Passions: Reading on the train doesn't distract from the journey, it enhances it

You can keep your podcasts, I’ve got a book, thanks.
Trains can be a delight… when you have a good book as a companionTrains can be a delight… when you have a good book as a companion
Trains can be a delight… when you have a good book as a companion

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that getting the train can be terrible. They’re expensive, usually delayed, and even when they do arrive it’s a miracle if you get a seat.

Nowhere is this worse than commuting, as people cram themselves into a carriage, counting down the seconds until the misery is over, or at least, they arrive at the office.

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For the longest time, I spent these journeys listening to music or podcasts, dulling my senses to the sardines around me. Then I got a Kindle, and my life changed.

You see, the beauty of reading on a tablet is you only need one hand, you can turn the pages with the tap of a screen. It meant I could read standing up, sitting down, pressed against the frame of a door or even in the dark. What’s more, when you finish, another world or another story is immediately available, as long as you’ve planned accordingly.

If reading on the commute is salvation, enjoying a real book with your hands on a train is nothing less than transcendent. Get yourself a tea and Twix and those two, four, eight hours are no longer time to kill, but opportunity that can feel like it’s gone too fast. I don’t want to get off yet, I have to know what happens.

Last weekend, I travelled for a friend's birthday in Bristol, armed with Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station. Racing through England’s rural countryside, I didn’t think about the time of the journey, whether I had to worry if someone sat next to me. Instead, my mind was occupied by visions of Madrid, political protests, and love triangles.

On the way back, still muddy from a charity 10k, I devoured Rebecca May Johnson’s Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen. I didn’t worry about the pain in my joints, the plantar fasciitis kicking in as my painkillers wore off. My thoughts were of Berlin, the dishes I’ve cooked to convey love, and the way translations can lead our perceptions of stories like The Odyssey.Later that night, I began reading something else in bed, which was obviously lovely. But there’s no better space to read than a quiet train through the countryside, and I can’t wait for my next journey. I can’t wait for my next adventure, and the world I’ll enjoy not at the end of it, but as I travel.

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