Earlier this year in April, Jessi Jezewska Stevens visited the UK to celebrate the release of her debut collection of short stories: Ghost PainsAs some of you might know already, in 2021 we adopted a no-fly policy for author tours as part of our Sustainability Statement. It’s always difficult when you try to do things a little differently from the mainstream, but since then it’s been wonderful to see others in the industry joining us in thinking about how they can keep their carbon footprint down – whether that be with hybrid and online events or having authors travel by train for tours. As our publisher, Stefan Tobler, said in The Bookseller, no-fly really is a no brainer, and here Stevens provides an informative and hilarious step-by-step guide to how to make it work:

  1. Take the train. It’s that easy! Almost.
  2. Route yourself. Using the phone on which you are reading this newsletter, download one of Europe’s main train apps, e.g., DB (Germany), SBB (Switzerland), ÖBB (Austria), Interrail/Eurail (a continental aggregator), etc.. There are lots and lots of others, specific to other countries, but these are the ones I’m familiar with and they’ve proved pretty reliable, successfully delivering me from Croatia to Denmark. Type your departure and destination into any such app and it’ll populate all your options for getting from A to B. For cheaper, equally efficient tickets, you can also try FlixBus. (Hopped up on enough dramamine, I’ve had good experiences.) Be warned that aggregator apps may not be as up-to-date as the others about announcing delays en route.
  3. Consider the night train. For long trips, ÖBB runs the “NightJet” line between most major Central and Western European cities. Book the “Liegewagen” for a couchette, which comes with a pillow, sheets, blanket, and up to three roommates (there are four bunks per cabin). If you’re feeling fancy—maybe your novel just won a big cash prize—you can pay much more for the luxury “Schlafwagen.” The couchettes sell out kind of fast, so it’s best to book at least two weeks ahead, when the tickets are also cheaper. Either way, bring earplugs. Wake up to two stale Kaiser rolls and an instant coffee, gratis. It’s positively romantic. You might as well be Joseph Roth.
  4. Consider the Interrail/Eurail Pass. This is a good, flexible option for longer trips where you’d normally book four to five separate tickets, i.e., for a multi-country or -city book tour. Basically, it acts as one single ticket you can use throughout Europe over the course of a month. For example, say you want to travel from Leipzig to London, with intermediate stops in Vienna and Paris. With the 4-day Interrail/Eurail pass, you could travel from Leipzig to Vienna on July 1st; from Vienna to Paris on the 5th; from Paris to London on the 17th; and back home to Leipzig on the 30th. Your pass would expire on August 1st. Note that you could also change any of these dates or destinations along the way, at no additional cost, right up until the point of departure—good news if you fall in love with a Spainard at the London Book Fair and need to reroute to Madrid.
  5. Plan ahead: I admit the Interrail/Eurail Pass isn’t the most intuitive app, but the flexibility and cost-savings are often worth the learning curve. So if you do plan to use a pass (I do all the time!!), a few further tips:
    1. Check your documents. The Eurail pass is for residents from outside of Europe. If you are a European citizen or have a European residency card (the UK and non-EU countries count), you’ll want the Interrail Pass. Make sure you choose the right one.
    2. Choose your trains and travel dates. In the Interrail/Eurail app, you can find routes from A to B and add them to each of your selected travel days. The most common passes allow for 4, 5, or 7 travel days within a one-month period.
    3. Book your seats. An Interrail/Eurail Pass allows you to travel for free on most trains, but for special trains like the Eurostar to London (which runs from Brussels, Paris, and Lille) to, say, meet your publisher And Others Stories, you have to book a seat. You can do that online through Interrail/Eurail here. It costs extra, but it’s still a lot cheaper than a full-price ticket across the English Channel.
    4. Change your mind. If you have to change or cancel a prepaid seat reservation, you can easily do so on the Eurostar and/or Interrail sites for a 90% refund.
    5. Activate pass. Activate your pass in the Interrail/Eurail app on your first day of travel. Good to go!
  6. Practice proper train etiquette. To avoid dirty looks and to maximize the romance of traveling by train for all aboard, familiarize yourself with the basics of train etiquette. Do not bring a dozen sulfurous hard-boiled eggs. Do not unleash a fragrant, melting knob of Camembert. Consider the scentless cucumber sandwich. Consider silent fruits that come in their own packaging, like bananas. Do not choose this moment to become an expert in deep-cuts dubstep. Again, I recommend ear plugs.
  7. Practice self-advocacy. If a train looks to be extra crowded, make a beeline for the dining car and order the cheapest thing on the menu, the experienced traveler’s hack for nabbing a window seat. Beware of non-continental anglophone backpackers (i.e., Americans and Austrialians), unless you are eager to practice your high-school French/Spanish/German. Avoid sitting next to anyone in contravention of stipulations outlined in item 6. Although luckily, and unlike on a plane, if etiquette norms are transgressed, you can always just get up and change seats. Finally, since you’re a novelist, don’t forget to eavesdrop; I once overheard a woman conducting an affair over the phone while her spouse was clearly waiting for her in the other car. Train travel will save the novel—just watch.
  8. Be a mensch (reduce CO2 whenever possible). Sometimes you really can’t avoid flying, I get it. But until you have three small children and an arthritic hip and/or need to cross an ocean, it’s really not necessary to fly in Europe! And when you do have small children and 1,000 other things to do and want to tell your publisher that you couldn’t possibly spare the extra time for the train, recall that airports are hell and that it takes at least two hours to check in and go through security anyway, and also that the world is on fire.

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