Zvijer, my first fight against the metallic leviathan. (1 Viewer)


Jun 1, 2019
Current Location
Disclaimer: I am a greenhorn.
In my society (as is the case pretty much anywhere) this is what has been pummeled into our minds for generations: you're born, you go to school, maybe to university, you get a job, settle down, you start a family and that's it. You know what the tragically funny part is about that? That nowadays you can't even do that. For our generation, being an office drone is a dream! We are so underpaid and oppressed that we don't have the means to "choose life, a family, a big fucking television...", as good old Mark Renton used to say.
We are little expendable cogs, whose only hope is to end up in a position fortunate enough not to make us depressed.
But of all the things missing from our lives, there is one thing which is killing us the most, and it's the most difficult to pinpoint.

Now, why am I writing a rant that looks like it's coming from the personal diary of an angry teenager? Well, in part I need to talk to someone that I know will understand, but that's not it.
The thing is, at a certain point in the past year, I just snapped.

It all started with this fantastic YouTube channel I happened to stumble upon, specifically the video about trainhopping in the USA.
I remember having reactions along the lines of "Wow, this guy is fucking nuts", "I never knew this was possible", "Is he some kind of adrenaline junkie?". The shock, however, was paired with a twin feeling of curiosity: before I even knew it, the two sentiments merged into sheer awe.

As I binge-watched Iliya's content, my attention started to move away from the more spectacular elements of his videos, such as jumping on/off trains, running from the police and so on, and turned to the most mundane aspects of his journey. Enjoying a sunset, waiting for the kettle to boil, being absorbed by your surroundings, not knowing where you will be a week from now, not caring about it... What is it that conjured such a strong feeling of realization in me while vicariously living these things? What's the red thread uniting these insignificant details?
At a certain point in the past year, I realized what it was. I didn't have an illumination, I didn't ascend to Nirvana, it's just that one day I became aware of the fact that I intimately understood what the missing thing that I mentioned earlier is.

It's Time. While I was being dragged along my life, running from one obligation to another or escaping in mindless artificial worlds that momentarily took my mind away from the stream of reality, Iliya was, above all, the master of his Time.
Unsurprisingly, there's a saying in Latin that perfectly sums up the relationship with Time I have begun to desire: Habere, non haberi. Owning, not being owned.
I am not going to be a little ant, slaving away its days to make profit for some snotty capitalist kid that inherited his economic feud from his family. I'm not going to sell eight hours of sunlight to be paid, as Lois from "Malcolm in the Middle" brilliantly put, "Less than what I am worth but just enough to keep me crawling back for more".
I will read to expand my knowledge, not to expand my business know-how. I will sleep eight hours because I want to feel good, not to increase my productivity. I will take care of my health because it is my body, not because I am needed at work. I will turn off my phone and watch the trees dressing up for autumn. I will not let my watch dictate what I am supposed to do and where I am supposed to be. I will be the master of my time. This is the promise I made to myself.

But becoming the master of one's Time is not something that can be done by flipping a switch, neither is it achieved by self-destructively dropping out of society.
The path to one's mastery of their time is a slow and continuous exercise in willpower, it's taking baby steps out of one's comfort zone and into the unknown. It's getting rid of useless habits, it's doing what's right instead of what's easy. It's turning off the PC to clean the room, it's ignoring the fast food on the way home and preparing a tasty and healthy homecooked meal, it's climbing to a rooftop and enjoying the view of the city instead of going to the same bar every time.

Having left the overly long pseudophilosophical introduction behind, it's now time to tell the tale of the day I finally had the guts to do something big: my fight with Zvijer ("beast" in Croatian, a nickname I gave to the metallic whale) , the first freight train I tried to hop.

