The Scenic Route

I love trains. I started watching train videos during the pandemic to scratch my itch for travel, and discovered there’s an entire genre of video dedicated to cab view footage. It’s a great way to learn more about a place, and see scenery from unique vantage points.

Well, I went on a Switzerland kick, watching one channel with all sorts of videos from the different routes that crisscross the nation, and I noticed an interesting thing. Switzerland has a lot of trains and a lot of mountains. One of the main north-south rail arteries for Europe runs through it, and for a long time, that route went up and over some impressive mountains. Then they started building the base tunnels. The base tunnels do exactly what they say, they tunnel through the base of said impressive mountains, knocking about an hour off of travel times up and over the pass.

The base tunnels are engineering marvels, and save heaps of time and fuel on transit. They’re efficient.

However, unless you’re a train fan and like looking at things like how the tunnels are constructed inside, it makes for dry viewing. Even if you do like looking at the inside of the tunnel, it’s a pretty uniform experience. Enter tunnel, bypass the alps, come out the other side. No scenery. No variation. No chance to switch things up, hop off at a scenic town, have one of the kinds of detours that turn into an adventure you talk about years later.

Machine-like efficiency has the tendency to turn you into a machine.

I talk often about the difference between the scale or the pace of people and of lives vs the scale or pace of business and capitalism. They’re two different things.

When people come to me wanting help with or productivity, I’m curious about their “why”. To what end are they trying to get more done, fit more activities in their day, become powerhouses of doing? And what will it cost them? I mean sure, you can tunnel under the mountain of things, being ruthlessly efficient, but can more often than not suck the scenery out…rob your actions of joy.

Getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible may not be what’s needed. You may need the detours, the weird pauses, the scenery. You may even need a rest stop, or to turn around and look back at the ground you’ve covered to understand where you are. Efficient is not always best (or even good).

Sometimes, the answer to the situation isn’t to get more efficient, but to kick back and appreciate being on the scenic route.