Let me start by saying this: I rarely travel on trains. Some might say that this makes me supremely under-qualified to write a precis on why train travel is a daydreamer’s haven, but I beg to differ. In fact, my general lack of travel by public transport of any means is perhaps the reason why I am best equipped to write about its delights; I savour the journey in a way no regular train traveller would, I am not bored by its monotony, not tired of its inconvenience, not desperate to get to my stop.
Before I had a driver’s licence or a car (two things that, despite their obvious connection, came almost a decade apart), I relied heavily on buses to take me where I needed to go. Trains were, sadly, an unaffordable luxury, but the long waits in dilapidated bus shelters, the extremes in temperature (stiflingly hot in the summer, arctic in the winter) and the one odour-challenged person who always chose to sit next to me, meant that as a twenty-something, bus travel wasn’t exactly the glamorous experience I was looking for.
However, now that I no longer take the bus and am instead huffing and puffing with the rest of the vehicle-driving public, I realise what an opportunity it was. Back then my shelves bulged with finished books, my ‘to be read’ pile practically non-existent. As it turned out those irritatingly long bus journeys (where you travel via every conceivable route to reach a destination only a few miles away) were surprisingly conducive to reading and, despite the smell (which I eventually became accustomed to), I arrived at work in a state of peaceful dreaminess (admittedly not the most conducive state for work, but there’s a downside to everything, right?!).
Trains evoke in me a similar sense of calmness, though I find reading a somewhat trickier task. I always take a book with me and if it’s a particularly gripping read I definitely think about opening it, but invariably I don’t. Instead, I sit transfixed by whatever scene lies beyond the window. It’s blurry, yes, rushing past me at 100 miles an hour, but whether it’s the industrial outskirts of a city or the rolling green hills of the countryside, you can guarantee that I will be staring at it. And in staring my mind seems to effortlessly wander.
Perhaps it’s the speed, like a baby I am lulled into a semi-conscious state by the constant movement (side note: I am not including the Tube in this precis), my mind travelling to a mental hinterland that can rarely be reached when stationary. Maybe its the loud conversations of others that spark my imagination, sending my thoughts on an unexpected journey of their own.
Whatever the cause or reason, I have my best writerly ideas, my most profound thoughts about life whilst I am sat on a train and there are days – days when I stare blankly at my computer screen willing an idea, any idea, to form in my mind – when I wish above anything else that I was sat on a train.
📷: Daniel Frese from Pexels