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  • The whole thing makes me nervous. It always does, this traveling thing. Going someplace new – what should I wear? What should I pack? Where do I go? What do I need? What will I want? Even when going to someplace I know, I get worry a little. (It is in my nature.)

    Sometimes, it seems too easy by part. Can I really just walk to a train station and hop on a bus to get someplace new, someplace different, someplace exciting and huge? Can I really just hop on a train and step off somewhere that I have never been? What if they realize that I am just me? Will I be rejected? Ejected? Told to go home?

    With flying, it seems even bigger, if not harder. Can I really buy a ticket from my own living room and wake up in Borneo? How does that happen? Frankly, I haven’t even figured out how I happen to have my own living room.

    I am just me. A girl from a small town in Ohio. I have no idea what I am doing, but somehow, it works. Even when I don’t know the language spoken, somehow the language of travel makes sense to me. I figure out where to go. What to do. How to get places.

    I haven’t taken a train (a real train versus metro) in the past several years, not in the US. I did take a train in Morocco and figured that out, joking with small boys who didn’t speak English, making them laugh.

    In India, we couldn’t use the bathroom in stations. We could but we shouldn’t because the hole in the floor just emptied to ground.

    In Sri Lanka, I had to elbow small children and old women out of the way and climb somewhat awkwardly under my pack with a stiff knee. (I had dislocated it while hiking, while falling, with a rock.)

    In Egypt, the overnight train meant breakfast onboard. It consisted mainly of stale bread: Stale bread with a side stale bread and stale bread for dessert plus tea. The night before breakfast, my friends and I drank the train dry (we weren't drinking tea), and I found a journal that belonged to a man from New York. I picked it up and slid it into my purse (never cracking its cover) and when I ran into him down south, at Abu Simbal, I gave it back.

    For some reason, on the train, I told a new travelmate that my friend was married. I was just joking; she wore the band as defense. I didn’t know until later, but he believed it for years. He thought she was married. I have since seen him on five continents and taken almost every mode of travel with him – trains, planes, and cars. Boats on the Nile and the Amazon.

    Together, we rode camels through the desert and donkeys to see the tombs of the kings. I named mine Bill. I can’t remember what he called his, but he rode one, too. My new friend who believed my old friend was married had skipped the balloon, but she and I took one there, too, before the donkeys.

    In Australia, we walked. So far did we walk. We stopped for a drink. We stopped just to talk. I haven’t seen him in Europe or Antarctica yet, but maybe someday. He does want to take a train trip through Russia, and I would love to go.

    My old friend and I once took an overnight train from Paris to Munich. We weren’t exactly traveling together; though, we were for a bit. We just started and ended in different places with a brief stop in Paris to see the city, my parents, and friends. In Munich, I stayed with my brother’s family, and my friend journeyed on to visit a cousin.

    In between, a conductor yelled at me in German. I knew what he was saying, but didn’t know how to respond. My phrase book failed to include anything like “This is all her fault; she bought the reservation but forgot the ticket. Can I buy one now?” The German came back with a French conductor, which was another language I didn’t speak, but we made it work. He showed me pity and sold me a third-class ticket for my sleeping car.

    “Merci,” I said with a smile and slept well that night.

    This morning, my train is somewhat tamer. I walked to the station near my house and am riding the rails up to Philly, just a couple of hours, but I have never been and my nerves jangle. What if they realize that I am just me? A girl from a small town in Ohio.

    I have no idea what I am doing.
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