The Happy World of Chip
I've travelled quite a bit, in the last few years. I'd never been on an aeroplane until the ready age of sixteen. I'd never wanted to. I'd found myself quite happy to stay on terra firma. However, it IS a lot faster than walking or swimming to another country. I don't like flying, and take the train when I can.
Trains are a good way to see a lot of things at a good pace. You also can see things you wouldn't normally see, if you were walking down the street to go to the market, or something. You can't get off if you want to explore a place, either, but that's beside the point. If you want to go somewhere, you can always find out where you were and go back, right? Well, okay, maybe not in all cases, but in most cases of train travel, you can. I like the fact that you can do a lot on a train- you can catch up on sleep, read, eat, walk around... and more. You just have to be willing to accept the fact that you can't open the door, and your balance is what it would be like after a few shots of tequila.
My favourite train rides have been all over the place. I don't have just one. Ooh- that's one more thing. You'll never take the same train ride. Something on the way will be different. The train, the weather, the view, the blue shirt hanging on the clothesline won't be there, or it will,but it'll be much more faded, or there will be someone sitting by the tracks, waiting for a train. Something's always different, and it'd be practically impossible to replicate a train journey.
I've taken taken Amtrack from Boston, Massachusetts to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- an 8-10 hour ride. It was around October, and I remember seeing the transition of the bright colours of leaves in Massachusetts and Connecticut become more muted, the further south the train went. Fall is a great time to be in New England- the colours are absolutely fantastic! I'm biased towards home though, so you may appreciate the quieter announcement of autumn more than I.
Another train ride was from Beijing to Weifang, in China. It was an overnight train that brought us to a traffic-congested Beijing to a quiet kite-factory village Weifang. I saw so many things by the tracks during that ride, that I can't imagine trying to describe them all. Squatters, small villages, lots of browns, and then it got too dark for me to distinguish what was out there, but I could see a few lights, bare, naked bulbs, neon signs, fire. Then I went to sleep. I'd woken up a few times during the night when we stopped at a station along the way, and the platform lights would come in through the window, lighting up the sleeping compartments. There were sometimes faces at the windows, looking in at us as we slept, or simply looked back.
In England, I took the train from Norwich to the Liverpool Street Station, London a few times. I liked that ride- it was a two-hour ride, and it always seemed to go by rather quickly. There is a lot of farmland in between Norfolk and London. There's also the stuff they never put in books because they think people want to just see the pretty pictures, and not the real countryside.
I don't like planes. I just think about how we're not meant to fly, and well, that's about it. A friend of mine told me to try parachute jumping. hahaha... Yah- so I'd get into a plane, not go anywhere, and then jump out?! Okay, maybe that doesn't sound kooky to you, but it doesn't sound like the smartest thing I could do with myself, does it?!
So I don't do planes unless I'm travelling internationally and the train thing isn't practical. I've had some strange things happen to me in airports and with flying-related incidents.
My first time out of the continent of North America was to Spain, when I was 16. I got there all right, but only after I'd been assured the seagulls wouldn't get sucked into the engines and clog them and cause us to crash. I remember one of my friends telling me that we couldn't crash into other planes because they didn't fly all the planes in the same places, and so the schedule thing didn't allow plane collisions to happen, once airborne. We'd been flying for awhile, and there was a lot of sky outside. I remember I looked out the window to see another plane in the distance. It was about the size of a half-dollar, but it was still in the sky with our plane. I pointed this out to my friend, rather sourly.
Ferries are kind of fun- it depends on whether you get seasick or not. I took the ferry from Dover to Calais and it happened to be the stormy season. After we'd got to Calais, we found out the storms had been so bad all the other ferries had been cancelled after ours had sailed. I also took a ferry from Milford Haven Wales to Rosslare Republic of Ireland. I don't get seasick, so I had a nice ride over both times. I like watching the land fade- it's kind of like watching a sunrise. The land just gets smaller and smaller until you can't see it anymore. Kind of like that strip of light that just gets so small the sky just gives in and goes dark.
Busses and cars are my least favourite. I just don't like how you can't walk around on a bus; you only go forwards and backwards. In a car, you can't even stand up, half the time. However, here's the trade-off. You can get lost and go to neat places you wouldn't see, because it was a surprise, even to yourself.
My mum and I used to go one these really long day-trips. It was sort of a thing we did just because. We'd say we were going for the shopping, and shopping was just an excuse. We'd drive six hours (okay she'd drive and I'd be asleep half the ride) to Maine, or somewhere and return the same day. It was great, because we saw other states (the perks to living in New England is small states: you can get to the border of Canada in 5 states, if you plan it well, in about 8 hours).
We also went to Canada for music institutes during the summer. We'd drive through Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, and end up in Guelph, Ontario about 12-15 hours later.
The first time we went, we got lost because we left the highway and ended up in the Adirondacks in upstate NY. We passed a lot of Native American shops and sites as we searched for the highway. This was one of the best car trips we ever had- we were tired as hell, we had no idea where we were, we ended up sleeping in a parking lot (the ultimate adventure for the 10-year-old kid) and we had a great time.
Bicycles are great. If I lived in a more bicycle-friendly place, I'd ride everywhere. I started cycling a lot while I was in England because I had to get to the boathouse in the mornings for rowing outings. The first time I went to the boathouse, I was following Georg and Christian and they were going at a reasonable pace- I could keep up. It was downhill a lot of the way, also. The ride back was different story because I was following Olly, who was going up the hills like he was Rominger in the Tour de France, and not in Norwich going to the bike shop. Eventually, I got used to cycling and even started to keep up with the boys during our morning ride to the boathouse. The roundabouts were the trickiest part to figure out, especially during rush hour in the mornings, as I didn't know whether to just dive into the traffic and risk getting smushed or not. I finally got used to traffic and just started riding in between the cars, because I figured they could see me better if I was right next to them, rather than behind them. I really miss riding my bike now. I liked my morning rides to the boathouse. It was about 5 miles, but it went by quickly because I found it relaxing, and enjoyed seeing parts of the town I normally would not see. I fell off the bike a lot in the first few weeks I was riding in Norwich. I'd hit holes, bumps, or stop at strange angles and just fall off the bike. I didn't get hurt, usually. Only a few scrapes here and there. Really!
Okay. I'm all travelled out for now. Watch this space for more about travelling.
Photos of the misadventures can now be seen...
The Happy World of Chip