All the Train Stations of 2020


By Maryam Abdulla

Before this year started, I spent a lot of time looking back at my past year of travels. I wanted to reflect on and learn how I could do this travel thing a little different. To be more specific, I was looking into the various modes of transportation I used in the past year: ranging from planes to trains, cars, motorbikes, the occasional tuk-tuk and bicycles. And it got me thinking: how could I switch things up this year in order to make sure I have more memories of the transportation aspect of my trips?


Let’s talk air travel


Have you ever caught yourself, while staring outside your window on a plane, wishing you could walk around the fields you see down below? Or wanting to trek the lush rolling hills, or to get a closer look at a great monument?

Or have you stared outside your window and seen, well, just miles upon miles of sky? Which probably lasted a few seconds before you look back at your book or screen again.


air travel, travel by plane


As easy and accessible travel has become since man perfected the art of flying, I’ve always felt that it takes away a piece of the free spirit of the explorer inside us. We so easily entrust and get into these humungous steel vessels as they carry us from one place to the other. But does anyone else feel like taking a flight immediately cuts out a big chunk of the experience for us, or is that just me?

Who’s to say what we’re missing out on had we chosen an alternative route of travel? One that isn’t as convenient (and frankly as boring). One that doesn’t involve waiting in line at immigration counters or the troubles of going through airport security or doing some more waiting in the waiting room, waiting for everyone else to join in the waiting, waiting for the crew to get ready, waiting to board the plane. More importantly though, do we ever stop to think about the magnitude of our carbon footprint and how much of it is contributed by taking just one flight, let alone hundreds throughout the year?


Now, let’s talk land travel


For many reasons, I prefer to travel by land rather than by air whenever I get the chance to. And who can blame me—the lines are less (heck, there are virtually none sometimes), the views are better, the air quality is better…

Having the freedom to just look out and step out to explore whenever you notice something that interests you is just priceless. And that is why for 2020, my travel goal is to reduce my amount of flying and increase my amount of land travel. I choose to do so with my favorite actually, trains!


Specifically, train travel


Trains have always fascinated me! With their old-world charm, they seem to carry with them (on the tracks of their life journeys) many stories. Passing through towns can give one a better understanding of its people, their cultural background and their stories. Because you have the advantage of the in-depth picture, an up-close perspective, your journey is bound to be a lot more than just a passing-by of a small town to get to your destination. For me, the adventure begins from the moment I step foot onto the train, not when I get off.


land travel, travel by train


I have met many interesting people on trains. It’s such a great opportunity to share some stories, a couple of laughs and a bunch of snacks. I keep wondering why I have noticed, from my personal experiences, this pattern of more fun connections I’ve had on trains compared to on planes. I’ve met locals who’d tell me tales of their hometowns and invite me to visit. Sometimes, they’d even give me some inside information on the destination I was heading to. Other times, we may not even be speaking the same language but that doesn’t stop us! In fact, this is where some of my acting charades skills came in handy!


My 2020 travel goal: Travel by train


There are so many beautiful train trails around the world. Some of them cut through the most breathtaking natural landscapes, like the track from Switzerland to Italy where one can get the most amazing glimpse of the Alps. Or how about that famous 9-arches bridge train path in Ella, Sri Lanka. Others have an important historical background attached to them.

My goal for 2020 is to explore all the different types of train travel across different parts of the world. I can’t wait to compare the contrasting experiences I’ll have as I go further out of my comfort zone into the unknown. After all, what’s the purpose of travel if not to attempt to put myself in the shoes of a mid-century, literature protagonist whose iconic train station scene is where her adventures begin or end or go through a twist of fate. 


Closing thoughts


Every traveler and explorer has their own travel style that mirrors their personality and values. I’m not anti-flying or saying flights should be stopped until the aviation industry comes up with a sustainable solution for it’s carbon emission contributions. I’m saying on an individual level, we each have a responsibility and can play a key role in the personal decisions we make before planing our next trip. In some countries, train travel may actually have the upper hand in terms of accessibility and convenience for getting you to your destination. We just have to take some time to do our research and go with the best, non-selfish choice!

Do you have a similar perspective on this topic and are you thinking of the same goal for your 2020?

I leave you with this thought-provoking quote I came across by Mehmet Murat ildan, Turkish writer.

Trains always arrive at your station. The question is which one to take?