the space between

On a train somewhere between Brussels and Paris, November 2011

My impending trip to Hanoi, Vietnam next week (we're getting away for the Lunar New Year this year) reminded me of the joys of travelling - something I need to badly remember, as my frenetic week drew to an end.

One of the things I love about travelling is the ample time for solitude. A good part of your trip is bound to be spend getting somewhere – train, plane, subways, boats, buses etc – and with a good hot drink, a fully-charged iPod, some reading material (optional), you have at least one good, stress-free hour ahead of you to simply let your mind rest and your thoughts flourish.

Commuting at home is different – there’s a task lying ahead of you (one you might not want to do) and there’s always an underlying source of stress waiting to be tackled. On a holiday, travelling is just that: you’re in between places and free to observe, no pressure. I hate flying, but I enjoy time spend on trains and buses, watching scenery fly (or sometimes, crawl) by, making up stories about fellow passengers, playing DJ with my iPod and conjuring the perfect playlist for the journey, reviewing photos on my camera.

One of my most beautiful journeys ever was on a bus (12 hours!) from Zagreb to Dubrovnik in Croatia – it was like travelling through postcards of Croatia’s stunning landscape. There were forests and streams straight from a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, wide scrubby plains and hillsides that brought to mind the Byzantines, and craggy coastlines falling away into sapphire waters. And one hell of a driver – he wound his way through winding mountain roads swiftly and smoothly, no jerky turns and brakes.

One of my most memorable was a four-hour bus ride in Vietnam where my friend and I chatted with three middle-aged Israelis who told us amusing stories about serving in the Israeli army, explained the Hebrew alphabet, and bought us ice-cream.

One of the most hellish was a 25-hour (yes you read right) train ride from Xi'an to Nanjing, when my father, my sister and I foolishly decided to travel across China during the biggest human migration of the year - the Lunar New Year. For 19 hours of the journey we stood in a packed carriage, taking turns to sit on our backpacks. The upside was the calm and dignity of our fellow travellers, which made the trip as painless as it could possibly be. And my iPod saved my life.

My style notes for such a trip: my most comfortable trousers – the only time I wear leggings – a big cozy sweater or cardigan over a soft t-shirt – shoes you can easily slip on or off, a scarf you can roll into a neck pillow when you decide to sleep, things that are dirt proof. Lose the sweater/cardi if it’s a hot weather trip.

What’s your favourite journey?


Ammu said…
Can't think of a particular favourite journey, but I am usually happiest when I am going to see someone I love. The anticipation is almost reward enough.

The worst journey would have to be a 33-hour journey on a packed bus from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It was supposed to take 8 hours. And no one on the bus spoke any English. And I was only 16, and pretty paranoid. Luckily I had three friends for company and we were able to laugh about it later :)

Lovely post by the way - your writing just gets better and better!
catssaymeow said…
I haven't traveled much. My upcoming holiday to the US will be my first overseas trip since I was a very young child. I do remember that part of that trip was on a light plane - I recall grapes rolling off our plates and drink bottles rolling down the isle it was such a rough flight. Here's hoping that I don't ever experience that again!

Thanks for your tips about what to wear - I have been wondering about that. Maybe I should use one of my vouchers to buy leggings?
Kate said…
Good tips! I think the scenery can make or break the journey so I like to travel in the daytime. The 3-hour train journey from my home to my parents' town goes through the Pennine mountains in northern England and it's very Wuthering Heights. Real Bronte country!

I think my favourite journey was returning to England from Geneva in December 2011 - we flew low over the alps and I could see villages and lakes nestled within the mountains.
Cato said…
I can't think of a particular journey, either, but what you're saying about travelling and being just in between places describes exactly what I'm always feeling. I love the anticipation when you're getting somewhere from home, the time "off" in between different destinations and reflecting your journey on the way home. And it's so true,compared to that, commuting is always so stressful. You're late, thinking of your upcoming everyday duties, maybe try to get some work done while on the train.
I prefer taking the train or plane (he latter in case I'm not getting a headache), going by car is more practial, but IMO also more stressful, even if I'm not driving.

something I also like very much is that you'll often get to talk to people you'd never get to know at home.

Can't wait for travelling again!! :)

Anonymous said…
As a person that has been living most of my life away from my hometown, most of my journeys consist on going back to see my family and friends. That bus journey it's the most boring thing in live...It's so different when you go somewhere new, the excitement, the anticipation, I even love the bus ride then...Same things can be so different.
petrichore said…
I love being in motion. There's something that feels so good about sitting in a moving car/train/plane; you kind of get to surrender everything else you are doing and just space out for awhile.

