My last long distance train travel for awhile is from Hamburg to Utrecht and back. I’ve always liked the Netherlands as a tourist, but after visiting Brianne, an American friend, multiple times in multiple cities, the country has taken on a new meaning for me. We started out in Europe on the same study abroad program. After finishing our undergrad degrees, we struck out on different, yet somewhat parallel paths. Through her, I got to experience a cross section of life stations in the Netherlands: student life, unemployment and random jobs, long-distance dating, marriage, doctoral research. Visiting her and her Dutch husband offered me a familiar haven during a time when all of my friendships in a new place were less than 4 weeks old. Now I am on my way to meet their baby daughter.
There’s something magical about passing through villages and countryside by train, watching the landscape flow past. In one journey, you pass thousands of people with thousands of stories. Yet you see them in a tiny fraction of their life. A woman on a bike, waiting for the train to pass so that she can cross the road. A child playing in a field. A couple sitting on their balcony. They made choices or had choices made for them that placed them at this specific space, at this specific time. Maybe they’ve never been outside of their home region and look at my train with a sense of longing. Maybe they’re happy where they are and don’t need to go any place else. Maybe they moved there from far away to start a new life, or to be with a loved one.
Brianne used to say that any experience is okay, as long as in makes a good story. I hope we’ll keep making stories for years to come.