In general, I am a pretty relaxed traveller; long journeys don’t intimidate me and I don’t need much more than a sleeping bag, toilet, and shower to happily bed down for the night, but one thing I am particular about is sitting at the window seat. It seems petty to kick up a fuss about such a small part of travel but wether it’s a plane, train or bus I NEED that window seat to make me a happy traveller.
On a plane as we elevate into the air I love seeing the place I have just been quickly get smaller and turning from reality into what looks like a toy town. As I look down at the vast ocean, green fields, mountains deserts, cities and changing landscapes I think of my place in this world and how tiny I am compared to what lies below the clouds. I also love getting the opportunity to see how the massive world’s diverse patchwork landscape all fits together.
This view from above sends my wanderlust into overdrive, allowing me to get a glimpse of just how much there is to explore. Being up high looking out from my window seat I gain more perspective than I do anywhere else; instead of feeling intimidated by the vastness of the planet we inhabit it makes me realise how much of the world is out there for the taking, and that makes me feel free.
At the almost opposite end of the spectrum are busses and trains, sitting at the window I watch things go by more closely, realising what’s right in front of me. Though from up high the world is mighty and beautiful from the ground that whimsical feeling dissipates and reality sets in. This reality can often be stark but it can allows me to see the beauty in the everyday that normally passes me by as I get on with my busy life.
A few years ago Pablo and I wanted to travel America but were on a tight budget so instead of getting a swanky car like we did on our trip this year we hopped on greyhound busses. Busses are the cheapest mode of transport in the USA and, unlike the UK, are not commonly used. With each long journey I insisted we get to the station early so I could ensure that I got the window seat. Though most routes took us along highways that looked the same we also travelled through many bus and service stations, as well as stopping off in less desirable parts of town that we would not usually visit as tourists.
Though these sights were not always pretty, it helped me to understand more about what it was really like to live in America and not just the glossy places that are printed in holiday brochures. Seeing people so obviously struggling with poverty, addictions and health was sad (and sometimes scary), however, in these troubling observations I also saw hope and kindness: people sharing a cigarette, buying someone in need lunch and a huge family who had scraped together enough money to take their first trip out of state to a cousins wedding despite it taking 18 hours and all their savings to get there.
Spending hours staring out the window and observing people on this trip made me realise my own privilege and makes me want to be a more giving person.
Trains are kind of the middle ground when it comes to window seats; still on the ground, the routes tend to be prettier than the motorways which buses trundle along – with the added bonus of speed. I don’t know if it is because of the higher price point or the nicer views, but trains always seem like a more relaxed, almost romantic, way to travel. When I go back up to Scotland I love picking up a gin in a tin, playing my favourite tunes and just watching the hours whizz by.
So, yeah, my love for the window seat may seem childish but that’s because staring out of the glass into the world is where I both manage to dream and rationalise best.