Modes of transportation

Horses, camels, elephants, dog sleds, and rickshaws. Bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, and Segways. Airplanes, helicopters, zeppelins, and hot air balloons. Cars, buses, boats, and ferries. Trains, cable cars, monorails, and funiculars. How many modes of transport have you used?

Our own two feet are the oldest means of transporting ourselves from place to place, and riding or being pulled by animals came second. Boats have been sailing the seas for almost 5000 years. Trains, aircraft, and automobiles only came onto the scene around 200 years ago.

No matter where we travel, how we get around is the single most important logistical concern. After all, if we can’t get to where we want to go, what use is knowing where to stay, what to see, or which food to eat? Transportation tends to be the most costly and least predictable parts to planning a journey, whether it’s for two weeks or two years. Language barriers, loose schedules, overcrowding, and poorly maintained equipment often serve to illustrate the fact that the word ‘travel’ comes from the French¬†travail, meaning suffering or trouble.

The bottom of my list might be the overnight bus that we took from Marrakech to Essaouira, which had so much exhaust venting inside that we craned our necks up to the crack in the open window in order to get fresh air. The top of my list was being in the basket of a hot air balloon, 7000 feet above Albuquerque, watching the sun rise behind the Sandia mountains. I’ve also ridden tap-taps in Haiti, held my backpack for dear life on the back of a motorcycle in China, and traipsed across the sands of the Sahara on the back of a camel. While sometimes frustrating, traveling on various conveyances in foreign countries tend to be some of the most vivid memories that come back with me. The Lunatic Express was such an enjoyable read because I could identify with Hoffman’s mission to explore the world through the spaces in-between destinations.

When you’re tired, lost, or simply uncomfortable, it’s easy to let the annoyances of travel define your mood. In those moments it’s important to step back, take a deep breath, and relax. Look out the window and take in the scenery. Casually watch other passengers and see how their daily routine of travel might be different than what you’re used to at home. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the train, prop plane, or ferry. Even smelling the worn leather of a camel’s saddle or the misplaced exhaust of a bus can serve to add depths of connection to a journey.

What are some of your most memorable modes of transportation?

Posted by | Comments (9)  | May 13, 2010
Category: On The Road


9 Responses to “Modes of transportation”

  1. Kyle Crum Says:

    Jeepneys, the ultimate way to get around in the Philippines! Colorful and fun.

  2. Rebecca Says:

    Ah yes, planes, trains, and automobiles! Of course, there’s the trolley, roller blades, skate board, horse and cart or ox and cart, etc…I personally like the double-decker buses in the UK or my own two feet. The double-decker buses are a lot of fun because when you sit on top, you get a wonderful of the cities. My own two feet means I’m staying fit while I travel, and I travel at my own pace!

  3. GypsyGirl Says:

    Horse powered vehicles-preferably the organic kind. Although I’ve had some fairly memorable mishaps with dog powered transportation, dog sleds and bike joring…border collies don’t adhere to in town speed limits very well!

  4. Don Says:

    Traveling by zipline in the treetops of the jungle in Costa Rica is very enjoyable.

  5. Ted Beatie Says:

    Kyle; Jeepneys look really cool! The Philippine equivalent of the Haitian tap-tap, more or less.

    GypsyGirl/Don; Whenever my wife and I travel, we always try to get in a horseback ride. One of our favorite was a trail ride *to* a zipline near Arenal!

  6. Natalia Says:

    Um, I think you will find that ‘travail’ means ‘work’ in French.

    But great little post!

  7. Ted Beatie Says:

    Natalia; true, you are correct, but I believe that the connotation is that it is hard work, and worth noting that many people see travel through rose-tinted glasses, not realizing that it isn’t always (and in fact generally isn’t) easy.

  8. Modes of transportation | The Pocket Explorer Says:

    […] most recent¬†Vagabonding column discusses the various ways travelers get around, and the most unique modes of transportation that […]

  9. Elle Says:

    Love the mode of transport image please can you confirm who the illustrator is.

    Many thanks