I have long loved rail travel. Sitting in a carriage, watching life go by. Gratefully allowing others to take the strain of the transportation logistics. Perhaps striking up conversation with a fellow traveler, or more likely than not sitting quietly reading, writing, watching, sleeping.

When I got older and threw a backpack on my back railway stations took on another significance for me. That of unknown adventure. Yes, I might have had a ticket in my hand stating an intended destination, but as I looked out at the train tracks disappearing into the distance from the station platform I had a sense of unknown adventure ahead. I really don’t know what would happen next?

Taken in a railway station. Train tracks disappear into the distance from a covered platform. On the far side is a grass bank. In the distance some silos, maybe rice silos.
AlcΓ‘cer do Sal Railway Station

Yesterday my wife and I went to meet someone at AlcΓ‘cer do Sal Railway Station. Sadly trains no longer stop there. Although a decision made many years ago, I still hold hope that that conclusion will be reversed.

The person who we were due to meet was not there - it turned out that he was on a train heading south. This did not matter to me. The railway station is a beautiful old building, even if it is becoming covered in graffiti. Standing on the platform looking out at the tracks fading into the distance took me back to life on the road. Images of myself waiting for my train seated on station seat, seated on my backpack, looking for a bite to eat, or simply standing. What lay ahead? I knew and I didn’t. A known destination, but unknown experiences. Just the journey to the next port of call became an adventure. And with that there came a sense of freedom. A letting go into what lay ahead.

This was the closest to me ever living a homeless life. I was far from homeless - I could always find myself somewhere to stay at night, and a ticket home as a last resort would have always been an option (though I never considered it) - but in that moment of being on the road, just me and what I had on my back, I was at the whim of what I encountered. And with that came a release, a sense of stepping into the unknown and letting the unknown be the journey.

I gained the same sense, perhaps even more so, when I was standing by the road hitchhiking. As with the train travel the destination was known, but this time even the ride was an unknown entity - who would pick me up, how far would they take me, would I reach my destination that day, the next day or find myself heading off somewhere unknown to me in that moment?

I miss those journeys though cherish their memories, and at times I sense that that is also my life now. I have plans now for the days, weeks, months ahead, but with what degree of certainty do I really know what will happen in the next moment? Am I always standing on station platform?