An image of feet on the floor, people in many seats on a bus.

IS COMMUTING TRAVEL?

The cold suburban train station in the early hours of the morning; that still, damp air which settles down as dew as the first pieces of sun cut through the cloud. The people, faces which you’ve seen before, each of them slightly different day by day. Sometimes bagged eyes, grey and drawn, other times alert and facing forwards, prepared to step out onto the train. Then comes the journey; for some of us, fifteen minutes, for others, more like a few hours of our day. We exist, for that time, on transport, whether together or alone.

Some of us take those busy roads at early hours, avoiding peak traffic. Others of us prefer the bustle of the early morning jam, a story to tell once we reach our destination. Those of us taking trains do so in communion, a hoard of familiar passengers. On the bus, we may see more variety, new visitors when the weather picks up for the summer, a new person in our seat. The rush of the wind when the windows are vented.

Wherever we are, we pass through suburbia, rural landscapes, built-up inner cities- their blocks looming, the brickwork blackened from years of smog. We pass these same sights, at times for years on end. Can we even bring ourselves to call it travel? After all, what is travel if not new experiences and spaces? Yet, we visit the same resorts, using the same airlines- even the same hostels, using the same budget options. Travel is always, undebatably, something which we define.

Then, what happens when we choose to consider commuting as travel? How might we see those same sights with new eyes each time we commute? We might look out onto a familiar crowd and notice what has changed, notice those little details, the way that the landscape changes with the seasons, the way that different music in our earphones changes the journey entirely. We may take a step back from what we have come to know as normality, and we may look at it afresh, with the eyes of a traveller.

When we start again on our commute, it’s a little different. Perhaps a new seat on the bus, perhaps the feeling of a road trip in the early morning through empty highway and out toward the impending sunrise. The train rattles differently when you stop to notice it, the train station coffee is a little stronger than you remember. The people more compelling, the sights more awe-inspiring. The yellow fields stretching out into pink skies in the summer, the city blocks with washing hanging from balconies, caught up by the breeze, the avenues in suburbia- each winding journey capturing fragments of our own lives- and we can be there for it, if only we choose to notice, to travel.

Is commuting travel? You get to decide.

Featured image: Matthew Henry via Unsplash.

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