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The Way to Boston

Amtrak is good … in comparison to Greyhound.

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Boston, MA, USA
July 15, 2007

“How did I put myself here?” I asked myself after six hours of clearing briers and cutting down trees with only a machete in the hot summer sun. I had enough money in Asia to last me another eight months without work….a month later, I find myself in the USA with scarcely a dollar in my pocket toiling up a living by removing entire fields of vegetation by hand. What happened to put me in here? A month ago I was in the sun loafing, now I am in the sun grunting and sweating.

I often wonder about how quickly things happen. It is as if I need little explosions every few months which result in me immediately stopping anything that I may be involved in just to do the exact opposite. People always tell me that I do everything the hard way, and I am now beginning to think that they are correct. I don’t know what makes me change everything so quickly…..but I think that I like it.

The Archaeology site is just getting underway, myself and a kid named Steve, and a couple of old salts began setting everything up. The rest of the crew should be arriving at the end of this week to begin excavating.

My Chinese sister, Meili; my parents picked her up straight out of China and took her home with them.
Amtrak train. I do not yet know how I really feel about the US rail service. If it was not in comparison to Greyhound’s bus service I do not think that I would be too impressed…it is far too expensive and precarious. I just wish that more emphasis could be place on train transport in the USA. It is a country for trains- it is huge, geographically diverse, and needs fast methods of coast to coast travel. Other large countries, like China and India, have utalized the train to their advantage far beyond that of the USA.

I rode the Amtrak out of Rochester yesterday with my family waving farewell to me by the tracks. My train was already two hours late when it picked me up, but I did not mind- it just gave me more time to play around with the new little kids in my family (my sister’s son and my parents’ adopted Chinese daughter). I am usually far too busy with my own affairs whenever I visit my family to fully devote myself to their everyday life. When I leave I realize that what I was busying myself with for the brief duration of my visits is not as important as being with my family. I always feel a little regretful when I wave to them as I leave. The wisdom of retrospect.

I was enjoying my ride on the train for the way through to Albany when all of a sudden we stop still on the tracks. We remained there for two hours- a tree fell on the tracks and the engineer did not have the huevos to just run it over ha ha. So we sat there while the passengers became irate. I did not really care, except for the fact that a co-worker was picking me up from the Poughkeepsie station to give me a ride the rest of the way to Boston. I had no way to contact him either, as I do not carry a phone. But we were stopped right next to the Hudson River and I must say that I did not mind just sitting there watching the birds flying and the kayaks roving. I laughed to myself that people in row boats were making more ground than me in a train, and then dug into a random section of A Vagabond Journey Around the World; a book that I am constantly reading.

The difference between Amtrak and Greyhound is vast. Amtrak is more costly but the employees don’t treat you like dirt because you are using their “lower class” transport service. There is a better chance that an Amtrak train will be delayed, but you don’t have to squirm away from beggars. But although the train is a much nicer ride all round, you do not have nearly as much cultural exposure as with Greyhound. If someone from another country was travelling around the US and really wanted to experience the depths of the culture, I would have to recommend the bus. As for me, I suppose I am ultimately impartial; if the train is not too much more expensive than the bus then I will take it- mostly because I really enjoy riding on trains.

I think the bus or train question is interesting for another reason. Buses enter places from the front door, while trains come in through the back. I may have had this pointed out to me from a Theroux book, but nonetheless it is true. Everything in the USA is oriented towards the highway, towards automobile transportation. Train tracks run behind cities and cross their depths- to travel by train is to get a glimpse of a place from the behind. I prefer this perspective.

I think when this job that I am on now is finished I will have enough bean money to float me to Turkey. I do not really know why I want to go to Turkey, I just do. That is as good of a reason as any, I think. I have never been in that part of the world before and I think that I really need a new horizon to venture towards.

Or maybe I want to go to Mauritania??? I have always wanted to go to Mauritania.


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Filed under: Archaeology, China, Train Travel, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 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 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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