Train

The last two months of my life I have spent watching people, and revisiting places. I’ve spent a lot of time on trains, and this means I’ve seen a lot of people along the way. Travelling on the train reminds me a lot of the stage that I am currently in during my twenties. You see, every stop is a reminder of where you have and haven’t been, and where you’re going next.

You could be going back home, or exploring somewhere new. You could be like me, and yo-yoing between two very different lives in polar opposite locations. The repetitive criss-cross across Wales is just that, repetitive.

Wales has it’s beauty. We have some pretty nice castles and rugby players, but none of this can be appreciated from the fraying window pane of the national rail service. Instead, we are given an endless blur of forest greens and wet fields of sheep and other farmyard animals. Personally, I like the horses. This isn’t a bad thing, because I’ve gotten so used to the view that any new addition to the scenery is a fascinating occurrence to me. I’ve also paid more attention to what is happening on the inside than to the stories on the outside.

One of the first groups to clutter themselves around my carriage was an unfortunate combination of individuals. Stag parties are the most hated traveller on any train in Britain. Also known as the bachelor party, they are dreaded in most public places and resented in pubs and bars. We get it – you really want to have a good time, but can’t you save it until later? None of us (especially the ladies) want to witness your sloppy banter and lacking manners. This group can be stereotyped. They are usually a pick and mix of burly men, cocky “lads,” and shy late bloomers. They can be spotted marching through the carriage to the nearest plot of empty seats where they will continue drinking cheap apple cider from the can.

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Later, I noticed a couple of young teenage girls. Their youth flushed through the mask of drugstore foundation and heavy mascara. When they sat at the table across from my own, they placed their belongings carefully. They spoke with their faces hid behind their shopping bags, as if they might be caught by someone they knew.

There are usually your token sport fans on any train. They usually adorn themselves with football scarves and wool hats, and play games of cards until they reach the city. They are found discussing bets and might break into a chant or two.

There are the usual inhabitants of any train carriage. There are the tired students, the commuters, the tourists and the ladies on their way to the city. There is a general community of agitated and restless individuals, each with make shift blankets out of tribal patterned scarves or campus branded hoodies.

I’ve done this journey countless times. It’s the same route as when I would return to university from my parents’ home by the sea. It’s the same journey I’ve taken when I’ve gone to concerts and visits to my grandparents.

People can be tiring, and watching them can lose it’s romantic allure. So there are times where I turn my back on the bubble of the train and redirect my focus. Sometimes I re-apply my make up because I find the lighting is perfect for creating a seamless contour, so being on the train has it’s perks. However, every time I do this I have noticed myself being watched through the mirror of my Naked 3 palette. Out of confusion of whether or not someone wanted advice on highlighting or whether they just wanted to steal my make-up bag, I concentrated my mind on the outside world. After adding this to my series of awkward moments I’ve experienced in my twenties, I set my focus elsewhere even though I knew exactly what my eyes would see and when they would see it.

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Each stop holds it’s own familiarity for me. I can calculate the distance by stops, as we all do when we mark our journeys from subway stops, highway coffee shops and gas stations. There is this one house that is placed at the half way mark of my journey. It has had the same cars parked on the grass as it did 3 years ago, but I have yet to see a person outside.

During my two and a half hour train ride from my parents, my dogs and my old bedroom to my cosy apartment in Cardiff Bay, I always notice Burry Port. It is the place where one particular stretch of homes seem to be a collection of dollhouse replicas with sunshine yellow window panes, but it eventually transforms into a row of old caravans.

I never overlook Swansea, which comes twenty minutes later. It is my beloved and shabby university town, the one that I began to outgrow. A few stops later is the place I was born, and the station that follows it is Cardiff Central Station. The city I left my parents’ home for, and where I am more myself than anywhere else.

Most of us travel alone, even with someone sitting next to us. We are carried away by the act of observation or in the trance of headphones. While we depart one life, we occasionally get lost on our way home. We are reading daily newspapers or listening to our favourite songs. We are lost in the search for explanations in the distance between where we were and where we’re going. We don’t always find them, but at least the journey takes us where we need to be.

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