Making Friends on Trains

“I have a tendency towards claustrophobia…that’s why”. I had just asked the man sitting down beside me if he would like to switch seats, so that he would have the window seat and I the aisle. “Oh really – so do I!!” he answered enthusiastically, and immediately got up, to let me move out. “Oh, but…then don’t worry” I said…”then you should sit at your seat!”. “No, no, you go ahead, it’s ok” he said, and we switched.

This little exchange was the start of a two hour long friendship. Maybe by sharing some more vulnerable parts of ourselves as almost the first thing we did, after the usual polite little nod between strangers sitting down next to each other in small(ish) spaces, we got access to places within each other you normally only go to after some time, with people. We shared intimate stories from our lives, from the past and in the now, and checked in on each other as we moved along and were approaching The Tunnel. B said it helped him to sit next to me, as if my “phobia” (it’s not a real phobia by the way – I can handle it. More a discomfort in small spaces, that’s all) let him focus on something else than his own anxiousness. As we entered the tunnel, a big thing for B, we continued talking, B checking the clock many times during the supposed 16 minutes it would take according to a colleague of his (it took 20), and I recognized the hyper awareness of all movements and things happening around him. A tiny slowing down of the train immediately noted, the looking around for an explanation…and then the relief when coming out the other end, everything being ok. Basically me on an airplane.

The two hours between Brussels and London became a very enriching experience, by the stories shared, all of which moved me and broadened my views in different ways. And this is one of the things I so enjoy with this way of traveling. The meetings. On trains, on ships. There is a whole other space for seeing each other here, than in airports and on planes. An experience I’ve heard many people agreeing with – so it’s just not me. It sounds very kliché perhaps…but traveling slow(er) really gives you time to meet new parts of yourself as well as other people. I have met people in my earlier flying days too – but more so when things have gone wrong and you find yourself stuck somewhere. That is true for train rides as well – in big delays I’ve had some wonderful momentary friendships happening – however the difference is that the disruptions are not needed for things like that to evolve here. There is seemingly just another space for it to happen, anyway, when everything is going just as it should. I like that. I really really do.

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