Friday, October 15, 2021

Getting There From Here

As I write this today, I'm on a train on my way to NYC with my husband and my youngest kiddo to see a Broadway play. A couple of firsts for me in there--going to NYC, seeing a Broadway play, and being on a train in the United States (I've been on one in Spain and England). 

I won't post this until I'm back home, of course, because I know better than to tell the Internet that I'm not at my house :-)

When I was young, I had HUGE wanderlust. I mean, I still do, but I'm also a pragmatist, and I picked up a really expensive hobby along the way (children), so it's been a while since I took a trip that wasn't with the grandparents or to visit family. When I was younger, I'd go almost anywhere if I could afford the gas or get someone else to chip in for. So many road trips! 

I took a fair number of road trips when my husband and I were dating, too, because we had a distance relationship and found it fun to choose locations halfway between his grad school and my then-home so that we could explore new places together while falling more deeply in love. 

But after we married and had a second child, we had to let a lot of that kind of thing go--not enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank. Kids, like I said, are an expensive hobby, especially if you want to spoil them like we do. 

So, it's REALLT nice to be traveling again, even if I have to keep a mask on the whole time. Traveling by train is enjoyable (so far…ask again in 6 hours). I have a table and wifi, and it's okay that I didn't pack all that compactly because there's a little room to sprawl. 

Across my life, I've taken a lot of modes of transport. And it's interesting how the method of transportation affects a journey. 

Day to day to I mostly travel in the little bubble of my own car, which allows me to treat it like a little house on wheels, loading it up with all the things that bring me small comfort, like a bottle of water, a plastic box full of tictacs, charging cables for all my devices, and tethers to keep my dogs from crawling over me while I drive. 

I have my first-ever brand new car now, and it seems very posh to me--with technology that all functions and some fancy stuff like heated seats and a back up camera. 

When I travel in my car, I'm in complete charge of the trip (well, except for things like highway traffic speed or delays). I choose the route, the departure time, the stops, what plays on the audio system, and what's allowed in the vehicle with me. What luxury!

We also have a decent public bus system in our area which I've used from time to time when my independence of movement felt less important or I didn't want to have to deal with parking when I arrived at my destination or I knew I could travel light (not much to carry). 

You never know who is getting on the bus with you…and cleanliness really varies from system to system. But the ride is short, so even if it's less than stellar, it's okay. 

I've only done the cross-country bus a couple of times, generally a charter bus full of kids traveling together--going to Disney with the band when I was a teenager, being a field-trip Mom for my kiddo on a class trip to Washington, DC, that sort of thing. Charter busses offer a little more room and luxuries like tables, and on-bus bathroom access, so they can feel fancy compared to a public bus or a school bus. I've yet to do the Greyhound experience so far. 

I've also flown in planes of various size, from a four-seater bush plane in Alaska to a grand trans-Atlantic monstrosity, though I was eighteen before I ever rode in one. My years in Alaska meant that I flew quite a bit, since I tended to keep living in places that weren't accessible by road. 

Smaller planes are noisier, but more comfortable in some ways. They tend to be cleaner, actually, maybe


because they're owned by individuals who care instead of being maintained by corporations who try to do the least they can to maximize profits. 

Once I rode in a helicopter, too, and I hated that. I guess I don't have much of a future as a rescue pilot. Noisy and airsickness inducing, at least for me.

Trains, on the other hand, are like busses in that you don't know who you're going to have to share space with and that cleanliness can really vary, but it can be lovely to just sit back and let someone else worry about getting you there.

Looking out the windows at trees turned into streams of green by speed until it feels like you're hurtling through an impressionist painting. Fields, houses, and city blocks go by in a blink. It reminds me of being little and riding in the back of the car, just staring out the windows while my parents drove me to Grandma's house. 

Traveling by train in Spain scared me a bit, but then I was young--20 or so--and my Spanish wasn't that great, and people kept scaring me about all the bad things that could happen to a young woman traveling alone. My fear probably wasn't really about the train. 

In England, when I was 30 and finishing grad school, I LOVED traveling by train. A nice lady came around and brought me tea and sold me snacks and I could do my work while we traveled, and my mum went with to be my Granny-Nanny for my elder kiddo. 

The train I'm currently on is a lot like that, except I'll have to walk over the cafĂ© car if I want any food or snacks. 

I have yet to travel on a train that looks or feels like the Hogwarts Express or the Orient Express, but that's probably for the best. I'm not ready for candy frogs that hop away from me while I try to eat them, or dead people in the car behind mine. 

Exciting transportation is fine for books and movies, but I'll keep my real-life travel a little on the safe and boring side, please. 

Do subways count as trains? That's going to be another first for me on this journey: a NYC subway ride. I've only done The Underground or The Tube and the The Metro, both of which were lovely and convenient, if a little nerve-wracking the first time.

I haven't had the opportunity to travel by boat much. Some few-hour excursions when I was at the beach, a few ferries (including the 12 hour long ferry ride from mainland Alaska to Kodiak). 

I don't think I'm much interested in taking a cruise on one of those giant floating hotels, but I'd love the chance to move among islands in a sailboat or something like that. 

When I have been out on the sea, I find it impossible to feel sad--the wind in my face seems to blow all my worries out my ears, and the miles and miles and miles of open water is soothing. Not to mention the likelihood of seeing something cool a landlubber like me doesn't usually get to see like a whale or a pelican. 

We used to go river canoeing or kayaking for my dad's birthday each year when I was an older kid/teenager, and I loved that. 

The combination of slow and fast, meandering miles of water with sudden exciting bits where you had to work to keep your little stick of a boat going the direction you wanted. It made me feel strong and capable like I'd really DONE something when I got to where I was going, even if there was a guide in the other boat prepared to pull me out of the water if I did something foolish. 

So, what do you like? Planes, trains, or automobiles? Boats? Public commuter transport or individual arrangements? I'd love to hear about your travel/transportation experiences in the comments!

2 comments:

  1. I like visiting places, but I also get motion sick so I'm not too keen on the traveling to those places part.

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    1. Sad. When I first moved to Alaska, I used to get sick on every single flight, but after a year or so of lots of flights, I got over it. Motion sickness is no fun at all.

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