means a wider seat and only two people on each side of the aisle, but not quiet.
  • Multiple people are playing their own choice of music without using headphones.  
  • The woman and man sitting behind me have not stopped talking, and I mean constantly, in over an hour.
  • Children are running up and down the aisle yelling.
  • Please make that 31 oinks.
  • The train car is a buffet of food and drink that people brought onto the train.  I already ate, so the sounds and smells are not the most enjoyable.  
  • Please make that 32 oinks.


It is slightly amazing that I could even get annoyed at the fact that I’m hurling down the countryside in far eastern Europe in a territory that only 30 years ago was a territory of the Soviet Union and I’m complaining that my MacBook Pro and iPhone aren’t getting solid internet service on my SkyRoam mobile internet device.

Nonetheless, every now and then there is still some reality to this digital nomad concept that includes some difficulty in getting the job done.  There is the occasional day where I’m tired, frustrated, or just a little irritated.

Then I get an email reminding me of a former frustration that I have left behind.  Love those emails.  Perspective emails you might call them.  Things come almost instantly into perspective.  Here is the reality:

  • Drunk people on trains eventually fall asleep.
  • Children eventually fall asleep.
  • Internet will eventually work, and I can work offline until it does.
  • I have the opportunity to hurl across a territory that only 30 years ago was a territory of a Soviet Union with a backpack full of electronics that allow me to carry my office with me.
  • I think pigs are cute, so I should just enjoy the oink.

So, that is my advice for today.  Enjoy the oink!  Pass that one on to a few of your friends today, and mention while you are at it.

Enjoy the oink.

Postscript:  The lady who was talking talked for about 5 hours.  I don't know what she was saying, but boy did she have a lot to say.  We had pretty good chicken sandwiches for dinner.  The child fell asleep with 30 minutes left in the trip.  We arrived at 11:45 just like we were supposed to.  Grabbed a cab and checked in.  Odessa, Ukraine, here we come!

Enjoy the oink.