The intimacy of travel

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The girl sitting near to me

I am sitting here and the train is not moving. It’s two hours since they announced a technical fail: a new train is now coming from Stockholm, all passengers will have to change to the new one. Estimated delay: some three hours. That is, we will arrive in Malmö around 2.30 am. Or so.

The girl sitting near to me is sleeping since we left Stockholm, covered by her pink jacket. A couple on my right is looking out of the window, talking quietly one to the other. The guy in the sit in front of me is chatting with his Samsung. The blond girl in the sit on the right is listening to some music, and the one sitting on her side is sleeping with a woolen hat on her eyes.

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Absolute Terror Field

Traveling forces you to an intimacy with strangers. An intimacy that you would not allow otherwise. People with no name sit by each other, often not even exchanging a simple “hello”. I guess this is the secret: if I do not acknowledge your existence, then I can sleep by your side. In Japan, it was quite normal to have some stranger getting asleep on my shoulder, while riding the subway, or a local commuter train. Still, no one would ever meet the sight of your eyes.

So, is it easier to sleep with a stranger pretending that they are not there? Is this intimacy, actually, a perfect isolation in our shell? Maybe we feel safe because we keep our Absolute-Terror Field on.

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Travel is a brutality

I guess this is the easiest explanation. But I’d like to think that there is more. I believe that — not having an alternative — we enjoy somehow the connection with other human beings. It gives some comfort and relief to be able, for once, to sleep quietly among people we do not know. It restores some trust in the others.

Cesare Pavese wrote that “travel is a brutality, since it forces people to have trust in strangers.” — I guess he was right.

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Moving, again

A new train just arrived. We all disembarked, walked some meters in the snow and boarded the new carriages. Finally the heating is on, and the lights too. People go quietly to their sits. But now the eyes are meeting, people are smiling to each other — even if it is just for a second, before going back to their spaces.

I’ll turn off my MacBook, and I will try to get some sleep. Good night.

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About these photos

A travel series with Malina van Leuven.
Photos: Riccardo Bevilacqua © 2013-2014

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