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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Slow travel: train-dreaming

"Journeys are the mid-wives of thought", writes Alain de Botton in my favorite book, Art of Travel. But of all the modes of transport that are most conducive to "internal conversation", to thinking and to dreaming, the best, he believes, is the train. He writes "On a journey across flat country, I think with a rare lack of inhibition about the death of my father, about an essay I am writing on Stendahl and about a mistrust that has arisen between two friends. Every time my mind goes blank, having hit on a difficult idea, the flow of consciousness is assisted by the possibility of looking out the window, locking on to an object and following it for a few seconds, until a new coil of thought is ready to form and can unravel without pressure. At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves - that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves." I also appreciate road trips for those reasons, but on road trips you have to worry about who or what else is on the road, about petrol, signs and navigation, whereas on a train someone else is at the wheel and your mind is more free to wander. While the car gives the body freedom to move across a country, the train allows the mind to travel anywhere.

If you want to travel slowly by train and are looking for inspiration, check out The Man in Seat 61, which is not only the best resource for train travel on the web, with links to railway all over the world, train schedules and ticket-sellers, it's also incredibly inspiring with descriptions and photos from train journeys, from the Venice Simplon Orient Express to the Swiss Glacier Express.


Prêt à Voyager said...

I'm definitely treating myself to that book for Christmas!...and my dad is a complete train nut, so he'll love this post and the Seat61 link. Thanks!


Lara Dunston said...

Hope you bought the book. And hope your dad like Seat 61. If he's a train nut, I'd be keen to know whether he found it inspirational.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

This piece has now made me want to go travelling somewhere on a train... one problem I don't like is that I can't stop to take photos... love your site though...

Lara Dunston said...

I'm glad it's inspired you to travel by train... let me know where you go. I agree about the frustration of not being able to take photos... it's the reason I love car travel so much. But I love the contemplative nature of trains so much. And thanks for liking the site - I'm sorry I've not been blogging this past month - just so busy travel writing.