What is it in a train journey that takes us to a land of day-dreaming and deep thinking? I have always felt a calm in the rhythmic movement and sound of the train wheels moving ahead on the tracks and the occasionally loud horn. Every time before a train journey, I would pack a book that I intend to finish during the journey. In addition I would also buy some magazine from the vendor on the platform; as if the book won’t see me through! 🙂 But more often than not I end up reading just a few pages from the book and manage to flip through the pages before losing myself in some thought trail. Suddenly the fellow passenger will bring me out of my reverie and ask “Can I borrow your magazine?” and I would say “Of course! Here” and that would be the last I will see of the magazine during the journey.
Slowly as I start looking out of the window, I would again be lost in another day-dream. And the thoughts will be far off from what I would normally want to ponder on. They would most definitely not be something I have been “planning’ to sit on for some time, when I find time. And when I have all the time during the train journey the slow pace, the chatter of the passengers, the fast moving scenes outside have their own way with my thoughts. Why does that happen?
I always wondered, until I read something that nails it so well!
“… the silence that reigns inside while the wheels beat in rhythm against the rails outside, the dreaminess fostered by the noise and the views from the windows, a dreaminess in which we seem to stand outside our normal selves and have access to thoughts and memories that may not arise in more settled circumstances … Journeys are like midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train… Of all modes of transport, the train perhaps is the best aid to thought: the views have none of the potential monotony of those on a ship or plane, they move fast enough for us not to get exasperated but slowly enough to allow us to identify objects.”
-excerpt from chapter On Travelling places in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton [p56-57]