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Riding The Amtrak Home From New York City

Coming back home.

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SOMEWHERE, New York- I boarded the 281 Empire line and pulled out of Penn Station at 10:20 am. On time, clockwork.

The train was packed — not a single seat to spare. It was full of people living in the big city returning home for the weekend. Anyone who says that Americans don’t ride trains has probably never ridden a train here. For short and regional trips, the train is the way to go. It’s better than the bus and cheaper than flying. You can sit back, crack open a beer, watch the world go by out the window, or walk around. Can’t beat it.

I’m among those on the train home. My father should be picking me up at the station in Rochester. Tomorrow I should be heading out to Buffalo to hang out with an old friend and start the process towards Orchard Park on Sunday. It’s the home opener. Place is going to be bonkers.

I gave up my seat to an old couple so they could sit together and only then realized that the seat I moved to didn’t have a window. It was the only seat on the train without window. I have no idea why. So I figured I would just work on the train — staring out the window daydreaming wasn’t going to happen.

I wrote a couple sentences and then put the laptop away.

I read some crap on my phone.

After five hours I ended up unusually bored. I’m generally too busy to be bored, and I kind of appreciate those moments of just sitting, staring at the seat in front of me, rolling on to some other place on the planet.

When the train came into Syracuse the old couple got off and I took my seat back.

I looked out the window. The late afternoon sun was glistening yellow on a wall of trees that were getting ready for autumn. Where the tree lines broke there were golden fields of corn and winter wheat. The intersections were empty country roads that didn’t really seem to lead to anywhere. The sun suddenly flared over my my window as the train went around a bend.

This was the view of home.

I would hope that everyone would think that the place they’re from is the most beautiful place in the world. Simply being able to say, “the place that made me is a good place” really adds something to a life.

People who say, “The place I come from sucks,” are often revealing more about themselves than they would probably like.

I get this feeling of excitement every time I come back here. I begin thinking about all the stupid shit I would do as a kid. I grew up in the countryside — everyday we’d be outside riding bikes, making something happen. We didn’t have computers. We didn’t have phones. There weren’t any online pokies. We didn’t even have cable. We listened to the radio and cassette tapes in walkmans. We were never bored.

I was able to cultivate a degree of freedom where I grew up that I doubt my daughters will ever have. When I got about 15 or so my parents were pretty hands off — I rode my bike wherever I wanted. My dad was from the same village, so I was able to go around and do the same things that he did when he was my age. In my high school there were only two social groups: the kids who partied and the kids who didn’t. If you were up for going down to the canal bank to get drunk around a bonfire, you were in. Just how interlaced the tribes were there was something pretty unusual — I don’t have anything else to compare it to. I went to school with the same group of kids from the time I was five until I was 17. Everybody really knew everybody else. It was a little backwoods.

I come from a village of 5,000 people, and I have to admit that we were pretty far removed from the rest of the world. We had no idea what was going on anywhere else — nobody ever went anywhere and nobody from elsewhere ever came in — but we didn’t care. Our entire world was right in front of us — but something about this made me want to venture out to the edge of the earth.

It was here that I first began dreaming of the adventures that I would someday have. I’d just walk around in the fields staring off towards the horizon, daydreaming of all the places I would go and the adventures that I would have. I suppose I did end up having those adventures. I’ve certainly went to all of the places.

I was young and everything was yet to come then. Everything was about the future. I would plan, prepare, and train for whatever it was I was going to do. But now that I’m 38 I’m finding myself looking back nearly as much as I’m looking forward. It was once all about what I was going to do and how I was going to do it, but now that I’ve done some things I’m starting to think more about what I’ve already done.

I need to start dreaming again.


Filed under: Family, New York

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3688 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii

12 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Lawrence September 26, 2019, 7:53 pm

    Don’t think it’s worth coming to AUS for a wrestling show…Lol. although I would like to go see Chikara in Jersey. They do good shows.

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    • Wade Shepard September 27, 2019, 9:22 am

      Come on by! Stay with us.

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  • Trevor September 27, 2019, 11:36 am

    “People who say, β€œThe place I come from sucks,” are often revealing more about themselves than they would probably like.”

    Hmmm. The place really does suck.

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    • Wade Shepard September 27, 2019, 1:41 pm

      Haha! Yeah, but I guess that could be a good thing as you always have a good reason to leave.

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      • Trevor September 29, 2019, 11:38 am

        Greetings from Kotor, Montenegro.. 8 more to go til 100…😝😝😝
        A load of posts from the Balkans coming later next week.
        Still havnt finialised my quitting date..;))

        I dt need a reason to leave. Leaving is what i do (best).

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  • Jack October 5, 2019, 10:18 am

    People who say, β€œThe place I come from sucks,” are often revealing more about themselves than they would probably like.

    A person who says that is halfway there. I think there is a process we go through, probably culture shock but I never understood that really. I think some who get beyond USA! USA! USA! look at the place they come from as sucky. I think as they learn and grow more they realize yeah their home place sucks but so do a lot of other places. There is good and bad in just any place and really appreciated a place is seeing and understanding both.

    But then again, what do I know? I don’t really even remember the place I can say I’m from. I could say I grew up in Oregon. Heck I did graduate high school there, but I only lived there mostly from when I was born to 9 years old and really only went back a few times, including my freshman and senior years(and they were in towns separated by 80 miles). In other words, I don’t really know enough about it to say it sucks or not.

    The longest place I have lived in a single house/apartment continuously was in Thailand. Second place would be our last place in Mexico. My family traveled throughout the US for work when I was growing up, and I have expanded my horizons internationally. I have 5 kids born in 4 different countries. My kids are a third generation vagabonds. My kids really don’t have any place that they can say is home. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing.

    But at least they won’t say it sucks. πŸ™‚

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    • Trevor October 6, 2019, 7:57 am

      Yup….. “But at least they won’t say it sucks. πŸ™‚”

      its like u cant miss what u’ve never had

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      • Jack October 6, 2019, 10:49 pm

        That’s very true!

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  • Lawrence October 8, 2019, 3:50 pm

    Hey Wade…I figured you would appreciate this…if you scroll down to the Gamtime Beer of the Week….that’s mine from North Korea!


    I am not really a Bengals, they are just my ‘home’ team

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    • Wade Shepard October 8, 2019, 10:52 pm


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  • Amanda October 17, 2019, 2:47 pm

    Hi Wade! Hope you enjoyed your time in NY. Where are you now? Still state side?
    Amanda from Louisiana

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    • Wade Shepard October 17, 2019, 4:11 pm

      Hello Amanda! Excellent to hear from you. I just got back from Armenia. Do you ever come to NYC? If so, get in touch!

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