Oren’s Reading List: What Makes Train Travel Such an Antedote to Life’s Stresses?

Amtrak Genesis P40 823 at Sacramento, CA, July 24, 2014

Even if this is the first time you’ve visited this site, it probably didn’t take you very long to realize I like traveling by train.  A lot.  To the point I’ve gone from Washington, DC to Seattle entirely by Amtrak.  To the point that I’ve never been in any of the airports in either Paris or Los Angeles, despite the fact most people traverse them when visiting those major cities.  To the point I’d rather spend a day on the Acela going from DC to Boston as opposed to taking a 90 minute flight between ends of the Northeast Corridor.  And I assume that chances are if you’re still reading this paragraph, you might enjoy traveling by train, too.

So what makes train travel so appealing?  After reading this article by Margarita Gokun Silver that was posted to the CityLab Facebook page recently, I thought I’d try explaining why I enjoy it so much.  For one thing, I’m six feet tall, and let’s just say whoever designed the economy class seats that you find on airlines these days must be at least six inches shorter than I am.  And I’ll save my rants about the TSA security theater for my close friends and family.  But even if flying was a more pleasant experience, there are still some things the airlines can’t offer you.

TGV Paris Sud-Est Power Car 112 at Martigny, Switzerland, March 15, 2008

First off, trains often go on routes that cars and planes simply cannot access.  For example, Amtrak’s California Zephyr traverses parts of the Rockies that are only visible from the train, unless you want to go by raft along the Colorado River.  While it is true you might be able to drive on routes that parallel a railroad route, taking your eyes off the road while crossing the Susquehanna River on I-95 is not recommended.  On the Amtrak route adjacent to the highway, it is encouraged.  Finally, on long distance trains, you aren’t just crammed in to a metal tube with a bunch of strangers all hoping your misery ends as soon as possible.  The train is a rolling community on wheels.  On an Amtrak long distance train, the lounge car is the social hub of the train, where starting up conversations with total strangers is the norm.  In Europe, unless you book an entire sleeping compartment, you’ll be sharing your accommodations with other passengers, so provided you share a language or two in common you can converse among your travel companions and make new friends.  Since when did the person in the middle seat next to you on an airplane talk to you except to ask for a share of the armrest?

Do you find train travel to be an antidote to the stresses of traveling?  And if so, why?  Share your reasons in the comments below!

Oren’s Reading List is an occasional feature on The Travelogue in which I share articles that I’ve read that might also be of interest to the readers of this website.