Longread by Diana Kolesnikova
Nomad Train Experience 2017
Moscow - Yekaterinburg - Novosibirsk - Irkutsk - Olkhon - Ulaanbataar

Excited chatter filled the loft as 30 nomads from 12 different countries all met each other for the first time. Laughter and excitement echoed across the room. Each person received their Nomad Train branded travel kit, complete with slippers, travel mug, and most importantly - a Yota SIM card with 35GB of data. We are digital nomads after all!

After a short introduction and some icebreaker activities, we went for our first of many dinners as a huge nomad family. Beers were drunk, great food was eaten, and once everyone was satisfied and full, we said the best kind of goodbye. The kind when you know for sure that the next day, we would all be seeing each other at a railway station in Moscow, where we would be departing on an epic 15-day adventure across Russia!

Still not fully accustomed to the train life - no showers or a stable internet connection, the first stopover in Yekaterinburg came just at the right time. Nomads happily headed for their hotels. Some even gave up a taxi for a walk through the unexpectedly warm Ural city.

Within 10 minutes after the arrival, we were already discussing when to meet for dinner, how to get to the experimental dance performance, and what time to start working the day after. We found ourselves in a city during the first day of the Ural Biennial, with coworking in the main museum, and people dancing on the banks of the Iset River during the night: beautiful memories of a city of creativity and art.

As we got to know each other better we stayed up late having heart-to-heart conversations and excitement at that feeling of knowing more was to come on that amazing journey we were a part of. The next morning saw us clearing our email inboxes, repacking our over-prepared backpacks with more substantial food provisions for the train, and preparing for another 24 hours of serene train travel across the Russian wilderness.

Arriving in Novosibirsk was a completely different experience. We had come to enjoy the gentle motion of the train, the digital detox, taking the chance to read a good book and just enjoy life. There were many activities scheduled for the train rides - train Tai Chi, How to trade stocks, and even Brainstorming on the future of the Nomad Nation. The slow and rhythmical wobble of the train carried away all thought of deadlines and work, whilst the lights of the city ahead meant returning to our normal city life.

In reality, Novosibirsk became a synonym of comfort, rest (or party), and exceptionally fruitful work. Non-stop dancing in an overcrowded bar, where we all drank way too many shots, and the last party heroes getting back to the hotel at 8 am. It was the most comfortable hotel of the trip with great rooms and a hearty breakfast.

In the morning, a group of us caught a local train to a nearby river where we enjoyed the warm sand of the Obscoe More (Obscoe Sea). We astonished the locals by diving into the cool waters, laughing and splashing each other, before hunger got the better of us. That's when we got 5 large pizzas delivered to the beach. Others from the group checked out the peaceful student town of Akademgorodok, some worked together at the coworking space and a couple even ended the day with a soak at a waterpark.


Autumn seemed to arrive overnight. It was quite a shock to the system. After the summer-like warmth of Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. Damp, chilly Irkutsk met us with a noisy railway station and rectangular hotel Irkutsk with monotonous Soviet-style rows of windows next to the embankment of the Angara River.

Immediately upon check-in the most restless nomads rented a car and set off to explore Listvyanka — a village near Baikal Lake, and trekked along an ancient railroad around the Baikal. Another part of the group explored local Buddhist Datsan communicating only with gestures and smiles, other fellows spent the whole day working with a stable internet connection.

We arrived back at the hotel to an amazing surprise from some of the nomads. Champagne and an incredibly delicious cake, as a thank you gift for the organizing team! It was even decorated with a train! The cake was so good that some healthy-eaters could only stop after eating three pieces.

Olkhon Island

The next day started with two missions, (even harder than abstaining from overnight cake eating) – to get up at 5 am and fit pretty much the entire crew to a bus. Why, you ask? We decided to spend 2 days in Olkhon – the biggest island of the Baikal!

