“Going to work for a large company is like getting on a train. Are you going sixty miles an hour or is the train going sixty miles an hour and you’re just sitting still?” ~ Jean Paul Getty

Even though I was quite young, I have unusually clear memories of hot summer train trips from Seattle to New Jersey. They were four-day treks and the only place that was air-conditioned was the dining car. Multi-hour layovers in Chicago were, for we kids, like going to Disneyland. But years later, commuting via train to work in New York City, this once magical travel mode instead became a necessary routine. The novelty had simply worn off.

Two summers ago, I returned to the clickety-clack world (that rhythmic place where iron wheels meet rails). Tired of air travel and all its inconveniences, I booked a “roomette” and round-tripped my way from Albuquerque to NYC, via Chicago and Washington, D.C. The experience was like returning to my childhood; sensory delight… all over again. Thank you, Amtrak, for rekindling fond and creating new memories.

Not surprisingly, the rails that crisscross the countryside and slice through massive fields of grain, small rural towns (think: Norman Rockwell), and cities have long captured people’s imaginations. Just the idea of taking a ride on a train can evoke a sense of freedom, adventure, or romance. I find trains are like people in that they must inevitably arrive at their destinations. They make scheduled and unscheduled stops along the way and move at different speeds. Some trains can travel for hours and are mindful of only a single destination. As with my commuter train, others meander from busy stop to busy stop. The route and purpose of any train may change as the years go by, though less so on Amtrak’s fabled cross-country routes.

As you visualize this world, think about how our lives stretch out in front and behind us like train tracks, and we are the train, its passengers, and the engineer. The way you choose to live your life and the goals that you are working toward are the route and the destinations you have chosen. (Remember, you purchased the ticket.) Like a passenger, you have the choice to get on and off, find new routes, pick new places to visit, or just stop and enjoy an experience – as I almost did in South Bend, Indiana.

Maybe you prefer to move through life as if you were an express train. Or, like a commuter, you enjoy taking the same routes over and over again. Some of us might want to just stop riding and choose a different direction you’d like your life to take.

Have you looked at the tracks of your life? Are you feeling unsatisfied with what you see? Would you like to explore the changes you can make to find a more fulfilling path to follow? Maybe you’d like to slow down and experiment with a more winding, rather than a straight and narrow route.

Or, perhaps you’d like to experience your life more as a ride that gets you where you need to go. Changing your route can sometimes give you a chance to “get on the right track.” In doing so, you may discover that the something new you seek is just around the bend.

In the words of many a conductor, “All Aboard.”

10 thoughts on “Clickety-Clack

  1. I took the auto train last summer from FL to DC and back. Such a great way to avoid 900 tedious miles on I-95. And the food in the dining car was much better than airline food.

    And I think your metaphor is apt:

    “As you visualize this world, think about how our lives stretch out in front and behind us like train tracks, and we are the train, its passengers, and the engineer. The way you choose to live your life and the goals that you are working toward are the route and the destinations you have chosen.”

    Of course, sometimes we are de-railed by things outside our control ~ terrorists, job layoffs, health issues, or natural disasters.

    • I hear and completely agree with you. It’s getting tougher these days to secure desired Amtrak reservations. I sense more people are “on to it.”

      Many of us have been de-railed. Most of us find ways to rebound and get back on track. We who have traveled a bit have learned how to adjust, adapt and be resilient.

      Thanks for sharing your personal experience and post link.

  2. I have always wanted to go on a cross-country train and enjoy the view. It gives you all this time to think about anything. I put that on my bucket list but still hasn’t crossed that off. Someday soon, maybe 😀

  3. I love the analogy of the train ride with our lives. So true, there are so many paths to the destination though it’s not the destination that makes the ride interesting, fun , nostalgic…it’s the journey itself!

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