Hope your upcoming trip is a lot of fun!

minima/maxima, a blog about minimalist style
Anonymous said…
i love them all. all of them. something redeems each one!

and what gorgeous colors in this photo, oh my goodness!

well, i posted an acknowledgment of your blog over on my blog just now. Please do visit when you get a chance.
CamisaBlanca said…
Great photo- I love its sharp simplicity. My favorite trips are the ones between home and school because I'm excited to be able to see family/old friends when I go home (and newer friends when heading to school) after a long break. Spending the day on planes and in airports also offers a perfect opportunity for solitude, people watching, and interesting conversations with strangers I may never see again.
lin said…
Ammu: 33 hours! I love that bragging rights these stories give you though, haha. And if I'm not rushing to catch a flight or something, the delay can be a kind of adventure...

catssaymeow: I hate the way I look in leggings outside of a yoga class but I cave to travel - it's terribly practical and some people actually look really good in them. I also have a pair of very comfortable jeans that I can wear for days and feel perfectly fine.

Kate: I have to do England by road some times. Has to be with a friend who drives since I don't know how...

That flight over Geneva sounds magical, I loved your Geneva picts.

Cato: I can't wait to travel again either! Have you made any plans for the year?

lunaday: I agree. I take a long bus ride yearly to visit my grandparents' graves and it does get tedious but I sleep so well on buses that I've learnt to make the most of it.

petrichore: I would agree, except for the plane part. Ever since I was a child I've found it painful to fly - the air for one always makes me nose blog up.

And thanks, I hope I have some good pictures from my trip to share.

editor: Thanks! And thanks for the award, it gave me a warm glow to start my day with :)
Lindsay K said…
Beautiful writing:) I love travel and experiencing new places. The solitude and time to reflect are priceless. I love jotting things down as they come to me when I travel. It's also nice to catch up on uninterrupted reading.

I can't think of a favorite journey, but I agree with Ammu, there's something so special about going to see the people I love.

It makes me nostalgic for all of those long haul flights back and forth to see the gentleman:)
A├»ssa said…
I can't keep up with your great posts!
I'll sound very old but I kind of even regret the time when you'd buy your ticket and get a "proper" plane ticket and not just a piece of "electronic" paper. The fact that you held something so tangible already set me ready to be elsewhere.
I also remember the crossings of the Channel when the eurostar didn't exist yet. Riding to Calais in bus with friends, chanting to music, eating junk food and then boarding the ferry to Dover. It was adventure to us, barely speaking English but ready for anything.
Lately the travels I enjoyed most were the ones when I changed hemisphere.
Going from cold european weather to subtropical West Africa and the prospect of seeing friendly faces and loved ones is an indescribable feeling, filling me with warmth and anticipation.
This year I intend to go back to Canada.
lin said…
Lindsay K: Thank you! I've never been separated from a loved one so extensively, so I can only imagine what the feeling is like.

Aissa: I think the old-fashion air tickets look so important. A printout from my computer does lack the magic.

Your story about your pre-eurostar bus trip just reminded me of all the school excursions on buses I took when I was young. I think I never complained about those journeys because it was so fun to spend all that time with friends, gossiping, snacking, anticipating something together.

Hopefully you can share a little of how your trip to Canada goes, if you make that journey...I've never been to Canada!
indigo16 said…
The plane ride from Oahu to Hawaii (Big Island) was by far the most amazing for me, but like you I love train journeys, I will never tire of the romance of travelling by train even in England. Train journeys here are beautiful, the train to St Ives goes literally along the coast, and you can feel the sea spray when you poke your head out of the window!
Another good one is Cologne to Berlin on a frosty morning. I could go on; you have stirred up a hornet’s nest of memories!
lin said…
indigo16: Maybe flights can be a pleasure if the destination is stunning seen from the sky...I remember I was really awed by the Himalayans when we flew to Nepal. The landing to Paro, Bhutan is also quite stunning and hair-raising - it's a narrow valley with steep sides, strong winds, and a very short runway.

I'm getting reminded of all my favourite trips now...thanks to everyone's comments! And doing a road trip in England is one of my dream holidays.
Carole said…
Nice post. A journey on the Royal Scotsman is on my Travel Bucket List

Popular Posts