This week’s Discover Challenge focuses on the idea of shared journeys, but also asks for a contrary perspective that focuses on the merits of solitary exploration.
As someone who has traveled both solo, duo, trio, and family-style (and even ran in a pack of many over the course of one weekend!), I can safely say that I’ve experienced travel and vacation time from multiple angels. There is one thing I have enjoyed doing by myself quite a few times in the last eleven years, and recently did with my boyfriend in tow: riding the train.
For me, riding the train has been a solitary existence for as long as I’ve been riding the rails. For three months in 2005, it was a method of which I commuted to an internship in Philadelphia, and several times thereafter to interviews in the same city. I rode the rails to visit a friend and see the sights there some years later. I’ve taken it there (again) to see the sights, go to ComiCon, and also to catch a connecting regional rain train to the airport. I’ve traveled with minimal stuff in hand, a suitcase and a backpack in tow, and have gone with a minimal purse and returned with that minimal purse AND souvenir items in multiple bags. While I love the ride which takes me into the city via the high speed line (the most direct route to ComiCon), I love the longer ride into the gorgeous 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, near University City, so I can see the Philadelphia Zoo and the industrial, grittier side of city life. All of this from behind a window as the world passes by.
Last year, I took a solo day trip to New York City, a place I’d been to before, but not in almost a decade. I took the train the Philadelphia in the morning (and saw the zoo and the older structures on the way in), and then boarded an Amtrak train for a 90 minute train ride into New York’s Penn Station. I’d never been on Amtrak before, and while I could have read a book (something I usually do on New Jersey Transit until the train arrives in Philadelphia, which is when I put it away to take in the view), I chose instead to sit by a window and just observe.
It was early October, Columbus Day Weekend to be exact. It was fall, there was a chill (but not much, thank goodness!), and it was sunny. The train moved through the gritty urban environment of Philadelphia’s northern sections, before moving into the farmlands and suburbs of the neighboring counties. Again, we moved into city life with the train arriving in Trenton, which once again gave way to the suburbs of Mercer and Middlesex Counties. We passed soccer fields, backyards, neighborhoods, and highways. All of the suburban life was set against the golden and red leaves of autumn trees. As this trip had done before, the train moved back into gritty, industrialized city – this time it was Newark – before finally carrying on to Penn Station in New York City.
In May, I had the opportunity to once again ride Amtrak north, but this time to Newark Liberty International Airport, where I took a train to a beautiful waystation for the airport’s monorail service. This time, the setting was spring. It was chilly, but signs of life bloomed, and things were green.
When I’ve traveled alone on the train, I’ve read books – at first, it was print. My technology improved, and became an eReader, and I’ve even watched movies on my Kindle Fire in my most recent trips. I’ve traveled early in the morning – I left my local train station before 5 am to go to the airport back in May, and I’ve traveled at night – I came home from New York at 7 pm, and nighttime in October is always dark much earlier than in the summer.
Having my boyfriend in my life will hopefully mean many more trips by train, even if they are short, commuter-style trips to get to the airport. It will be nice to ride the rails with the company of someone whom I hope will enjoy it as much as I do.