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Why trains are the best way to travel Essay

WHEN you travel long term you have plenty of time to ponder the big questions. Maybe that’s why philosophy and travel go so well together. You finally have the time to really think about what the hell Confucius and Plato were trying to get at… Maybe that’s why I also love to travel by rail. Above all other forms of long distance transport, trains are my favourite. I’m comfortably sitting, watching a frozen landscape of farmland, forests and tiny villages fly by my window. Drifts of snow rise and fall like endless frozen waves as skeletal trees scratch at the sky across the distance, disappearing over the horizon, as the sun sets in a radiant arc of crimson fire. The world is bare, open and, above all else, interesting and full of wonder. This is what should make train rides important to travellers. Modern conveniences like email, smartphones and supermarkets have made life more efficient than ever before but in doing so something’s been lost.

Don’t get me wrong, 2013 is the best time to be alive (ever!), but I do think we all could learn to appreciate ‘the journey’ a little more than we do. In modern life the journey has taken a definitive backseat to the destination. I put long distance train travel in roughly the same category as calligraphy, wax seals, orchestras and Shakespearean English. There may be more efficient, easier and faster ways to accomplish writing, making music or talking but the ‘romance of the journey’ makes these endeavours both interesting and valuable. The difference is not taking the journey for an inconvenience that’s in the way of getting somewhere, but rather in enjoying the journey for what it is. Flying is obviously more efficient in regards to time, but it lacks in journey aesthetics. Taking a commercial flight really doesn’t allow for much appreciation for a country’s’ aesthetics (unless you count Virgin’s flight attendants).

Another downside to flying is that planes are cramped, much like being a sardine in a can (only with less vegetable oil). There’s also the fact that you’re hurtling through the open sky at 800km/h in a hulking 500 tonne machine made of metal and plastic – maybe you can tell that I’m not a fan of flying. What about buses? Buses unfortunately are a necessary evil in the same way that McDonalds is a necessary evil at 3am on a Sunday morning. Buses, while often cheap offer neither efficiency or the journey experience and come a very distant third choice. Railroads are quite often cut through remote wilderness far from highways and roads, giving you a sense of remoteness that’s hard to match with other forms of transportation, perfect for moments of quiet contemplation and reflection and often amplified by the beautiful scenery. There’s also the comfort factor to consider. If you’re the butt of beanstalk jokes, journeying by rail allows for more leg and shoulder room than a bus and a flight combined.


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