I became so engaged that I forgot to leave the train

Published: 3rd January 2020

By: Lasse Hamre

The quote appeared in an evaluation of one of our strategy implementation programmes, and it inspired me to write this blog post. It got me thinking: what’s the deal with train journeys?

How is it possible that someone, while in one of the most stereotypically crowded places, in a narrow train compartment packed with the morning rush, might be able to find a beautiful state of tranquillity where thoughts fly freely to places far away from the jostling that strikes your body every now and then. Given the chaos, it’s remarkable that sitting on the train can be a meditative experience. It’s as if the body creates a protective bubble around the moment.

When other passengers start closing in in your personal space, there’s only one place you can escape to. Your headphones become your emergency exit, your podcasts are like your lifeboats, and soon inside your very own little sphere, it’s quality time. For me, in the morning, I look forward to the Culture magazine on NRK P2. Sometimes all I want is music, like my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify, which brings fresh bliss every Monday. On Friday, it’s finally time for my favourite news commentators, VG’s Giæver og gjengen. They always have great analyses of the week’s Trump news. But I’m always open to something new (If anyone has tips on exciting podcasts, I’m all ears).

And once you make it to work – poof – that bubble disappears. Even though I long for those moments where I can immerse myself fully in my work and forget about time and place, I am constantly interrupted by things like daily tasks and news alerts.

So, what is it about these cramped, bothersome train rides that paradoxically allow this magic to happen? Firstly, we know we have a committed amount of time on the train without escape – we stay until the journey is over. Secondly, nothing is being asked of you at that moment, most of us aren’t expected to work while in transit. All you can do is unplug from the world around you and sink into your own little zone. And that gives you full control over which signals can enter. Perhaps you choose an interesting headline, or a link to click on. One little tap on the iPhone screen and your thoughts are off on a new journey.

The headline for this blog post appeared in an evaluation of a programme we developed for Storebrand. With the help of good educational craftsmanship and the technological tools we made available, we reached this Storebrand employee who became so engaged in her very own bubble that she forgot to leave the train.

So it is with train journeys.

The article was first published in January 2018.