The last thing I wanted to do today was to have a conversation with a stranger on the train. I had gone to the Red Sox game the night before and didn’t get to sleep until almost 1am. That means I slept on the train on my way to work in the morning. Therefore on the way home from work I had to find someone to talk with. I sat across from this lady reading a magazine and I opened my book (The Count of Monte Christo) and started reading it. I wanted to avoid a conversation so badly because I was tired and didn’t feel like being a nuisance. Plus I had 20 pages left in The Count so I wanted to finish it too. Anyway, the conductor walked by 3 times without checking our tickets so I said something about how they never check our tickets, no wonder the MBCR is almost bankrupt. And then it started…
I’ll take you through our whirlwind conversation as best I can. It mostly involved her talking about travelling while mantaining a huge grin on her face the whole time. This was the opposite of her body language before we started talking. Before she was pretty closed off and reading her magazine, not a terribly inviting scenario but things turned out really well.
We chit-chatted about riding the train, then riding bikes, and then bikes on trains which then lead to Denmark. She has visited Denmark a few times and commented on how awesome it was for biking culture. Also, I have a friend studying abroad in Denmark and she said it’s the most incredible place in the world to bike. The bikes basically have their own lanes with their own traffic lights, incredible. Each family has just one car and EVERYONE bikes. What I would give to bike without fearing for my life, not sure I would even know what to do.
We talked about this for a while and then moved onto food in Europe and how it’s so much better than here in the states. She goes to Europe almost every year with her husband and kids. I’ve never actually even been to Europe but I was able to keep the conversation going based off what I knew of it and based off the experiences of my friends. She talked about how in France, if they have more money they buy nicer things while here in America we have more money we buy MORE things, not necessarily nicer things. I’ve had that same conversation with friends of mine who have returned from abroad that America is really a culture of abundance not quality (Costco vs. the local Boulangerie).
Next, we talked about Hawaii. We had both travelled there so we shared stories back and forth for a few minutes. She has been there several times and talked of visiting the volcanoes. In order to get a good look at the lava she said they left their guide “at their own risk” and walked off in the dark. Sounds pretty dangerous with your husband and 2 kids. Although, at least if something happens you all die as a family as opposed to only one or two of you. I guess that’s better, or something…
She’s done a bunch of hiking and travelling throughout the different islands of Hawaii and remarked on how unfortunate it is that so many people go there and never leave the resorts. I agreed with her that it seems like a really contrived experience to go to a tropical island experience it through a resort. My next trip to Hawaii will hopefully be hiking/kayaking around Kauai. The stories I’ve heard and the pictures I’ve seen just look incredible.
We then shifted to winter hiking for some reason. She did her first winter hike at -20F with friends from college and has never been since. I’m not sure I blame her, -20F for your first experience is pretty rough. The hiking part is usually fine for everyone because you’re working hard and your body temp is up but it’s the setting up camp and eating meals that is hard; your activity level is low and it’s below zero, not exactly the most comforting scenario. I love winter hiking/camping so we talked about it here and there.
I talked about Katahdin and this somehow then shifted to where we grew up which then led to high school. She sent both her kids to private schools because her own high school experience had been so bad. She had never heard of an AP class until college and only went to her state school because she didn’t know about anything else. She was a very smart student and ended up in the top 5% of her class but just didn’t have any mentoring along the way. She said that even in the expensive private schools some kids are still not mentored. Massachusetts is one of the best educated states in the country and still the school systems are lacking qualified teachers (especially in Math and Science from what I’ve seen). So if this is the best I can’t imagine what schools in less fortunate states are like. Honestly, not only do I find it scary, I find it a matter of national security that our youth aren’t being educated well. Doesn’t bode well for the future of our country.
Anyway, I digress. Basically this conversation was the same as the others I’ve had, it was all about just starting the conversation and the rest just falls into place. I’ve never been to Europe but by being actively engaged I was able to keep the conversation going and eventually end up at a topic that we had in common. Before the conversation we were both reading, both in our own zones, until we had something in common, i.e. the train conductor not doing their job. Then I had a great 25 minute conversation with Mrs. Smiling Traveller Mom despite my initial reluctance to converse with a total stranger.