Leonie Müller is writing her thesis on nomadic living, and while she does it, she's living on a train. Talk about walking the talk! But she's not just riding the train for research purposes — it's actually cheaper than paying rent.
The 23-year-old German student pays the U.S. equivalent of about $380 a month and lives out of her backpack.
Of course there are disadvantages to this style of living. Using only public toilets and showers would become tiring after a while, although perhaps it would be easier to get used to than I think. And living out of a bag definitely lacks the comforts of home.
But the advantages are huge. Not only does Müller get to see the countryside, but Germany's rail network travels to the far corners of the country (and makes frequent stops in all the cities), so she's able to see friends and family regularly. Her most frequent travels have been between Berlin, her boyfriend's place in Cologne, and her university at Tübingen.
Plus, Germany's trains run on time; about 95 percent of them were on time this year. (Last year, only 92.3 percent of trains were on time, and the rail authority was castigated in the press for it). So Müller doesn't have to worry too much about arriving late to a meeting with a friend or getting stuck on the train for longer than she was expecting.
And apparently, the Wi-Fi on the Deutche Bahn trains (which are owned by the German state) is excellent.
Besides, sleeping on trains, for those of us who enjoy the rocking motion, can sometimes be better than sleeping at home with a fidgety partner.
It's not for everyone, but I'm one traveler who finds this idea very appealing. Could you do it in the United States?
I did a bit of digging and found out that there are 30-day passes on Amtrak, but they are limited to 12 "segments" (though some of those segments are longer rides than 12 hours). So, for the $689 price tag, and a bit of planning and staying with family or friends for a few nights, you might be able to do four weeks of travel, spending much of it on an Amtrak train and the rest with the generous people you know. Even figuring in two or three nights at inexpensive motels, that's still cheaper than my rent.
I've had pretty reliable Wi-Fi on my recent Amtrak trips, too. And depending on the Amtrak line you choose, the food can be surprisingly healthy and delicious (West Coast routes have, so far, had the best food I've had on U.S. trains).
What's Müller's biggest tip for other would-be travelers looking to make a train "home" for a while? Noise-canceling headphones.