Keeping the "Travel" in Traveling...

Traveling through train stations, Paris...

Holiday travel, well travel at all, is stressful business. But for me, getting there is half, if not most of the fun. I put that theory to the test this year as I returned to France from Philadelphia. It still stands. Budget travel may be uncomfortable but it pays you back in other ways.

The return included flights and trains, car rides and sprints. A ride to the Philadelphia airport, complete with traffic backups on I-95, was just the beginning. The first leg of my journey included a flight to Chicago. Not quite in the direction of France, but the crying baby next to me and the entertainment-less fight (oh United...) kept me distracted. This was also a low point.

Once at O'Hare (hi Chicago!) I sprinted to concourse B, with just 50 minutes to make my connection. Fortunately we were on time, but I didn't know the airport at all. With my backpack and computer bag in tow, I sprinted as best I could to concourse C only to find that my flight was actually back at concourse B. I sprinted back, not unlike the McAllisters in Home Alone. I made my connection with minutes to spare.

Then 8 hours over the Atlantic with no movies, pitiful food, and a Frenchman who insisted on snacking on vinegar chips while we tried to sleep all convinced me that I don't need to fly United ever again. Landing in Paris and making it through customs and baggage claim effortlessly, the RER and metro whisked me home for a few minutes by way of Gare du Nord. Then it was back to the metro, to Gare de Lyon, and a 6 hour TGV ride to Antibes for New Year's Eve. I was just shy of 24 hours of travel, with a total of 2 hours of sleep, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

                      Grand Central, quite the hub....but as bad as Gare du Nord?

I was tired, achey, and hungry, but I couldn't have been more happy to be in transit.

Sure, trying to travel fast and easy has its perks -- good movies, distractions, easy sleeping. But you miss so much. Looking at the stars from the sky at 2AM over the Atlantic, with not a manmade light to be seen, it's magical. Plus, without a nice movie selection, what else could I do if I wasn't asleep? 

The sunrise over the cotton candy clouds as we approached France wasn't even worth photographing because no image could capture that moment.

The snow-topped mountains from the TGV, the churches in the tiny villages, and the wide stretches of farmland aren't something you notice when your nose is in a book or you eyes are on a movie or flying quickly over France. The agonizingly slow train ride is still my favorite way to head south to visit my family, even if it isn't necessariy the quickest trip.

I won't take United next time, at least I'll try not. Even I have standards. But taking the scenic route to save a few bucks is still OK by me. Don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate arriving at my destination. It just seems like we're trying to take the travel aspect out of traveling with gadgets, gizmos, and other modern comforts. There's a reason the word travel looks like the French "travailler" for work or labor (win for etymology; Wikipedia confirms). Hard work pays off. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the imperfect journey, even if I could do without the crying babies...