I’m traveling by train to the annual meetings of the American Thoracic Society in Washington, DC. I’m struck yet again by the differences in travel experiences. Travel by automobile just seems like an extension of everyday car trips. Whereas travel by train is stepping into a less common experience. One has to pack more carefully and compactly, knowing you won’t be able to just drive somewhere to get what you may have forgotten. And knowing you will have to get your luggage from place to place yourself.
The journey begins by gathering with your fellow travelers at the station. People checking out their fellow passengers. People sharing cell phone chargers, travel information, or personal stories.
Then the call to board, and we climb the stairs to the dark and quiet platform. Greeted by the conductor, “take any seat you like.” So unhurried and relaxed compared to air travel, including no security procedures! Moving into the large, clean, comfortable coach with big seats and electrical outlets. WiFi is also provided.
The train begins to move so smoothly you don’t realize it until you notice motion outside the windows. The cars sway gently from side to side, andy you hear the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails. Lightning flashes and rain runs down the windows, but we are cozy inside.
I wonder again about the decisions in the past to tear up the train tracks and build bicycle trails on the (former) rail beds.