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The Joy is in the Journey

by  joolsk

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2005
Word Count: 438
Summary: A short essay about travel.

If it is possible for humankind to forget a marvel, then surely we have forgotten how to travel. Throughout history, humans have been compelled to explore. Great thinkers, writers and artists have travelled, finding inspiration and solace traversing well-known and unknown paths alike. Books and poems and memoirs have been written in great volume about the big and small epiphanies that anticipating, leaving, voyaging and arriving can bring to the traveller.

Our modern means of travel seem curiously devoid of character by comparison. Aeroplanes whisk us neatly from one place to another in capsules that are predictable and sterile. We discover little about ourselves in the air, preferring to shut out our environment, counting the hours until arrival.

A recent trip to Inverness on the Caledonian Sleeper train from Euston renewed a sense of excitement that I have seldom felt in recent years. I boarded the train at 8pm on a Friday evening and was shown to my cosy berth by a man who has worked for ScotRail for 30 years. In his charming accent, he spent time discussing our route and suggested that I wake at 5am the following morning to see the spectacular Scottish scenery of the Cairngorm National Park.

I’m not a morning person but got up at dawn with a tight sense of excitement. I shuffled to the Lounge Car, the only other person there was the same steward who’d shown me onto the train the night before. He nodded a greeting and we sat in companionable silence sipping coffee and watching the dawn’s pale fingers lighting up the gloom.

I saw silken stretches of wheat nestled between hills smothered with trees and a falcon surveying the terrain from a wooden post. We sped past stone churches and castles surrounded by meadows, a deer leaping gracefully across a rocky river bed and steep, foreboding mountains covered in heather and cow parsley.

I felt smug knowing that I was watching this magnificent show while my fellow passengers slept in their bunks. As our journey progressed and brought the changing scenery into my line of sight, my mind stilled. I forgot about London, gave little thought to our destination and willed the journey to last longer.

It was Robert Louis Stevenson who said: ‘For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.’ I suppose I could have flown to Inverness, but I’m glad that I didn’t. I was reminded of the real pleasure of travel, of finding something new in myself and new in this world. The joy is in the journey.