Contemplation of a train journey

22 Aug

Eugene, Oregon to Portland and on to Seattle, Washington, a trip I have made many times and one of my favorites, by train.

I can honestly say that traveling by train is one of my all time favorite forms of travel. There is just something about relaxing in your seat and watching the world go by, the rhythm of the movement and the sound of the whistle. You can be completely alone or you can converse with travelers around you. You don’t feel trapped like you do in a bus or as caged in as you do in a plane. It always lends me to moments of contemplation, to reminiscing of other train trips I have done, places I have seen, people I have met. I have been lucky enough to take train trips through England, Scotland, Spain, USA and even an old coal train in South Africa called the Banana Express. All journeys were very different and yet inherently the same. Same same but different…

Train trips, especially when a nostalgic song comes onto your mp3 player, make you relook your life, contemplate regrets, what you might do different, if upcoming trips or journeys are what you want. You often feel like a spectator to the world going by, things that might look plain in everyday life seem to take on a new feel. Such as the stack of hay bales we just passed or that old farm house, a misty lake in the evening with the great blue heron. Train journeys just make you notice things more, make you appreciate it more. Then again it might just be me thinking too much.

Long bus trips I avoid like the plague, although I fear there will be a few of them in the upcoming months of travel in South America. I have a 2-3hr limit on bus trips and the thought of doing anything longer than 5hrs makes me cringe. I have never been very good at sitting still and at least on a train you have the entire length of the train to walk, a food car and sometimes a sightseeing car to explore. On a bus I feel trapped and fidgety. I always pity the person who sits next to me, in all forms of transport, as I am constantly adjusting my position, perhaps I have a case of ADHD when it comes to long journeys.

My favorite parts of a flight is take off and landing, I always feel the sense of adventure heightened as we lift off the ground, almost a childlike glee. On a plane I can usually handle the feeling of being in a large tin can thousands of feet above the earth for about 8hrs and then the fidgeting begins in ernest. I used to love window seats, but these days, I have to stretch my legs more often and so am forced to get the aisle seat for the sanity of my seat mate. I still remember my first flight, South Africa to the US in 1983 when smoking was still allowed and us kids could curl up on the floor at our parents feet to sleep. Oh how times have changed. Now we often get dirty looks from the flight attendants when we get up to stretch our legs too often. I have always found the key to enjoying your flight is to make friends with the attendants. Smile, say thank you and joke with them as you wait in line for the loo (bathroom).

I have not had many opportunities to go on long boat trips. A 5 day scuba trip to the Channel Islands off California was perhaps a highlight in my travel diary. I loved every minute of being on the ocean, but there I had scuba diving to distract me. An 8hr whale watching trip in Alaska, where I ran around like a 5yr old at the sight of Orcas, also doesn’t really count. So I guess the occasional ferry rides in Washington state to get around are the closest I have come to transport by boat. I must admit I loved it and would love to do a full on trip, but in a boat small enough to feel the ocean, not a floating city.

All in all I love travel and will take whatever form I have to to get to new and wonderful places. I just hope its not a 27hr bus trip.

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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Uncategorized


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