Monday, August 22, 2011

The Point of the Journey is not to Arrive

It's 7am and I'm sitting in a silent house for the first time in eleven weeks. Finally, after a summer that involved lots of fun but very little working time, I am at my desk with a whole day of writing stretching before me. And what's the first thing I do? Start blogging. Good to know my powers of procrastination did not desert me over the summer.

This was the summer of an epic journey: a train trip from San Antonio to Saratoga. Two children, two trains, 58 hours, 2100 miles. There were family members who thought I was crazy, not understanding why I would choose to take three days to get somewhere I could reach in six hours by plane. I did it because we could and because I wanted my children to learn that the point of a journey isn't always to arrive (hmm...could make a writing/publication analogy here...will resist).

Once on the train, there was no point in worrying about the time or where we were. We had only to sit back and watch the scenery unfold. We moved between our compartment (never underestimate the magic of a bunk bed that folds down from the ceiling), the observation car, and the dining car. At each meal we were seated with someone new and my children met people from different parts of the country, all undertaking the journey for different reasons. We watched the sun go down somewhere in the piney woods and watched it come up again as we passed the St. Louis arch. And down again in Chicago. And up again on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Whenever I fly, I land with a strange sense of temporal distortion, feeling like I've left some part of myself behind. But on this trip, there was a physical transition of time and miles. Granted, when we arrived we were tired and the ground seemed to sway for a day. But it was a journey in every sense of the word.

Upon reaching our destination, we filled every moment of our vacation. In Upstate New York, we went to a farmer's market and bought handmade soap that smelled of fresh strawberries, we rode an antique carousel in a park as a couple were married at the fountain next to us, we visited my 96-year-old grandmother (who remembered us! worth the journey alone...), went fishing with big fat nightcrawlers, and spent hours enjoying the water and breezes of Lake George.

We traveled down to Long Island (again, by train along the Hudson River). We spent a day at the Museum of Natural History, went kayaking on the Sound, ate more mussels than should be legal, learned to throw pottery on the wheel, saw a nesting osprey, and spent a day getting tossed by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

When we flew home (because I'm not that crazy), my husband asked the children what their favorite part of their vacation was. They said the train trip.

And that is the point of the journey.

And to everyone who has stopped by and commented, and to my new followers, thank you so much for visiting! Now that I'm back at my desk, I'm going to wade through the hundreds of posts on my reader and then start visiting the blogs again...


  1. Brilliant!! My husband and I took a train journey from San Jose to LA a few years ago and reflected on doing something like you did, including our family and really seeing the country. We never did, but we loved the idea of it LOL. This is something your kids will never forget!

  2. Jenna, I enjoyed this post more than words can say - it was sorta magical, as if I were looking outside the window with you and your kids - you've got more than a Monday morning post here - you've got the genesis for something larger -

  3. I love a train trip!! I love watching the scenery go by from behind a window! There is something hypnotic about it and for some reason it always makes me feel happy to be alive.

    I don't know why but it does.

    Great post!

  4. wow. I would LOVE to do this... How old are your children? I'm trying to think of when the right age would be...

    very cool~ :o) <3

  5. Leigh, my daughter is almost seven and my son is nine. Small enough to fit in tight spaces (like sharing the bottom bunk) and not yet old enough to spend the trip saying "I'm bored!"

  6. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x

  7. It sounds like you had a fabulous journey. Now the hard part...getting back to your routine! ;)

    Also, I’m a new follower—wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

  8. my kids have been begging me for a train trip! I loved your point about the temporal disconnect you get with flying - I agree and makes me even more eager for a long train trip.

    I had to pop in and say high because I recently encountered a student from Scotland was reminded again of that great power of a Scottish accent!!! - that you did such a good job with in your story. Any news?