Before telling my avid readers (none?) about my travels, I will dedicate one post to describing the concept of land travel that i am trying to embody in this blog. I realize in writing this, that I might want to put it the About section for the blog but in the famous words of the poet Twetman “Screw it”. Anyway, I must not let myself be distracted and let the readers suffer for it, on to the concept.
I have always traveled a lot, probably one or two trips outside the country per year ever since I was young. For the most part, I have really only been interested in the destination; how to get there has been at best a minor annoyance, at worst a hellish mixture of motion sickness and boredom.
In the last few years however, the nature of my traveling has changed somewhat and it all started with a drawn out, uncomfortable bus journey on bad roads in south-east Asia. I was going to Laos, but due to overpriced flights I found myself flying to Vietnam and taking the bus from there – this was a tip I got from a friend. It turned out that the bus took a bit less than 24 hours for a distance that would take a third of that in Europe. The interesting thing about this trip was that it didn’t feel as bad as one would think to be stuck a bus for so long.
Now, I say that this episode was the start of the change, but the real flip came about two months later, when me and a group of friends and I took the Trans Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow. We could have got on a flight and be done with it within a day, but no, we had to spend seven days cooped up on a train. And it really was an experience, there might not have been so much to do except listens to music, look out the window or read, but still it was special. The old, beaten up train was charming, the shifting landscape beautiful, and having so little to do was quite relaxing. It was during that journey that I realized that the journey itself can actually be the destination. Why else would you willingly sit in a train for a week when other options are available.
Me in front of the Trans Siberian train
Since that fateful train journey I have gone on several even more independent trips, especially in Taiwan; me and my girlfriend Yini on our rented scooter exploring at random. From all this I have come to the realization that the journey can not only be the destination like on that Trans Siberian trip, but rather that it can always be part of the destination if you choose to make it so. While airplane journeys tend to be forgettable, going by boat or train on the other hand, lets you see the landscape and experience much more on the way; even more so if you drive by yourself, stopping here and there along the way. This is the idea of land travel, to exchange airplanes for trains, to be independent and shun the prearranged tours, to imbibe the entire experience of travel, be it at the cost of speed and comfort.