I realised yesterday on the train to Baltimore that I am most relaxed while travelling, or more accurately when actually in transit. Travelling on the whole is a stressful and tedious thing. I hate waiting for trains and buses, I hate things being late. But I’ve noticed before that I like railway stations, airports, other transport cathedrals, they relax me. I’ve thought that this might be to do with the long-term impermanence that goes along with them. International airports, for instance, are designed for people to spend indefinite lengths of time at – not necessarily comfortably, but you could be waiting anything from half an hour to several days there. There’s no pressure on you to stay forever, but there’s no pressure on you to leave, either. You’re fine whatever you want to do. A bus stop, they want you to leave; a house is designed for you to stay there. I think this ties in well to my liking of old-style coffee shops, the kind where you can knock back an espresso and run out of the door or linger for hours reading newspapers.
At the same time as being in this atmosphere, you generally know when you’re going to leave it, which is reassuring (unless things are delayed, which as I’ve already said I hate). Being in transit is similar to an extent. Trains and planes are designed to accommodate everything from a short journey to a long-haul one. Even on the bus, you could be there for a couple of stops or until the end of the line. You generally know how long you’re going to be there, but the environment does not make any demands on you.
Another point is that transit time is set-aside time. You’ve scheduled that time to be in transit, and you have no alternative once you’re there. You might as well read a book, because you can’t go to the shops, pay your bills or tidy your apartment.
This is my theory, anyway. All I know is that I’ve read more and got more writing done on trains recently than I have when not on trains, and considering it’s only a few hours in the past month on trains, that’s quite significant. For my next vacation I shall be riding the Amtrak up and down for a few days solid.
This would not be nearly as fun, incidentally, without an iBook. Mmm, iBooks. Several hours on the battery, and you can charge it up if you get a seat with a power supply, which Amtrak trains seem to have quite frequently. And you can also watch DVDs as well.