Business by Train

I just got back from a successful two weeks away on the road for Statice, and although I’m exhausted, I’m kind of stoked. We closed two new deals, met great people and hit the stage 6 times across 3 cities – and all without taking a plane! Friends challenged me to fly less, so I thought I’d jump in the deep end, and try a whole trip cold turkey. The route was Berlin –> Bern –> Zürich –> Munich –> Nürnberg –> Zürich –>Bern –> Zürich –> Berlin, over about 12 days. All in all, it was a great experience, and didn’t cost any more than flying (though I did book a little more in advance than I probably would normally).

What went well:

  • It’s definitely nice to see a bit more of where one is going. The landscape in the south of Germany and in Switzerland is breathtaking, and especially the early morning train from Bern to Zurich, with the sunrise over the mountains, was great.
  • Not standing in line, ever, and no being not able to use one’s laptop during takeoff and landing. I estimate that one loses approximately 30 minutes at least at each end of a domestic flight, as well as about 30 minutes on the plane in laptop-ban mode. If I’d flown, I would probably have flown the legs Berlin–> Bern, Zurich–>Munich, Munich–> Zurich, –>Zurich–>Berlin. At least 6 hours of working time would have been lost – so not losing that was great.
  • Having an internet connection (via tethering) that works 90% of the time is pretty great. My iPhone XR might not be the fanciest one, but damn, do I love the battery life, even when tethering for hours on end.
  • Being able to get up and move. It’s awesome to be able to focus on a task, and then reward oneself with a quick walk without bothering climbing over 2 other people. Being able to walk around the connecting area in the carriages to take calls without annoying anyone is also great.

What didn’t go so well:

  • Of course, it wouldn’t be travel with the Deutsche Bahn if one didn’t experience at least one delay. I got extra “lucky” and had several. Unfortunately, one delay was en-route to Zurich, where I should have had a meeting about 45 minutes after arriving. Missed that one, which was a bummer.
  • The 9.5hr trip from Berlin to Bern is a long ass way. It’s even longer when you forget food and water, and don’t have € bills on you, and the DB doesn’t work with N26 cards. Needless to say, upon arriving in Bern at 5pm in the evening, I was famished.
  • Vodafone. One pays an arm and a leg, and doesn’t get free roaming in Switzerland. In comparison, a €20/month Aldi PAYG subscription does. I’ll be having words with them, paying €6/day for internet, and then still using data allowance is not a great experience.

Would I do it again?

Heck yes. The combination of more time spent more productively, and a lot more comfortably, is really nice. It’s a bit more planning, and it’s not always easy to sit in a train/bus combo for 9+hrs, but it feels better than being in a plane!

What I’d do differently next time / Tips for people who want to give it a go:

  • Take snacks! You never know what fun surprises you might run into with card payment, or whether the train bistro will be open, so BYO, and don’t be shy about it. Long trips + high productivity make one snacky!
  • Take a spare t-shirt for travelling, especially if you’re doing meetings before jumping into the train. On Friday, I had a meeting in the morning, and then had to dash to the train. Shirts are great, but they’re not awesome when you’re lugging your stuff at high speed through hordes of people while stressed about timing. Pack an extra t- shirt, for you (and for the comfort of your co-travellers).