One Autistic’s Crazy Love of the Rail System

Sam Valavanis, one of our A List Ambassadors shares his love of trains!

We all have our favourite things that we love to do whenever we get the chance.

For some, it may be shopping, for others, it may be going to a theme park and riding on roller-coasters. (I know I personally love both these things.)

But for me, possibly my favourite thing to do, at least close to home, is to ride trains. Not just trains, but pretty much any form of public transport. (And yes, living in Melbourne, that also includes trams as well.)

As an autistic I have loved trains my whole life, harping back to my childhood when I loved to watch Thomas the Tank Engine (I still do), and play with the various characters in toy form (I still collect them as well).

Being blind as well as autistic, I have mastered the art of being able to tell each engine apart from the others, a skill my dad helped me develop before I went blind when I was only four.

Growing older, I began to use the Melbourne train system, first on several camps with Guide Dogs Victoria, and I instantly fell in love. (Yes, my first love was probably trains, LOL).

A year later, I embarked on my first recreational train journey with my dad, travelling into the city for the day, going to several places and doing many fun things, and then heading back home that evening.

It was a day I will forever remember and credit as the start of a tradition, whereby we would do our little city trips a few times every 6-12 months.

When I travel on trains, I get a sense of happiness and excitement, because trains have made me feel happy all my life, and I love being able to ride them in my home city.

And now, just in the last year, I have started learning to travel independently on trains, mainly for the purposes of attending university and my volunteer position at a radio station in the city, but also to catch up with friends when I can.

I feel even happier and more excited when travelling independently, as not only do I get to exercise my free will and make my own decisions of how I travel, but it’s also something I’ve been wanting and pushing to do for quite some time (years in fact), to have the same independence as many other people my age (blind or not).

I am quite knowledgeable about the Melbourne train and tram systems, so when I’m travelling on my own, I sometimes like to go out of my way to take as many trains and/or trams as possible, often changing at different stations/stops to get several of each (I only do this when I’m not on a time limit or need to be somewhere in a hurry). My parents often get nervous or anxious when they find out I do this, but I always reassure them that I only do it with stations/stops that I know how to navigate properly, and that I always ask for help when I need it.

To me, it adds extra excitement to the journey, and makes me use my practical and planning skills more effectively, so it could also double as a real-time, on-the-ground learning experience.

I know a lot of my fellow autistics out there feel the same way as me about trains (and trams), but I don’t know if many would engage in the same quirky habits as me when travelling independently (other than if they’re filming a video or vlog), but I’d love to find out!

Sam x

Sam Valavanis is an A List Amabassador – find out more about our A List Ambassadors

See more from Sam on his Facebook page.

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