Why I am a Travel Oddball 56

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It took me about three days to get from Girona, Spain to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Each day was somewhere between eight to twelve hours of actual travel, spent almost entirely on trains.

I love travel. By that I mean I actually love the act of traveling. Just the “getting there” part.

I love trains, buses, cars, walking, sailboats, cargo freighters, lorries… anything that gets one from point A to point B. When I am in a bad mood somewhere, the thing that immediately picks my mood up is moving. Anywhere.

Asking my fellow travelers, both the long-term ones and shorter-term ones, I think that feeling qualifies as a rarity. Hardly anyone I know loves the act of travel as much as I do.

To be clear, I love the act of travel more than actually being in a location in almost every single instance. I just love the feeling of movement. Perhaps I was a shark in a past life.

Wait… I was a lawyer in a recent life…

train in solvenia

Others look forward to teleportation and other miracles of quick movement… while I want to take a slow boat to China. Then when I get there, take a few slow trains to Mongolia, then maybe some horses to a rural yurt, then pack up and leave a few days later to head to Burma.

The older trains in Europe, most often found in the Eastern European countries, are the best. Although the new, high-speed trains are marvels of engineering and singularly helpful when you want to get from Point A to Point B with some alacrity, I much prefer the ones where you can open the windows and hear the sounds of the wheels rolling down the train tracks.

The train from Villach, Austria, to Ljubljana only took about two hours. I stowed my suitcase in the luggage area of my compartment, said hello to the two other people in there, then went out to the hallway, opened up one of the train windows and proceeded to hang my head out the window for almost the entire two-hour ride, just like my dog used to do when he rode in the back seat of my car.

They were two of the best hours I have spent in quite some time.

black and white train photo from inside

Sometimes it feels like the world is rushing past you, while time almost stands still inside.

Looking out at the jagged mountains made softer by their dressing of trees in their mid-summer vibrant hues of life. Grassy pastures flying by, sometimes slow enough where you could make out the small yellow wildflowers that the cattle hadn’t yet eaten. Passing through small villages with nary a street light, but always a small train station. Clouds that ran the full black and white spectrum all the way from wedding dress white to Ascot tie gray. They seemed to sit gently on top of the mountains, high enough to allow the view of the entire landscape, but low enough to still be a part of the scene. The soft, light blue sky lit up the gaps in the clouds, unobscured by the haze that seems to ruin most views these days.

The warm wind created by the moving train blew past me as I ate up every bit of what passed by and thought to myself “this is what I love about travel. I can feel it. I can feel the miles.” And it makes me smile every time.

The train made three stops along the way to pick up and drop off a few passengers. At the exact minute of its scheduled departure, the conductor, standing right outside one of the car doors, would blow his whistle and off we’d go.

Ahhhhhh, the whistle. There is no other sound exactly like it.

HDR small train station in europe

Blow that whistle — we are ready to get back moving.

On the move again. Farmers working in the fields. Cows grazing, heads down in the seemingly constant search for sustenance. Cars on roads running parallel to the tracks, sometimes as speeds that matched up so perfectly with the train that they didn’t seem like they were in motion at all, if you just focused on them alone. The colorful reds and yellows and browns of the painted houses.

Roads go past the front yards of people’s lives. Trains go past the back yards.

Sometimes that view is just a little more informative. A little less made-up and pretentious. A little more honest.

We went through a long tunnel, long enough that the temperature dropped significantly due to the insulation of the mountain we burrowed through. The only light was reflected off the black walls from the inside of the train cars. Up ahead in the distance, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It grew slowly, then faster and faster as we approached, until we burst free into the light. And the warmth of a perfect summer day.

Give me a few thousand more of these days and I will go to my grave a very happy and contented man.

I read this article a few weeks back about an overnight train from Rome to Sicily that crosses over into the island by having the train get on board a boat. Hmmmmm…. I’ve got a Eurail pass (thank you to the wonderful people at Eurail.com for providing that to me – they are so great to work with)…..

Who’s up for a train ride to Sicily… just to take a train ride to Sicily?

One travel oddball just might be. But a damn lucky one.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

56 thoughts on “Why I am a Travel Oddball

  • Cathy Sweeney

    I guess I’m an oddball, too. Enjoyed the post. You put into words how I so often feel when traveling by train, car, whatever. Yeah, I’ll take that train ride to Sicily!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Oddballs everywhere. Well… at least reading this oddball’s blog. 😉

  • Lauren Seidl

    I’ll join you on that train ride to Sicily as well. I also love movement; it lulls me into a trance and is one of my favorite ways to relax. I could zone out and watch the scenery pass by for hours.

    I don’t think this makes us oddballs. We just like to slow life down and enjoy the journey 🙂 (my apologies for the cliche)

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      That’s a cliche I can agree with every time. Thanks for reading and following along.

