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Traveling Out of Sight

Some people think this is a pretty big world, Others think it is pretty small. It depends on who you talk to and when. Big or small, there is a lot of world to see and a lot of ways to see it.

Going from one side of the city to the other you can talk a bus or a subway. But those are often crowded, malodorous and impersonal. For our far flung destinations, tropical, alpine or in between, the preferred mode is airline. Indeed, some places are only accessible through air. Then there are cruise ships, carrying us with stuffed stomachs from one port to another for a day of shopping and revelry.

And of course who hasn’t hopped in their car for a weekend (or longer) at the beach? A change of clothes, blankets, sun tan lotion and a bank card. Easy.

There are some who would argue, however, that the best mode of travel is train. And not the high-speed, air-conditioned, sleeper car variety. There’s a sub-sub-sub group who prefers to hop the boxcars of cargo trains, making the iron rails both their home and the mechanism by which they travel from state to state and, where possible, country to country.

Living at loose ends, this may be their only real choice to see the world as first-class transcontinental flights probably aren’t in the cards for them. Their resources are severely limited but their dreams of travel are not.

Such enthusiasts may or may not be homeless. They clearly draw their inspiration from legendary hobos such as Woody Guthrie, who realized long ago, that it is the journey, not the destination that matters.

With the boxcar doors open one can practically taste the dew on the morning ground. The sun looks as though it can be reached if you just stretch your imagination a little. The chattering of the wheels on the tracks takes on a certain cadence. Everything, it seems, is an arm’s length away. Traveling by rail is a tactile experience. One is not removed from his passage as he would be in an airplane or on a boat.

Traveling in such close quarters with passengers who exhibit few inhibitions can only help but create a sense of fellowship. Either that or you’ll drive each other crazy. But it’s hard to take issue with anyone who is so able to live in the present and without regard for what brought him here.

Unlike most tourists, who travel in order to get away from something, those who hop the rails, do so as part of a never-ending quest.

Photos by the Polaroid Kidd

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