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In Germany, a teen has been living on trains for 2 years and he has found love too

1 month ago 259

FRANKFURT: Lasse Stolley was looking for a change in scenery after a planned apprenticeship fell through. So nearly two years ago the teenager began living on German trains.
The epic journey has taken the 17-year-old from a small community in


's windswept far north to the country's southern borders and beyond.
Setting off in August 2022, he has travelled a staggering 650,000 kilometres (400,000 miles), the equivalent of going around the Earth over 15 times, while sitting on trains for more than 6,700 hours.
"Being able to decide every day where I want to go is simply great -- that's freedom," Stolley told AFP in an interview in a cafe at Frankfurt train station.
"I like that I can just look out of the window while travelling and watch the landscape quickly zipping by... and the fact that I can explore every place in Germany."
He travels with just a rucksack and lives mainly on pizza and soup which -- as a holder of a train pass -- he gets for free in rail operator Deutsche Bahn's station lounges.
Bumpy start
With his broad smile, the lanky


seems an unlikely figure to have decided to swap the comfort of his family home for the rigours of life on the rails.

He had little interest in trains growing up. He never owned a model railway, and had only travelled twice on Germany's high-speed ICE trains before deciding to start living permanently on the network just after he turned 16.
But after finishing secondary school, a planned apprenticeship in computer programming fell through. Searching around for what to do next, he stumbled across a documentary about someone who had lived on trains.
"I thought I could do that," he said.
"At first it was just an idea, such an unrealistic idea. But then I kept getting into it... and then I thought, 'OK, I am going to really do this.'"
After initially trying to dissuade him, his parents decided to support him.
He bought a rail card that granted him unlimited travel on the network and set off from his home in Fockbek in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, heading to Hamburg from where he took a night train to Munich.
The early days were difficult. Stolley could not sleep at night -- his railcard does not allow him to use night trains with beds -- and returned home frequently to see his family.
But he soon got used to living on the trains.
He bought an airbed that he used to sleep in the large baggage areas of high-speed trains at night.
And after a year, he upgraded his travel card to a first-class one -- costing 5,888 euros ($6,400) a year -- allowing him access to more spacious carriages and Deutsche Bahn's lounges.
Rail romance
Now he no longer needs the airbed and can sleep so comfortably upright in a train seat that he struggles in a regular bed.
"In a normal bed, I miss the rocking of the train jerking me around a bit at night," he said.
Stolley even works while on the move, doing a part-time job programming apps for a start-up.
He frequently travels to major cities, such as the capital Berlin or Frankfurt, the country's financial hub.
He also often heads to smaller towns and travels through the Alps, and has been to Basel in Switzerland and Salzburg in Austria, just over the German border -- the points furthest south covered by his railcard.
But living on the German train network, which critics say is in a sorry state after years of underinvestment, is not without challenges.
"Delays and other issues are certainly daily affairs," said Stolley.
Train staff have staged regular strikes as they pushed for better pay and conditions, paralysing the network and meaning that Stolley was forced to sleep in airports.
Asked about what they thought of someone choosing to live aboard their trains on a permanent basis, Deutsche Bahn declined to comment.
Still, while life on Germany's creaking railways can sometimes be a headache, it can also have unexpected upsides -- Stolley found romance during his travels, meeting his girlfriend at the Cologne rail station lounge.
Stolley said he doesn't know how long he will continue living as a postmodern digital hobo -- maybe for another year, or five.
"At the moment, I am having a lot of fun and experiencing so many things every day," he said.

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