"Today is going to be it" I decided, as I reluctantly got out of bed at 08:00. "Today I am going to finally ride a train". It was an ordinary late august morning in Zagreb, Croatia: yellow and lazy. It was quite hot, cars were slow, the city seemed to swallow you, even the birds were too tired to sing. The type of morning that just makes you want to sit on your arse and minimize the effort you put in living.
But I was done with that, too much of my free time had sunk into the wormhole of comfort and instant gratification. I ate my banana, grabbed some cereal cookies, stuffed the water bottle in my backpack, blew a kiss to the dog and I was out of the door, just like that. "Well, that was easy" I remember thinking, just as I was descending my beloved wooden stairway into the city centre. Turns out that departing is not as hard as people would make you believe, just grab your stuff and get out.
During my tram ride to the southern outskirts of the city, mixed feelings of excitement and fear were crossing my head. I had thought about my ride just about enough not to be completely improvising, but not as much as to be hindered by nonsense such as "plans". I had scouted the trainyard to find the entrance and hiding spots near the trains, so that was taken care of. I had studied the local railway map and memorized all possible directions, so that was also taken care of. I had food, water, shelter and a phone. The only thing left to do was simply to jump on that iron horse.

img_20190827_161936-jpg.53171_Zvijer, my first fight against the metallic leviathan._Travel Stories_Squat the Planet_8:49 AM
img_20190827_162816-jpg.53172_Zvijer, my first fight against the metallic leviathan._Travel Stories_Squat the Planet_8:49 AM

At the last tram stop began my thirty-minute march to the yard. Admittedly, it took a bit more, because I stopped many times to explore places that remain invisible to those, like me, that hardly ever go out of their territory. Here the old and the new clashed in a way unknown to the wannabe fancy and renovated city centre, but they clash in an organic, harmonic way. They are two sides of the same coin, and the gargantuan shopping malls have not yet managed to replace the communal sport fields, parks and tables built decades ago for the workers' leisure. I am going to be completely honest and say that I felt a rare sense of sadness thinking about all of the socialist achievements being devoured by the blind beast of capitalism. Long live those who dared to dream.
Soon enough I arrived to the now-familiar woods between the road and the tracks. I inhaled deeply, checked if anybody was around, and plunged into the rubbish ridden shrubs. Five more minutes and many broken televisions later there it was, the opening. The improvised path led to a hole in the vegetation, through which light was creeping in the sickly woodland.

img_20190827_165359-jpg.53173_Zvijer, my first fight against the metallic leviathan._Travel Stories_Squat the Planet_8:49 AM

Electricity rushed through my chest as I jumped out of the bushes onto the road that ran alongside the tracks. "I am actually here", that simple fact was the only thing I could think of, as I gazed in admiration at the steel colossus sleeping on the ground mere metres from me.
I turned around for what felt like the hundredth time that morning, but no one was there. No people in sight for hundreds of metres, just me and the trains.
I very cautiously began to walk towards the nearest car, tiptoeing, almost as if I were afraid of waking it up. I definitely must have looked silly. I reached it, felt the energizing iron smell, looked to my left, looked to my right, grabbed the handle very firmly and jumped on the grainer.

img_20190827_165630-jpg.53174_Zvijer, my first fight against the metallic leviathan._Travel Stories_Squat the Planet_8:49 AM

I was in. I should mention that said train did not have a locomotive, so I was well aware that I wasn't going anywhere. Nevertheless, I was on the brink of hysteric laughter. This was the real deal, I was on an actual freight train. When the initial excitement settled, I started exploring the grainer, the way the metal rods connected, its bumps and niches. In a corner, I noticed a fistful of grain that somehow managed to escape the crows, and I immediately put it in my pocket. Who knows where this grain comes from? Where it has been? Who reaped it? To a newbie like me, that was an exotic artifact.

But I hadn't come there to study the structure of trains like some engineer, I was an adventurer, a journeyman, and soon enough I started scouting the yard for any incoming trains. I felt like a Native American in some western movie, hiding and waiting for my 1000-tonne prey.
The first train came surprisingly fast, not even 20 minutes after my arrival. In a second, my heart was already beating like a crazy horse, my palms started sweating and it didn't take long for me to feel the energizing rush of adrenaline through my veins. I hid like a partisan in the well of my grainer, ready to leap out as soon as the locomotive passed the curve. "3...2...1... Fuck it!" I said under my breath, before snapping like a spring and running to battle.
After three steps I realized it was unrideable. I observed it go by, while my body was reabsorbing all of the precious wasted neurochemicals it had injected into my bloodstream. "Welp, I guess that happens" I conceded, before going back to my familiar car.

