Story from the Across Canada by Rail
In a modern world – as someone said – where traveling between destinations is viewed as a waste of time and resources, it’s hard to actually comprehend the beauty of some of the most spectacular train rides on the planet. Far less comfortable, yet far more beautiful and interesting, where the time spent between two destinations is equally captivating and offers many sights and sounds. While we are very much in a century where we have no time to stand and stare, there are still some awesome train rides across the globe where the trip itself turns into a destination’.
I couldn’t agree more with these words, and I feel privileged and super lucky that I’d had this amazing opportunity to take some of the greatest long-distance rail rides while doing my around the world trip back than in 2011. The overnight train from Paris to Venice, the thirty-five-hours long one across Indian subcontinent from Mumbai to Kolkata, another one from Hong Kong to Shanghai, and then the California Zephyr from Emeryville on the suburbs of San Francisco to Chicago, and finally the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to New York.
A few years later, in January of 2018, a conversation between me and my wife Sylwia was underway that was like many conversations taking place in coffee shops all over the world. It was simply two people setting off a few travel fantasies. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, had fermented at the back of our imagination for long time. We looked at the map and felt overwhelmed by the sheer size of Canada. But, by the time we finished our flat whites, we knew what the next year or two were going to be about for our family. That’s when my affection for passenger trains was reawaken.
Nearly 6500 km between Vancouver and Halifax, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Almost 120 hours spent on trains. The lordly and glorious sceneries. A sense of losing the bonds of time as the train slowly accelerates away from the platform, and its pleasant and almost hypnotic rocking. And the grand railroad terminals and small rural stations – a living symbols of an old-fashion adventure.
It all captured our imagination and became something we knew we’d regret if we didn’t make it through. Canada was calling our names.
Pages were flying off the calendar. We gently nurtured the idea, and after months of anticipation, the level of excitement reached its peak on May 28 2019 when we arrived at the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver in British Columbia to board VIA Rail’s ‘The Canadian’ and begin the first leg of our coast-to-coast journey – to Winnipeg in Manitoba, with stopovers in Jasper and Edmonton, both in Alberta.
On our way we witnessed the rugged lake country, picturesque towns, huge blue skies, snowy peaks of the majestic Rockies and gentle prairie fields. And, to experience that demanded an open mind and the ability to absorb a little discomfort. Travelling with young children on long-distance trains in the economy class might be physically challenging at times and may not make sense to others. But the journey produced its own magic and was worth of it.
Of course, there were ups and downs and disagreements, as spending 24-hours a day together, particularly in a small space of train seats, is always challenging. But underneath all of that was a close bond formed from our shared experiences. We also knew that at some point we would need to have to deal with adversity – broken night’s sleep or delays. Our train from Jasper to Edmonton was delayed by nine hours. The one from Edmonton to Winnipeg, by another six. Sometimes we had to pull over and stop for an extended time in the middle of nowhere to let the freight trains pass. At one point, we stood still for over two hours. So, what!
We’d been spoiled by the expectations were the schedules are meant to be followed. But the delays were really what made the adventure – they were part of our ‘railroad romance’. And, as a family, we were happy and content and learned to laugh at our misfortunes.
As Mark Twain said, ‘twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do.’ So, we made the decision to put our dream first, and then make it happen by following through with steel determination. In fact, we all need a vision that excites us enough to rise early in the morning, nag us during the day, keep us working late at night, and gets us dreaming and thinking wherever we have a spare moment.
I think that number one gift parents can give to their kids is ‘hope’. A hope of a better tomorrow, a hope that it is possible, a hope that they can do it. And there is no better way to do it than by setting an example. So, by fulfilling our own dreams, we want to fuel our daughters’ natural inclination to set off fantasies. We want to show them that it’s possible. We want to teach them to make commitments, overcome fear, deal transparently, initiate and plan, express themselves, innovate, and focus on priorities.
My wish is that our story has inspired you. Every story though can be extended, sometimes with unexpected result. And now, we can’t wait to the second part of our adventure that lay ahead – from Winnipeg to Halifax.
Until next time, my friends.