taking the train alone

There are certain milestones in life that make you feel, "yes--I am growing up." Moments where adulthood feels so close, independence is within reach, and you reckon you could pass for eighteen, what with how mature you are. As teenagers, I think we are so fixed on what we can do and where we want to get to and what our lives will become, that really any small event can be blown up into this amazing stepping stone to adulthood. In the thoughts of people older than us, it might seem a bit silly, but these tiny steps, to me at least, feel like a start to Getting Somewhere.
And Wednesday 28th October 2011 was one such day for me.
It marked the first time I would travel out of my village and town on my own. My mum drove me to the train station, told me to be sensible, and then drove away as I walked into the train station.
It was a day of firsts. The first time I asked politely for a "child return to Norwich, please". The first time I had to consider if I had enough time to get a drink. (I didn't) The first time I had to find my way to platform six by myself.
The 10:12 train was incredibly empty. Across the aisle, a man and a woman were filling out the crossword in The Sun, and behind me there was a boy, perhaps a year or so older than me, travelling alone too. Other than that, I was alone with my book and my thoughts.
It was strange to be sat alone. To have no one to talk to about the scenery. There wasn't anyone to laugh with. I was sat alone, and I was aware.
When you are alone, no matter where you are, your senses are heightened. Everything is an exercise in observation. But sat on the itchy seat of a rumbling and empty train, you soon run out of things to consider and admire. The drop-down tray was sticky and had a piece of gum stuck to it. The maroon carpeting had a geometric diamond pattern, and the blue seat had a wild colourful print. The velour material scratched my hands, the window was cool, and the book in my hands.
I was ready to pull out my phone and send inane texts to my brother, who was waiting for me at the other end of my journey. Suddenly, a voice crackled through the speakers.
There had been a crash ahead.
Our train stopped.
There was no one for me to roll my eyes at. Instead, I had to find it in myself to stay, sat in the itchy blue seat, waiting for the train to move again.
Eventually--it moved.
I left the train, and stood in the huge echoing station, staring around for my brother.
That was the scariest bit. More than the lonely carriage and the unexpected halt and the blue seats. Not knowing where my brother was for those few short minutes sent me into a flurry of fear and worry. Had I got off at the wrong city? Was my brother safe? Did I have the right day?
Then I saw him, just around the corner. I knew then--
I could travel alone. I could be by myself. I could cope with these tiny problems.
I was a baby step closer to growing up and travelling further afield.



  1. beautiful, libby. this past year i traveled alone for the first time, on my trip to california. my dad got a pass to take me all the way to the plane, and then when it was time for me to go, he left as well. i had to find my own seat (i had the wrong one, but it was okay, because i got a window seat) i had to organize myself -- everything. but when i saw my aunt after i had arrived, i knew it all was going to be okay. i love it now.
    the way you write just send chills to me. so precious. :))
    -jocee <3

  2. I love your writing style Libby, so real and "touchable." Last year I had to take the train to and from school, four times a day. Over time it became an everyday routine, monotonous in and of itself. But I remember the first day. I hurried to the station from school, afraid I was going to miss the train. I studied the schedule for about five minutes, making absolutely sure I had the right platform (there were only three!) and then got in. I remember a split second of panic as the train slid in the opposite direction I wanted to go and then headed off in the direction of home. The sigh of relief... was immense. I'll never forget it.

  3. This is such a lovely post, Libby! You write beautifully! :)

  4. This is beautiful!! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This was absolutely beautiful! And just the fact of traveling, especially, on a train makes me all happy inside :)

  6. I had one of those steps closer to adulthood, too. I traveled to Baltimore from Michigan by air plane-by myself. (Though the way there it can't really be described as going by myself, since I flew as an unaccompanied minor. Which gave me people to take me everywhere, and I didn't like it at all! So on the way home I didn't do the unaccompanied minor thing) It was weird like you described, at first but it turned out to be one of the most exciting things in my life!

  7. exciting and wonderful. I love the feeling of adventuring out on my own in a totally different way than with other people around me. (:

  8. oh my gosh, I can totally relate to this! I flew from BC, Canada to Los Angeles, USA last January and it was scary! Going through customs and immigration's all on my own was terrifying, but it was still a ton of fun, and I did feel like such a grown up!

  9. I've never taken the train alone, but I have taken the city bus across town by myself, and I don't think it's all that much different. Lovely article, Libby!

  10. oh this is just beautiful. i think my favourite part is that the ticket says child; we might be growing up, but never too old to be a child just yet. ♥

  11. so that's what you were doing on my birthday! :)
    it's exhilarating, isn't it? you worry irationally while trying to balance your excitement, and yes, pride.

  12. Your writing is just so...inspiring. Every one of you are amazing at writing. This post was just wonderfully amazing. Inspiring. I loved it. I love how you give such deep detail. It almost feels like we are all there with you!! :))


  13. how old are you?? lol

  14. You writing is so wonderful and inspiring! Oh and I love catching trains which makes this post even more amazing! Fernweh is an amazing online mag! CONGRATULATIONS FOR DOING SOMETHING SO WELL SO YOUNG!!!

  15. Anon-I had just turned 14 when I took the train. I know it might sound silly, but it was a two hour trip and for me it felt like a big step!

  16. oh ok I thought you were like 15 or something
    I first got the train when I was 13 (close enough) so I understand haha :)