BY: NADIA ZAIDI
I’m admittedly somewhat of a recluse. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the company of others, and people inspire me to continue pursuing journalism. But maybe I enjoy my lofty retreat a bit too much. You know what else I enjoy? Safety.
Actually, my playing-it-safe ways have tickled my curiosity on train hopping — and maybe it is because of late-night reruns of Mission Impossible. Nevertheless, train hopping isn’t only reserved for epic movie scenes, but for recluses like me.
Photo by Molly Steele
What is train hopping?
Uh, it sounds kind of obvious, but I’ll humour you anyway. Train hopping is, well, riding outside of a moving train. It is also called train hitching, and train surfing. It’s sort of a no-brainer that train hopping is extremely risky and dangerous. Let’s just say that it shouldn’t be attempted by those of you who are afraid of navigating on moving objects.
Many train hoppers fall off moving trains, and ultimately, face electrocution from overhead lines or resistors. They may also collide with railway infrastructure such as tunnels, traffic lights, bridges, and even other trains. Yikes!
But it’s kind of addictive (says the person who can barely open my trunk on the side of a busy road).
- You can travel for free all around the world. No boarding passes, no long lines, no crowded decks.
- Extended view of the world around you. No having to nudge for the window seat. Yes, it’s just you and the 360-degree view.
- Isolation. Yes, it can be a good thing. Who likes sharing the space with tired, annoying commuters? Or worse… crying babies!
Just to be clear, I’m not (in any shape or form) condoning hopping on and off a moving train. In fact, just writing about it sends pins and needles down my spine.
Brief history of train hopping
It began as a means of travelling after the American Civil War, especially among migrant workers. It also became a popular method of transportation during the Great Depression because of the implications of the economic recession. It has evolved into an underground movement of those who want to seek the thrills of train hopping.
What you probably don’t want to do while train hopping:
- Let’s reserve that drink for later. Be lucid when you are hopping on trains because chances are a momentary lapse in judgement will cost you your life.
- Make sure you are in good shape. I mean, you’re going to be jumping on and off a train. You might want to reconsider that heavy meal prior to hopping on one.
- Don’t hang off of trains that don’t have any handles or latches for you to hold onto.
- Do NOT jump off of a moving train. EVER. You are not in a James Bond movie, and you will likely injure or kill yourself.
- Watch out for surrounding infrastructure that could cause you to injure yourself.
Popularity around the world:
In various regions throughout Russia, train hopping is extremely common. For instance, in Moscow, it is so popular that people do not report it. In India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, it is the most popular activity – more so than in any other part of the world. In fact, thousands of people can ride outside of trains.
At the end of the day, train hopping is a controversial subject. It’s illegal in most places, yet occurs so frequently that it sometimes operates in a grey area. Vagabonds and thrill seekers alike have sought the train hopping experience, and those that have committed to the activity usually end up with some crazy stories in their backpack. For some lucky people, train hopping can even turn into a full time job.