Last week, my friend Mary, told me about a writer’s residency program that Amtrak was offering. She knew the very idea of a sleeper car, fitted with a writing desk and window to watch the world go by for inspiration, would make my heart sing, because she’s been on a train with me. Yes, she was there when we both fell hard and fast for travel on the rails.

Almost exactly two years ago (has it really been that long?), Mary and I set out on the Great Girlfriend Adventure, a two-week, zany, madcap, roadtrip down historic Old Route 66. It was the stuff of dreams, truly one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. We hit all the iconic stops along the way and met some really interesting people we’ll never forget. By the time we got to Williams, Arizona, we were excited to a) sleep in an actual caboose that was outfitted as a hotel room, and b) ride the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim.

When we arrived at the train station, we decided to go all in and splurge on the Luxury Parlor Class, which was outfitted in grand historic style, and had all the passengers turned toward each other for easy mixing and mingling. There was food and bar service, and, with that ticket, you were free to visit every other car on the train, and experience every class level. So, of course, we didn’t miss a single nook or cranny. By the time we had made the trip back, awe-inspired to speechlessness by the grandeur that is the Grand Canyon (if you know us, that some serious AWE), we were sold on exclusively traveling by train for the rest of our lives.

I’ve thought, since, about the allure of the rails. Why, exactly, is it so appealing? I’ve decided that it provides what we are missing, today, in our everyday lives. First of all, it’s slower. We have become so destination-focused that we’ve forgotten the journey, itself, and that we shouldn’t discount our “travel days” when we’re heading somewhere.

Trains are also about people. Folks relax a little more on the train, knowing they’ll be there for a while. Untethered by flashing seat belt signs, they mill about. Talk to their neighbors. Share a sandwich in the Dining Car, and consider, together, the wonders out the window. Harkening to a time of front porches on summer evenings, the rails encourage human interaction that does not rely on an Internet connection.

Finally, trains scream at us to notice what’s happening around us. With giant windows lining both sides of every car, and some even including Dome Cars for better viewing, they turn our focus to what’s happening beyond our immediate selves. They put a conductor in charge of getting you there, so you can consider the gift of the world around you.

I’d love to win the contest, but more, I’d like to capture the spirit of life on the rails. Slower, and more intentional about relationships and the journey itself. Relaxed in the knowing that my Conductor has my final destination under control.

 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.‚ÄĚ Joshua 1:9 ESV

“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10 ESV