Traveling Europe in September

If you want to visit the big

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Bus and train trips, flights, delays in airports and train stations, hostels without TV or much light; the list of situations where a traveler has time to kill is long. That’s right — travel is not always exciting. There will be dull downtimes, and you may not always be able to read a good book, play road trip bingo, do crossword puzzles, or doodle in your journal.

That’s when you need a good repertoire of games to spontaneously play with your fellow travelers. Some will be popular games that you can find online and long-forgotten games from your childhood, and you might be surprised just how necessary they’ll be — and how much fun you’ll have — when you want to fill some of those inevitably empty hours on the road.

A quick confession: I’m a bit of a game geek anyway, and an English teacher to boot, so I’ve been known to start these games even at parties. But I promise that they have all been road tested on a real road, somewhere in Tunisia, Finland, Canada or Germany or any place where I was bored and without a book.

#1 – I Spy

You’ve probably all played I Spy a long time ago, but I recommend dredging it back up from your long term memory. If you can’t, it starts off like this: “I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with A”, and the other players have to guess what object you can see. I’ve played this in hostels (especially those hostel living rooms that have trinkets from all over the world gathering dust there), on train rides and in planes, but it didn’t work too well in the desert. “I spy … sand.”

How to play: I like to limit each person to three or four guesses. Otherwise they’ll exhaust every item in the room that starts with “B” and you’ll soon run out of objects to use. I also like the jet lag variation — play it in a dark room at night when you can’t sleep because your body’s on some other clock, and see if you can actually remember what’s in the room around you.

© Mariano Kamp

#2 – Donna’s Alphabet Game

This is not the official name, but it’s the way I like to remember it after my old school friend Donna got a car load of us playing this on a stop-start motorway in south-west England. It’s simple, as long as you’re traveling on a road with signs (and even better, advertising) and these signs use our alphabet. Don’t try it in the western provinces of China, for example.

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