For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by the idea of long-distance train travel. I've always found a train ride the most pleasant way to get from place to place, the least stressful, and the most economical. I've never understood why America hasn't embraced fast train travel like Europe has - we already have the infrastructure in place or at least begun, and it would help address so many sustainability concerns. And also, there's just somethings so pleasant about watching the world roll by, free of stress, not in a rush, just relaxing.
So when one of my dearest friends offered to treat me to a ticket on the Amtrak Empire Builder, a journey of approximately fifty hours from Chicago to Portland, I said, "Where do I sign up?" So here were the best takeaways from last week's adventure:
The train is so quiet. It's incredible how a rocking boat tests stomachs, while a rocking train soothes you to sleep. Closet-sized cabins with adorable moving parts and cozy bunks are best shared with someone you really, really get along well with. If you ever wondered who takes a train across the country, the answer is anyone who doesn't care when they arrive at their destination or how long that takes. Outside of that, the sky's the limit. I took a shower on a train, and it wasn't half bad. Observation cars are amazing for spotting buffalo, antelope, eagles and horny twenty-somethings (and the fifty-somethings who enjoy watching them flail). They put the crankiest employees in the downstairs bar car, making it less than fun to go order a drink. But the people who serve you dinner? Delightful. You know you're enjoying things when you get angry that it's too dark to keep looking out the window. There are still some humble, hard-working, simple-in-a-good-way people in America, they're just not riding airplanes.
Step outside your norm, whatever that looks like. See the world from a different angle. Replace the jet engines and car horns with deliciously gradual stops and starts, and all the whistles in the world.