Long Ride Home

Photo courtesy Via Rail

Posted 03.14.04

LENNOXVILLE, QC | Fifteen hours on a train is a long time.

Long enough to memorize the exact colour of neutral green that adorns every seat and wall of the VIA Rail cars.

Long enough to try to sleep, curled up on the scratchy green seat with a thin pillow and much thinner blanket, and fail.

Yes, there's something about traveling that's always annoying. Whether by car, plane, or train, making my bi or tri-annual trek back to the East Coast is a nuisance.

Wouldn't it be nice if we all lived in a Star Trek episode, and teleporting was a daily occurrence?

Although I've often longed for such convenience, there are some things that I relish about traveling. It always gives me a sense of adventure, knowing how far I've come and what places I've passed through.

On my last train journey, returning to Montreal after Spring Break in Charlottetown, I spent almost an hour sitting in the Skyline car, listening to my Discman and staring out the window at the miles of tree, snow, and sky floating by.

I felt like I was on a boat, rocking on an empty sea. I thought I should be doing something but I didn't want to move. It had been too long since I had zoned out like that.

Whenever I make this train trip across the East alone, I get a sense of loneliness. I am sitting in a car full of strangers, staring out the window at a dark town passing by. Or I am alone in my swaying bunk, unable to sleep, listening to the squeal of metal against metal and thinking of the acres of forlorn countryside that surround me.

It doesn't help that often I have left someone I love behind me and I am hurtling away from them at a very fast rate.

On my way home to PEI last week, I was sitting next to a middle-aged woman going to Bathurst, New Brunswick. Her French Acadian accent was so strong that even I, an Acadian, had trouble understanding her.

Across the aisle from me was a girl my age with braids, a Nalgene water bottle. and a bible that she periodically read and made notes in.

There were small children who alternately cried and ran up and down the aisle.

Yes, fifteen hours on a train is a long time.

Long enough to feel cabin fever coming over you as your vehicle rocks eternally in space, as the overpriced food cart rolls by for the umpteenth time…

On the way to Montreal, this feeling was increased by tenfold when the train was almost five hours late arriving. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, this is VIA rail. Their trains are always late.

Unfortunately, this was the one time I had a real commitment.

Having no good way to contact the people I was supposed to be meeting, I ended up getting on the wrong subway, then wandering around the streets of industrial Montreal attempting to meet them.

It all could have been so much easier had I arrived at 8 a.m. as planned.

But is traveling ever easy? I'm starting to think the answer is no.

Whether it's a broken suitcase, missing a bus, paying extra for a ticket, losing my ticket, or all of the above, my travel life has never been entirely free of troubles.

No, wait. I'm lying.

Traveling was easy back when I was a kid and my mom took care of everything. I remember sitting on planes playing cards. I remember lolling in the back seat of our car with piles of book and toys and a full cooler of food.

Ah, the good old days.

Copyright © 2004 Isabelle Gallant/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.04