Last night I looked through the screen covering my open window to watch the sun set behind the city. In a moment, it had bundled together landmarks, old buildings, mountains and construction sites into one beautiful silhouette.
I thought of the people in cars driving to and from on the streets below me, wondering if they had taken a minute to notice the beauty that surrounded them, coloring sidewalks a rusty gold and blanketing dirty alleys.
Maybe it’s because I don’t drive, that I notice these things. When I get in a car, on a bus, on a plane, I am never the one in charge of controlling the vehicle, which leaves me free to think about and notice the world around me.
Looking through the window last night, I remembered a year ago, when I lived further north, and often caught the bus at this time of day. I rarely read or used my phone on these rides- I’d always look out the window, listening to music to alter my perceptions of things.
In cold and dreary rainstorms I would play Crystal Castles as the sky was dark and the sound of traffic hammered away at me. On sunny days I would relax to Charli XCX…
But I digress.
When we travel, we find ourselves in an ideal setting to look around. To notice.
In transport, we often learn more about a place than we’ll have a chance to discover on our own. Due to the speed of travel when one is not on foot, more can be seen and experienced. Often, more places can be accessed. This is not to say I don’t appreciate a certain kind of foot tourism (I walked all over Paris last year), but you can absorb so much of a place simply by looking our the windows as you go somewhere.
When your plane lands, what do you see? What does the landscape look like? Can you see the glimmering lights of city streets or small villages? Often you’ll find swathes of farmland, patchwork quilts over the globe.
When you take the train between cities, what do you see of the countryside? Animals, people, gatherings, festivals. Cobblestone streets in Paris or old cars abandoned in bushes in rural Florida. Greenery; flourishing, long-dead or somewhere in between. Stately manors and homes where the roof shingles have fallen off one by one.
Traveling by bus, by cab in a large city, you become a witness to the millions of interactions happening around you. Watch the arguing couple kiss and make up, the family of tourists awestruck in Times Square. Listen to the old lady with the needle and thread on the seat beside you as she tells you how she was married in the park across the street underneath a white tent dripping rainwater.
We tend to focus on arrivals. On getting somewhere. But there’s more to every trip than the promised bounty of a destination.
The journey is so beautiful, and can show us so much.
Remember, when you are in transit, to look, to listen, to absorb.
Remember to watch for the moments that will allow you to truly understand a place, its people…