This time I had to wait longer, which meant that my mind started to wander away for the first time since I entered the yard. I noticed how the car was actually pretty comfortable, more than I would have imagined. With my sleeping pad underneath it, it made for a fantastic porch from which to observe the Croatian plains. Where would my train take me? Would it keep going west, to Slovenia, or would it turn South, through a hundred kilometers of woodland leading to the sea? I had no idea and I didn't care, because I hadn't come there to have plans or schedules. A low, vibrating noise brought crashed me back to reality.

I very vividly remember being amazed at how you can feel the presence of a train minutes before it is even visible. The distant, rhythmic, metallic sound was unmistakable, I had already heard it many times during my scouting expeditions at train yards. I knew it was coming.
Like the Homeric warriors, I solemnly began preparing for the encounter. I wiped the dust from my hat, tied my shoes very firmly, made sure my backpack was tight and without flabby ends, tightened my belt and went back to my fighting stance. This time I was more brave and I peeked at the oncoming train through a little opening. It was rideable, and it was huge.
I immediately turned back, assumed a squatting position and started breathing heavily. Like a mantra, I repeated a couple of times: "This is it, this is the fucking moment".

The locomotive was over the curve, time to strike. I effortlessly got off, crossed the road, jumped over a ditch, left some shrubs behind and stopped at a couple of meters from the leviathan in what felt like a second. It was gigantic, hard, heavy, hot. And it was going fast, at least for me.
I started running in the direction of the train, trying to keep up. It was scary, but I had had enough of being scared. I tried grabbing it, but I didn't quite finish the movement. In the meanwhile I had reached the end of my running corridor, so I had to go back and try again. I ran for my life alongside my mastodon, saw a rideable car, reached out for the handle... And I flinched. The following attempts were less and less determined, until finally I had to accept that Zvijer was leaving without me.

I won't lie, it fucking sucked. And what sucked almost as much is the fact that no more trains passed, until it was too late and I reluctantly started my walk of shame back home. The whole time I was thinking about how I just couldn't grab it, about my flinch, the biological defence mechanism that ends up being our worst enemy. I walked fast, just wanting to leave that failure behind me, while my own mind was torturing itself. "Was it actually going too fast, or was I just scared? Should I have given it a shot? Did I really want it?" These questions were spinning in my brain, and I couldn't find an appropriate angle from which to ponder them.

The tram ride helped. As I rode through the southern outskirts of the city, I began to calm down and reclaim some of the confidence I had lost. If I felt like the train was going too fast for me, it was going too fast. There is no point in overreaching just to prove a point and ending up without a leg, or worse. And then again, I had proven my point! I had gathered my shit, went to the yard, and measured myself with the train. Granted, I came out defeated, but it's part of the game; even though I had lost I had done what mattered: I took my life into my own hands and decided to live. A defeat is not a failure, it's a lesson, an experience. The Sava river was beautiful at sunset, as had been the rest of my day. The tram was crossing the bridge, and while looking outside I made my promise: "You win this time, Zvijer, and I am fine with it. But this isn't the end. It's just the beginning."

img_20190827_182456-jpg.53188_Zvijer, my first fight against the metallic leviathan._Travel Stories_Squat the Planet_8:49 AM

Note: it's both badly written and badly formatted. I am not a writer and English is not my main language, so I apologise if my story was difficult to read or unenjoyable.
I also apologise if anything that I wrote or did goes against or doesn't respect vagabond culture. I tried my best to learn what I could about traveller etiquette online, but after all I am still a complete newbie, so please believe me when I say that any mistake was honestly made in good will. If you were to give me negative feedback about my behaviour, I would be thankful.

Have a nice day!

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Nov 13, 2019
Current Location
Are you planning to do hopping adventure again (in Zagreb) in future?
I don't want to encourage you but if you plan to do it again I can give you few tips/advices which may help.


Jun 1, 2019
Current Location
Are you planning to do hopping adventure again (in Zagreb) in future?
I don't want to encourage you but if you plan to do it again I can give you few tips/advices which may help.
Absolutely, I go there twice a year for a couple of weeks. We can get in touch! Thanks.

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