  • Tiffany

    “Wait..I was a lawyer in a recent life…” hahaha Personally I’m in love with road trips whether they be by train or car I love passing by all the scenery (and while I don’t actually stick my head out the window lol) the ‘getting there’ part of a vacation has always made the best memories for me. I hope you continue enjoying the ‘getting there’ aspect of traveling and you keep on exploring all the wonders of the world.
    And btw a train ride to Sicily sounds fabulous!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Going to buy my train ride ticket to Sicily in about an hour. Excited!

  • Cassie

    You’re not odd at all! I like trains, boats and buses, but dislike planes and cars. I like being free to enjoy the scenery without (including fellow passengers) while being able to get up and move around if need be.
    I love your ‘world rushing past’ photo!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Thanks. That photo is almost like I wanted to do. Almost. And trains and boats are great. Then again, I love even the ones you don’t. LOL.

  • Sherry Ott

    Dude – get yourself to Sri Lanka and ride the old trains there…you will LOVE it!!

  • Juno

    16 hours of dirty china train ride can ve fun sometimes. I quite enjoyed the sleeper bus in China – 18 hours. Made me almost through up a little bit but the journey was awesome.
    cheers to the oddballs!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Did you do the sleeper buses in Vietnam? Actual beds you can lay down in. Nice. Well, if you have earplugs for the honking. Uggg.

  • Just One Boomer (Suzanne)

    I notice you left any love for 13 hour plane rides out of your travel reverie. Do your slow trains allow people to yak on their cell (mobile) phones incessantly? Oh yeah, I’m still a lawyer, but I’m working on extricating myself so I can go on a long train ride.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I actually do love plane travel. In many cases, it is the only way to realistically get from two far off destinations within the confines of one’s normal life schedule. And I love, love airports. Every time I enter one, I get a major bounce in my step.

  • Margaret

    I love the Eastern European trains, too, particularly when you’re traveling into the former Soviet Union and they have change the gauge. I like watching all the activity, seeing what’s going on, and talking to people.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      The gauge change thing… I love that also. Its so weird. And cool.

  • Someday I'll Be There - Mina

    Great description Michael! I love overland traveling too, though I’ve had the same bus ride back and forth more than I can count last year that I am not ready to that bus ride anymore! (Sharm – Cairo – Alexandria and back, because of work and monthend – not weekend) But I won’t deny that every time on that ride I still enjoyed watching the mountains and the beaches out of the window…

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I have done the Cairo to Dahab route back and forth a few times. If there is AC on the bus, its not too bad. But if there isn’t… and its mid-summer… that one can be a bit harsh.

  • Audrey

    I’m with you on this. I LOVE train travel. People thought we were crazy to take a 2.5 day train trip from Tabriz, Iran to Istanbul, Turkey but it was a perfect end to our trip, a way to decompress from Iran. And in full disclosure, this train trip was one of the things we were most looking forward to about that trip.

    Always makes me so sad when we go back to the States and it’s either not available or too expensive.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Trains are the best, no doubt. My single favorite mode of travel. Then again, I also love long bus rides, boat rides, driving a car, sitting in the passenger seat, riding on top of a cargo truck, and everything else. But bring on more trains around the world for sure!!

  • Susan

    I am totally with you. I recently discovered train travel in Southeast Asia, and have been so enamored that I’m buying up Trans-Sib legs and Eurorail passes to get home. I think sometimes as Americans the notion of train travel is incredibly romantic just because we have so little of it.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Susan, when are you taking the Trans-Sib? You might want to engage in our Ultimate Train Challenge in November. Saigon to Lisbon in 30 days… with some great, great prizes to possibly be won.

  • Matthew Cheyne

    This is a really good article and explains just why I love train travel so much. Although I am a regular train traveler, traveling between my country town and the nearest state capital here in Australia, I long for the old days where you could hear the train wheels click clacking along their journey. I’m glad to have lived in an era where I still have the memories of the old trains and how they used to run, along with the benefits of the latest of technology. But from time to time I still reminisce about those days when I was a small child traveling the old red rattlers in Melbourne, Australia, still marveling at how they could run on time back then but not with all the technology that we have now.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Ahhhhh, the sounds. I really do love the sounds. The new, fast trains are great, but those old ones, ahhhhh. Some of the ones in Asia are my favorites, just for that reason alone.

  • Dani

    You have to go to India, you’d enjoy the train rides there so much! They are so entertaining (if you are not squeezed in between 8 people on a bench for 4) and you can hang out the door the entire time 🙂 And also, the trains there are super cheap there – around $5 for a 15 hour ride!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I need to get some of my “hard core” travel attitude back. If I can, I do think I’d love India for sure, especially the trains.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      From talking to people, I think your view is the norm, but from the comments on this particular post… all the (very few) crazies are readers of this blog!!

  • Giulia

    Enjoy your trip to Sicily:)
    And about being an oddball, I have the same symptoms: sometimes I find myself wishing there’s still a long way to go before my destination, just because I love being on buses and trains…

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I am about to do two overnight trains down to Sicily… heaven 😉

  • Katie

    I love train and bus travel – once I am actually on them. What I absolutely hate about travel days is the stress of getting to the station on time, finding the right train/bus and then on the other end, getting my bearings in a new city and making my way to wherever I’m staying. That all stresses me out to no end and makes me dread travel days. But for the few hours I’m on the train or bus (or even a plane), I am totally relaxed and really enjoy it.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Oddly, if I am in a fairly good mood, I love it all. The commotion and the not-knowing. Then again, if I am in a crappy mood, it can set me off.

