During one’s travels, the journey from point A to point B might involve anxiety-inducing delays, uncomfortable physical confinements, and bouts of boredom. However, the movement between origin and destination provides the perfect excuse to forget about emails in the absence of an internet connection and leave behind the demands of social media or an unfinished craft project. Instead, we can empty our minds, gaze outside the window, and engage our thoughts in idle wondering about the scenes that drift past the car or train window.
When we think of traveling, we often think of the destination: where we are going to go, what we are going to do, maybe where we’ll stop to rest along the way. The mode of transportation is a means, not an end, and rarely receives more consideration than a momentary thought about financial accessibility and convenience. However, the hours passed in the cabin of a plane, the compartment of a train, or the seats of an automobile are just as much a part of the trip as the days spent exploring a new city or sharing time with friends and family.
The act of traveling creates unique constraints and challenges for our minds and bodies. Firstly, there is the often uncontrollable aspect of time. A flight delay or a traffic jam does not disappear simply because you wish for it, nor is there much you can do to change the speed with which the event unfolds (or concludes). Many times, there is little you can do to relieve the discomfort of contorting your limbs into narrow spaces for more than a limited time. A brief walk up and down the aisle is only a momentary respite. There is also the unfortunate problem that many activities that you might usually engage in to pass the hours, from assembling puzzles to streaming videos, are difficult, if not impossible, to successfully perform in a moving vehicle with a spacious, steady tabletop or an uninterrupted internet connection.
So what remains to be done to relieve such boredom and antsy-ness?
If you’re fortunate enough to be traveling on the ground rather than the air, you have the benefit of enjoying the view outside your window. Travel provides a perfect opportunity to entertain our imagination and create stories for the surroundings we might otherwise never notice. Gaze outside, and blocks of buildings with storied pasts flit by, encouraging one to wonder who might have worked or lived there, or why someone designed and built such a characteristic and striking façade. Perhaps your eyes are met with a barren landscape, which might present a stark contrast to the environments you are familiar with and prompt questions about what it might be like to live in extreme heat, frigid cold, or windy isolation. When our minds inquire about what it might be like to think or live like someone else, we compare and contrast the scenes before us with our own experiences and gain a new appreciation for our own memories.
Recently, I boarded a train from New York City’s Penn Station to Boston’s North Station. The train was late, and it was raining, but I captured a few video clips of the views along the way.