After a four-hour windy drive and one-hour waiting for a ferry on the shore of storming Baikal (really storming, so we had to use all our hands not to lose hats and not to be carried off the cliff) we experience the lack of roads at Olkhon Island with our whole body. At first, its desolate landscape let us nervously think, 'That's it? Are you serious?' But as it had happened numerous times before, all questions dissolved two hours later in the same way as clouds did reminding us the sun still existed.

Pine-smelling wooden house, common room (finally!), traditional Russian banya (sauna) with some Indian mantras, a four-course dinner and after a few vodkas (just to note, that it was the 9th day of the trip on the 'vodka train'), and gaining some liquid courage, a couple of nomads even went swimming in the icy Baikal The next morning we took a jeep expedition to the most northern point of the island. The end of the trip arrived unexpectedly fast and saw us having to say goodbye to both Olkhon and to a small part of the group who would not be joining us on the last leg of the journey to Mongolia.


During the last train trip the restaurant coach was buzzing, full of nomads all the time – that feeling when you want to discuss everything, even more, and new topics pop up like popcorn, without any effort, and time passes away at an unkindly fast pace. Fast forward 5 hours and we were getting passports ready for the border control.

Just before customs, naturally, we irritated the Chinese train stewards who didn't understand why we needed to urgently fit 23 people in 1 Kupe room (to take a 360-degree photo, of course), and after the mission was completed (too easy, need much more volunteers next time) we could not stop laughing and joking. Frankly speaking, at that point even silly jokes worked pretty well and one joke was enough to send the entire carriage into a roar of laughter for the whole coach as walls were thin, and after 11 days of the trip, we easily discerned authors of each joke what made it even funnier.

We arrived at Ulan Bataar on a freezing morning, which fitted the atmosphere well. Everyone hugged and said goodbye to everyone. Some hugs were 'just in case', as there was another portion of adventures right ahead – with the group splitting off into subgroups to go and explore steppes, sheep, horses and camels, nights in gers, salty tsay, mountains, and snowfalls – welcome to the land of Gengis Khan - Mongolia.


The train was not just a train. The train became our Universe each time we got in. An interactive museum of modern Russian culture, a Russian-language school, a restaurant and infinite talks with tea and sweets in Kupe rooms, a place for board games, a pop-up coworking, and even a filming studio.

We suggested a format of open space – each nomad was invited to conduct any event he or she wanted. So, we also got a beginners workshop on how to take photos, a discussion about nomad nation, and even a hackathon on train and travel issues.

There were a few people who worried about the long hours we had to spend on the train, however, their worries went away after the first part of the trip – it was never boring or tiresome. Each train had a shower that one could visit for $2. There were enough stops where you could check your e-mail, walk around and buy some local food and souvenirs (e.g. huge cut-glass chandelier or painted vase, also huge – yes, the size matters in Russia ).

The food prepared by the restaurant was delicious, diverse and definitely became Russian experience by itself. Most train stewards turned out to be friendly and helpful, though not speaking English at all. 24-hour train trips without coverage became a unique opportunity to connect with people, contemplate nature outside or just spend some time in silence.


It is a special pleasure to solve a task after a task when close by there are other nomads who, you know, are fully occupied with their projects even though 5 hours ago you were dancing together to Russian rap or swimming in icy water.

Our work process consisted of 2 types of experience: working on the train and working in the cities. On the train, there were a few chords for electricity, Yota SIM cards and modems for internet connection, and a few workaholics that you could spend time with if you want to work more. Stable internet connection enough for video calls was available during the stops – approximately every two hours. In each city, we had hotels with Wi-Fi and coworking spaces reserved and paid for.

As the schedule of our train trips and stopovers had been known in advance, it was rather easy to adjust a calendar of calls and video meetings. Each nomad chose its own work schedule according to his or her needs.

Nomad Train 2017 in numbers

  • 30 participants
  • 13 nationalities
  • 2 countries visited
  • 4 Russian cities
  • 1 unique Russian sauna experience at Baikal lake
  • 5 partner coworking spaces
  • 35 GB per person of mobile internet
  • 92 hours on the train
  • 1 hackathon on the road
  • 6268 km traveled
  • 3 party nights in random locations
  • 11 activities/workshops on the train