  • Elle of Solo Female Nomad

    I can almost agree with you in the fact that traveling to the destination is an enjoyable experience. However, that applies to every mode of travel apart from Flying. (for me at least!) When flying I wish that I could just snap my fingers and just arrive.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Given how little I fly these days… I might agree with you on that one.

  • Mariellen Ward

    I know how you feel! When I think of me, happy, I have an image in my mind of standing between train cars, with the door open, and the yellow sunshine, warm breeze and Indian countryside flowing past! I have spent many a happy hour this way, and hope to spend many more!

  • Christy

    I’ve taken the overnight train from Rome to Sicily twice. The first time they let us off the train while we were on the boat so we could go upstairs and check out the view. This last time it seemed we were locked in.

  • Sophie

    Immediately after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, I took the train from Vilnius to Tallinn. I shared a compartment with a Russian crowd: they didn’t understand me, I didn’t understand them. We drank heaps of tea brewed in a samovar and brought in by the conductor – and several varieties of vodka, brought by them. It was a hot summer day, and windows were open to the rhythmic sounds of train on track. Must be 20 years ago now, yet I still remember that 13-hour journey fondly.

  • Abby

    The longer it takes me to get there, the more exotic a trip it seems to me. So I often love the ride. Also, my life is so busy that I enjoy having time forced to daydream out a window and read… As long as I am moving I am good. I have recently had 24 hours inside an airport, and then I was … not so happy.

  • Bambi Diego

    Traveling is surely one great way to take a break from long stressful days. It gives you a chance to learn and widen your horizons and keeps you refreshed all the time. Have a safe and fun-filled traveling always!

  • Jessica

    You may not be as much of an oddball as you think. I totally love the actual process of traveling. Partially because knowing I’m going somewhere new is so exciting, but also because it forces me to be without wifi and other distractions for a bit; it’s the perfect time to read, write and reflect.

  • Jessica

    I love travel for the sake of travel as well. Cars & planes are my drug of choice though. I love the exhilarating feeling during take-off as much as I love darting off onto an interesting path in a car.

  • jade

    Train travel is such a novelty for me. I only really ride it when I’m in Europe and since I haven’t been in about 6 months, I haven’t done it in a while. I did take the train from San Diego to LA last year and while it was only a two hour trip, it had some of the most beautiful views of the pacific ocean. It was so relaxing! Driving that distance is always a nightmare with traffic and if I have the chance, I’d like to do that again!

  • Mariella

    Agreed! I love train rides between Germany and Poland – maybe exactly for that reason that I have to fly between those too quite often as well. So I enjoy it all the more when I can actually take my time, get on a train, and put distance between myself and the place I’m coming from, at a speed that is comprehensible to me and that allows me to understand that I am on the road. Love that feeling.

  • Erin Walton

    Have you read Alain de Botton’s “The Art of Travel”? Among other things, it addressed the idea of what a lot of people consider the “inbetween times” spent in waiting rooms, and actually on vehicles getting to our destinations.

    BTW I completely agree with you – I think there are many of us oddballs out there. Sometimes, when I’ve actually arrived in the new place, I’m disappointed (shock horror!) as I enjoyed the ride in there so much…

  • Kirra Cheers

    I can totally relate – heading off on a road trip fills me with a feeling of release bordering on total euphoria. I am currently based in NYC. When I am having a bad day I ride the ferry back and forth. A little crazy but the movement makes me feel better.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      About to hop on a plane today (bit tough to get to South Africa overland on a schedule) and feeling the same thing. Ready to move!

  • Donna Hull

    Raising my hand to join the travel oddball club. Silly me, I even get a thrill when I walk into the airport terminal even with the trial and tribulation of air travel.

  • Deb

    I wish I loved the act of traveling like you do. Planes and trains aren’t romantic to me at all. I do love getting to a location on my own merits though. Like cycling, a good road trip or paddling from destination to destination. It’s trains, ferries, planes and buses that I don’t like. Although, I’m with Sherry, the trains in Sri Lanka are great, but it’s such a small country, you’re only on them for a couple of hours at a time. That’s ok with me:) Great article!

  • Lauren @ roamingtheworld

    As much as I love traveling and seeing new places, I can’t say I’ve ever really loved the movement aspect of travel. I just got “home” from a 5 hour bus ride and though I enjoyed the scenery from the comforts of a warm bus, it’s not something I long for.
    I like being in train stations, bus stations and airports because it means I’m going somewhere…

    Enjoyed reading how much you just like the actual act of “travel”

  • Penny Sadler

    I love trains and one of the things I think the US lacks is convenient, accessible and affordable train travel. Airplanes I see as necessary evils – of course I might feel differently if I were not traveling in coach. 🙁

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