In my old life, world travel was a part of the perks. Once we even rode The Blue Train in South Africa. (The Blue Train is a luxury travel experience, I’ve heard it compared to The Orient Express.) The personal butler was fun, the scenery (like watching ostriches race alongside the train during parts of the journey) is unforgettable. My children loved hanging out at the bar and having friendly bar staff in jungle-themed tuxedos prepare unlimited milkshakes and specialty non-alcoholic drinks. But mostly, The Blue Train is less about the scenery and more about the experience of the train itself. And the more I ponder that travel memory, the more I realize it’s a lot like life.
The book on my nightstand reminded me of that.
“Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the window, we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at the crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour, we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minute for loitering—waiting, waiting for the station.
‘When we reach the station, that will be it!’ we cry. ‘When I’m 18.’ ‘When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes-Benz!’ ‘When I put the last kid through college.’ ‘When I get a promotion.’ ‘When I reach the age of retirement I shall live happily ever after!’
Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.
‘Relish the moment’ is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it…’
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.”
(Robert J. Hastings, “A Penney’s Worth of Minced Ham: Another Look at the Great Depression,” [Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986], 90-91)