My wife and I went on our first overseas trip in1998. We had wanted to go for many years before then but circumstances prevented it.
We travelled around Europe on a 3 month unlimited Eurail pass (March-June98). Our ages 35/36 meant that we were excluded from buying a 2nd call pass. Eurail - the best travel bargain ever. We travelled overnight and saw a new city almost every day.
Our 1st class pass meant that we had compartments to ourselves most nights, while 2nd class was full to overflowing. The only exceptions were in Italy, Greece and Spain where night travel was only 2nd class unless a supplement was paid (and pre-booked?) France was reclining seating only, which was not the easiest sleep for a 1.92m man.
The other downsides of "free" train travel were the inability to lock the compartment door; No showers on trains; and some early starts and late ends to the day dependant on your schedule.
Asked if we would do it again; does a camel have fleas? We are planning a 10-year anniversary trip.
How to improve on the last trip ?
1. TAKE LESS STUFF! We left 1/3rd of what we took just in case at a friends house 2 weeks after arrival in Europe and then about 1/2 in various lockers to which we returned a week or so later just to deposit the extras elsewhere the next day
2. Spend the extra on occasion to take a sleeper.
3. Be less fanatical about wasting a day or 2 to stay over in a place you really like.
4. Sleep with your valuables in your sleeping bag.
This holiday has set us on a path in which we seek out overnight trains to take both for the savings (time/money) and the adventures in meeting people on the train and in the stations.
We have travelled overnight in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Norway, Thailand, Bulgaria, Croatia, and South Africa
Norway followed by Finland (albeit that we paid a supplement)
Croatia: (No pre-booking from Hungary allowed therefore 9 people in a 6-seater compartment) back to Hungary was not bad at all though.
Turkey: Slow and more than a bit scary (mostly in our minds though). Definitely an experience - but not one we would want to repeat!
Safrica: The trip is not bad but the stations are no go areas. We were held up a block from JHB station and I was so stupid (It wont happen to me) that when he showed me the gun I said no thanks, thinking that he wanted to sell it to me!