Reflections on a Short Journey


(Anna Seward)—Like every Amherst freshman, I thought I would be doing a lot of traveling during the semester. Boston is only two hours away?! Oh, wow, I’ll probably be there all the time! Once I got into my routine, though, even going to town could seem like an expedition. It’s crazy to think the same person who rations tissues to avoid a trip to CVS planned mini-breaks every month when I was abroad. True, it was a little cheaper in Europe. Even my most expensive flight (Athens really does not want people to visit right now, in case you were wondering) isn’t even double the train fare to Philly. But after all the jet-setting I did, staying in a two-street town seems wrong to me. Honestly I don’t really know a lot of the East Coast very well so for the end of break I decided to take Amtrak to see some friends at Penn.

I have a very long-term love for trains. I think it stems from the trips to see my mother’s family in Peru and the amazing train we took from Cusco to Machu Picchu nearly every time. It’s impeccably clean and comes with a full tea that makes the coach class feel like first. When I was little, I drank maté to fight the altitude sickness but as a teen, my mother and I found a pisco sour was a better pairing for the beautiful scenery. As a child I also loved the local train between Portland to Seattle when my parents didn’t want to make the three hour drive to see my aunt and uncle.

I forgot a little about trains until I woke up late for my bus to Gatwick Airport this December. After yelling at myself and throwing random clothes into a bag, I realized the Express was my only option. It was a little more expensive than the bus, but that ticket was already worthless, so I made my way to Victoria Station. I got there just to miss a train so I had ten or so minutes in the station to find myself some food, and I boarded with breakfast and a cup of tea. The trip to the airport was just over thirty minutes, a time I would usually spend rifling through my bag, trying to entertain myself with my phone or a book. Instead I drank my tea and quietly looked out the window as I was taken out of the bustling city.

The world slows down when you’re sitting in a train compartment, working on your laptop or listening to music. It doesn’t have the hubbub or panic of airfare or the personal clutter and focus of roadtrips. Trains just allow you to have a respite from your daily life; it’s the perfect travel experience. Even though most companies now offer wifi (really bad wifi), it’s still the perfect excuse for not answering your email if you need a little break from our ever-present technology. It’s a romantic mode of travel, really. Trains calm me down.

Going to Philadelphia made me happy to feel like I was traveling again. I brought a lot of work with me, I mean, it is a seven-hour trip; but I mostly just napped and stared out the window. Turns out there are worse ways to spend a day than watching nearly 300 miles pass you by.