At $77, the Amtrak ticket from New Haven, Connecticut to Boston, Massachusetts was easily the most expensive ticket I bought on my trip. It was so much more, that it was more like twice what I spent on all of my other plane and train tickets combined.
The train to Boston was the first time on the trip I had a few seconds to think, to pause and reflect. Prior to that it was being here, darting there, finding this friend and going to that place. It was a lot of fun, but I could feel myself wear down.
Mentally, I counted the hours until my flight back to the West Coast as I waited for the train in New Haven. I was resigned to this ticket because I had not thought in advance to buy a MegaBus ticket and Greyhound was my only other option. After my experience on Greyhound in Summer 2012, I think $77 for an Amtrak ticket is fair.
On the East Coast, Amtrak has this line from DC to Boston that goes 150 miles an hour at peak speed. That speed sounds like how my trip felt. I saw one of these trains a few days earlier, as I waited for a commuter rail to New York City from New Brunswick. I looked up and the cars flashed by, then were gone. That is how the month of November 2014 feels right now.
So I sit here, and I grapple with the question “how do I live?”
I had these huge, phenomenal experiences, this incredible journey through places I have only dreamed and imagined I would see. I sat in George Washington’s church pew and jokingly spread my arms like a pompous, overconfident man. I saw friends I have not seen for years, met friends from Twitter. I hugged college classmates and saw Ivy League universities and walked streets that were paved by our countries founding fathers.
If this experience does not permanently change me, if this trip does not force me to see and understand the world as a broader place, then what was the point?
The problem with understanding the world as broader than the two square miles of Portland I typically live my life in – the five or six miles I run in, the 15 or 20 miles I sometimes travel to for adventures with friends – is that it is not a one time thing. It does not just happen for a few weeks before I revert to my normal day to day. It means something. It should change my day to day, should it not?
And then the beat drops on the track playing in my headphones. I miss friends and co-workers, I miss the places, and the public transit and I miss my apartment and I miss the things I know. That is what being in the unknown brings, that is the feeling I constantly felt as I went to new places, as I sipped coffee and gulped beer and waited for trains and meandered bookstores, libraries, museums, graveyards, churches.
I get stuck in this rut of uncertainty and complacency, of wanting more but not knowing how, and the missing, the missing makes it obvious. The absence makes clear. Stepping back from the small pieces of the picture and seeing the whole thing, I realize why I am stuck.
There are areas I have lived not knowing what I wanted or how to proceed, a thing not abnormal, I believe, from many. The dividing line? It is those who proceed with humility and confidence, those who are bold and take action, those who set goals and work towards them.
The train pulls out of Providence, Rhode Island and continues on to Boston, and I, to my last few days of adventure on the east coast.