The familiar sight of wind turbines in a yellow haze of landscape, long fields of corn stretching out into the distance and touching the horizon line. Away in a flash. That dull rattle of the train, the screeching brakes and the whoosh of the doors. The beeping alerts which ring out through the train carriages, each person onboard just a lonely face in a sea of seating. Muddy boots trekking down pathways to remote stations; squeezing into subway cars in the heat of the underground. Earphones in, tired head resting on a dirty headrest, sometimes a stale paper coffee cup on the small fold-down table of the train seat.
I think of it every day, like a distant memory. It’s been over a year since I travelled regularly. Before that, there wasn’t a month in the last eleven years that I hadn’t gone somewhere on a train. From remote stations with one platform, to London Kings Cross’ bright archways and bustling entryway, travel is a crucial part of my life, and was supposed to become a bigger part of my life in 2020. We all know how that went.
January 2020. I’m scratching down two itineraries for interrail trips, my writing frantic and messy. I had planned one trip through France and down through Spain, eventually reaching up and across to Italy before returning along a similar route. The second route, also via France, took it’s way up through Berlin, along to Copenhagen, and into the cold belly of Sweden. I planned the entirety on trains, long sleepers and rattling local routes. I would get by with two backpacks and the limited language knowledge which I had.
By the final, crushing week of February, I knew that there would be no chance that the trip would happen. The removal of travel from my everyday life gave me new insight, into what I missed, and why I missed it- and, maybe, in how and why I should travel in future. I missed it all, the noise, the chaos, the late announcements, the strangers, the quiet stations in the dark, the bright lights. I missed it, not only because it was freedom, but also because it was connection, with the world, with new people, with possibility. The minimal travel made me grateful, gave me time to reflect on journeys I’d never taken a minute to think about.
How has minimal travel impacted you? What are you grateful for?
Featured image: Lucas Gallone via Unsplash.