By CNT EDITORS
By train! No, by boat! In this debate, Traveler editors share the one mode of transit they would take take for the rest of their lives—and the one that gets no love.
Planes, trains, automobiles, jet skis. These days, there are plenty of ways to get from Point A to Point B. Some are a little more hectic that others, but we at Traveler each have our favorite way to travel around the world, domestically and abroad. Unsurprisingly, they all avoid TSA lines.
The good, old-fashioned road trip is the way to go.
If I could road trip everywhere I wanted to travel, I would. I’m a sort of travel control freak, so not being in charge of the flight, or the subway, or the ship, just means I’m stuck twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out how not to worry. Plus, who doesn’t love hours of car-dancing, stopping at rural rest stops and gas stations across America for caffeine refills, and driving with the sunroof down? It may be my Texas roots showing, but if travel is all about the journey, then driving is the only way to go. Plus, renting a car abroad means you have the ability to be completely spontaneous. Want to drive across Sweden for a bite of lobster? Jump in the car. Think a pintxos-inspired drive through Basque country would put your trip over the top? All you have to do is buckle up. —Meredith Carey
But boats are the epitome of slow travel.
Swimming, snorkeling, skimming, sailing—there are few things in or on water that I don’t love. (I attribute this to growing up on an island, being plunked in the water, and expected to “figure it out.”) It’s hardly a surprise, then, that traveling by boat is my preferred method of transportation, whether that be kayaking from one Okinawan island to another or sleeping in a ten-foot-wide cabin on an overnight ferry from Brindisi to Patras with four family members. Like most modes of transportation, traveling by boat can be cramped and crowded, uncomfortable and, at times, nausea-inducing. It typically takes much longer than driving, flying, or riding the rails. But there’s also something primeval about crossing from land to land like explorers before us, and, I think, there’s no other mode of transportation that connects you so closely to the elements. For me, that’s a good thing. —Katherine LaGrave
In the end, trains win out.
Having recently endured an unbearably cramped long-haul flight across the Atlantic, the joys of sitting on a train have never seemed more appealing. Perhaps, in part, it’s because I grew up in London, where a trip to Paris meant taking the Tube to King’s Cross Station (or, back in the day, Waterloo) and hopping on the Eurostar—from there, Europe feels like your oyster, with trains taking you to places like Berlin, Milan, or Geneva. And not only is rail travel, when it works, easy and efficient, but it’s a wonderful alternative for both fearful fliers and people like me who still haven’t quite gotten around to learning to drive. Some of my most memorable trips have involved train travel: a night train from Istanbul to Ankara in the depths of winter; speeding through the Scottish Highlands on the way to Skye; and an overnight trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow that felt straight out of a novel. It might take longer, and occasionally breaks down from time to time, but the train feels like a tranquil respite from a travel world filled with security lines and air rage. And if you’re lucky, there will be some great scenery to boot. —Lale Arikoglu
It was somewhere between Vienna and Prague, on an uneventful (and comfortably cushioned) four-hour Eurail trip, that I heard another American one row back say exactly what I was thinking: “I wish every continent was connected by railroads.” Wouldn’t that be nice? If, somehow, we crisscrossed oceans with reliable, speedy, luxurious train systems—the kind that already exist in Europe and Japan, that take all the responsibility of travel out of your hands, so you can actually relax on a trip? I wouldn’t have to think about missing a turn, or bumper-to-bumper traffic; about seasickness or turbulence. Forget TSA lines and awkward pat-downs. I could just lean back—with plenty of legroom, free Wi-Fi, and a snack cart rumbling up and down the aisles—and watch the frost-covered fields of Austria pass by, their monotony soothing me to sleep. —Laura Dannen Redman
As a child living in Delhi, my father would often take me to the city’s National Rail Museum. There was nothing special about it—in fact, it was pretty ragged at the time. But as my dad would explain the difference between engines and wheel arrangements, tracing for me the rich history of the subcontinent’s rail system, trains gradually took on an air of mystery to me. Then, when I became old enough to go on school trips around India, that was cemented by hours spent in crowded train cars: the changing landscape and bustling villages we passed through, the chai-wallah reaching through the bars in the window at station stops and tapping me awake, asking loudly if I wanted some tea. All of it manifests itself in how I jump at the opportunity for a train trip when it’s an option—yes, even Amtrak. It’s the constant motion, the meditative sound of wheels chugging on tracks, and the fact that I now and forever know what a “broad-gauge railway” is. —Sebastian Modak