There’s a certain romance to standing at a platform waiting for the next train to take you on your next journey. You almost feel like you’re stepping into an old Hollywood movie. Perhaps it’s something about not having to spend an hour in line at airport security worrying that your carry-on toothpaste will end up in the trash, or even thinking about how much legroom you’ll get.
But, if we’re being honest, the nostalgia we get with hopping on a train is more likely to happen in places where this has ceased to be a common form of transportation. Ask any European if they find riding the train as romantic act, and they might look at you like a deluded tourist. Those of us who live in the American continent rarely experience this type of travel, considering how expensive it’s become when compared to the time a flight takes. However, once in a while we long for time to explore and enjoy the view, rather than worry about the destination.
I’ve often dreamt of taking a cross country road trip across the continental United States. But then I think about the cost of lodging, gasoline, food, and other expenses, and I start getting nervous about the cash. Plus, there’s the fact that, at some point, I know I’ll be battling my desire to dump the car in some random parking lot and just call an Uber to take me to the nearest airport or bus stop. Also how long will it take me to get there? Do I have a couple weeks to spare? Will I even be able to enjoy the view if I’m constantly getting lost or misdirected by my GPS? It’s a lot to consider. Needless to say my nineties’ movie daydream vacation was put on hold, indefinitely.
Then, a few weeks ago, someone shared a link describing the different train routes that go from the Pacific to the Atlantic and vice versa. Derek Low, a travel blogger, documented his coast-to-coast trip a few years ago and continues to be the source when talking about whether it’s possible to take a nonstop train ride across the US. In fact, the writer and entrepreneur even offers his services in setting up the trip.
As I was getting swayed towards buying my ticket from San Fran to NYC, I remembered last year’s twelve-hour journey from Paris to Vienna, via Frankfurt. The first two hours were okay. Then, at one point, I swear I was tempted to either hop off in the next station, regardless of my almost nonexistent German skills, or just hop out the window. This is why I wouldn’t recommend a shotgun three-day ride. However, if you don’t get bored of confined spaces, I bet it’s a swift and interesting trip. But for those of us who need legroom, I think the rail-pass that allows you to get on and off for a week or two is a better choice. Mind you, I’d still prefer to get on the train at night and save on the hotel.
If you’re still on the fence, here are some reasons why taking the train across the US might be a cool vacay choice:
Just thinking about crossing from the San Francisco Bay into Nevada, Colorado, and so forth makes me remember all the places on my bucket list that I’ve yet to check. The midpoint of the journey is Chicago, which you can definitely take advantage of if you want a break before going on the second leg of the tour. However, I think that seeing places you’ve only seen in movies and postcards can be an amazing experience.
Having the time to just sit and observe, and possibly write, can provide you a moment of reflection and perspective that other trips might not give you room for. As you look out the window, give yourself a break to be at peace and think. Perhaps this is just the ticket to meditate about anything that is on your mind or haven’t been able to process still.
Speaking of going off the beaten path, consider the fact that this might be your once-in-a-lifetime chance to discover landscapes you haven’t seen. Many of these places are not as easily reached by car or the kinds of spots you need to be driving to. Without the fear of getting lost, take a chance and discover new and breathtaking views.
The Je Ne Sais Quoi:
Not every adventure needs to be the same. Maybe one year you’re feeling like taking a flash backpack trip to some exotic beach. Perhaps you want to spend it with your partner, friends, or even on your own. Each journey is different. Decide what will be the motive behind this one. What matters is that you enjoy every minute of it.
I don’t know if you’re pumped to buy your ticket for the Amtrak by now, but there’s plenty of reason to be. You can choose and decide what you want to do. If San Francisco to Chicago or New York is not your style, there’s plenty of other routes. Some of these cross the desert or even head towards the South. Every vacation is a chance to leave the ordinary and discover a new place, as well as uncover a different side of yourself.