The world passes by unfathomably fast as you’re staring out of train windows. Cities and towns transform into green, rolling countrysides peppered with the red of poppies and the swaying stalks of wheat. These, in turn, become verdant forests, rocky cliffs, and untouchable ocean horizons that grant the promise of unseen adventures in all of their mysterious glory. The nature of the villages, towns, or cities viewed in passing is the only tell for your location, with a name and style of architecture that is characteristically Spanish, Portuguese, French…the list goes on as the travels go on, of course. It’s a good time to become lost, nay – engrossed, in your thoughts, and you can’t help but ponder to yourself about the things you’re seeing, the things you have seen, the things you will see…and certainly the things you’re missing, too.
Traveling alone is such a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there are no boundaries, no limits to your adventure – you can go where you want, when you want, and for how long you want. Much of your time is spent in a mixture of observation and reflection, your mind floating off in your own world as you silently muse about your fairytale-like surroundings or the electric way the wind touches your skin, as if you’ve been blown a longing kiss from the sea herself. You learn to better appreciate the companionship of others, as genuine human connections are few and far between, and you never know for sure how long you’ll have to wait from one interaction until the next. You also learn to appreciate your own solitude and the little quirks that begin to crop up as you adjust (talking to yourself isn’t a pastime solely dedicated to crazy homeless men, after all). But, with that said, it’s an awfully lonely business, even if you’re the type of person who takes enjoyment in solitude (as I’ve often considered myself). It makes every goodbye that much harder, even if it’s to a stranger whose name you were never given because it was only a five minute conversation. It’s a difficulty that you must accept and move on from, because everything is so very temporary – a lesson hard learned in life, but certainly made that much more real when you’re constantly on the move.
This lifestyle certainly teaches you to be completely flexible and fluid, though. You’re damn near forced into spontaneity, and it’s definitely an interesting change in pace when you’re used to planning your entire life. Seat on trains to ____________ not available for today? Guess I’m going to ____________, instead. No wifi to book a hostel or find a couch to surf on? Guess I’ll figure out where I’m sleeping when I get to my destination. I consider myself very lucky that I’ve never felt the need to be much of a tourist – though I may not see some of the famous sights in the places that I’m visiting, I’m still wandering their streets, finding and appreciating the beauties hidden away within. Some of these, I’m able to capture with a photograph and share, while others are to be a memory appreciated solely by me – either way, chances are that they’ll be long forgotten with the passage of time, as all things eventually are. I’m just happy that I get to experience them for that fleeting moment of time.
I’m learning, too, to appreciate the “little things” all over again, like just how wonderful a long, hot shower feels while you’re soaping up your dirty, aching body from head to toe twice just to feel clean again, or how lovely it feels to wear washed clothes when you’ve been re-wearing the same outfits for weeks. Sleeping in a bed that’s far too springy becomes less of an issue when you’ve become used to the less than restful sleep of an uncomfortable train seat. An old-fashioned cheeseburger is a five-star meal when you’ve been eating the same kind of sandwich with none of the fancy fixings for your past six meals.
And so begins and ends another day – a new city, a new place to explore, a new couch, bed, or train seat to lay my head to rest only to wake up and start it all over again tomorrow. Despite the routineness of it all, at least there is variation and surprise around every turn. Now, if only the rain would stop following me at every turn…