Trains, Planes, Metros, and More

Written by Valerie

Before coming to Europe, the closest thing even resembling a metro system I had ever been on was the plane train in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. If any of you have flown into or out of Atlanta, then it is very likely you have used this train system and know it is very fast and useful. The news of me never having been on a train or metro came as a surprise to many of my friends considering I grew up on the outskirts of metropolitan Atlanta. To this very day, I have yet to ride the Marta around the city. I was always so afraid to have to navigate through the stations alone that I never gave it a try. In addition to that, I have thankfully always had a car at my disposal to get anywhere I needed to go.

Now I am in Europe, the land of abundant and intricate transnational railways and other forms of public transportation. I can’t simply avoid using public transportation here because I am afraid of not knowing how to navigate it and risk getting lost. As a long-stay visitor, I must do as the Europeans do and get a metro card. So far it has been a great experience but also a very humbling one. I could not possibly think of a better adjective to describe some of my experiences in trying to catch a bus or train in these cities than humbling. On the five long-distance trips I have been on so far, I have had to run to make it on time for four of them. That is four times too many. Everywhere I have traveled, I have only taken a backpack and a purse. No matter which way you look at it, there is unfortunately no way to look good while running with a backpack on. Hot take or not, it is a difficult task and much more so to do it in a fashionable manner. Then, if you are lucky, you make it and get on your train. However, if you are anything like me, you will walk onto the peaceful train car panting, winded, and sweaty with messy hair gasping for air. I thought I was a decently fit person when I was in the United States, but I was wrong. I learned that the issue was that I was never properly put to the test.

Despite all those moments that I think back to and laugh at, taking public transportation has been an enriching experience. You will see some of the most breathtaking views from the windows of a train that you may never get to see otherwise. There can be so many changes in scenery in a single ride. One minute you are watching the cows graze as you fly through the countryside and the next you are entering the city limits of a major metropolitan city like Paris.

Retiring my car keys was not easy on me, and I miss being behind the wheel in the comfort of my own car. However, there is a time and place for every lived experience and now is my time to enjoy being a passenger.