Traveling By Train

Reader Contribution by Shawn Hosford
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One of the profound things Carly notes each time she returns to live in the United States is our frenetic relationship with time and how we use time. Recently, after she returned from a hike in the mountains, Carly commented on how the hike had restored her rhythm with time to a more natural flow. Maybe the concept of time and the mechanical energy around its quickening speed is more emphasized in our cities. Maybe we push time to its limits by our job demands and our drive to excel and to innovate. We’re constantly doing our best to fit ten pounds of activities in a five pound bag. I, too, notice a change in the rhythm of time when I travel, when I leave the details of daily life behind me.

That being said, I was able to slow down my relationship with time a couple weeks back. A friend suggested a train trip to Portland from Seattle, and I thought the train and overnight weekend vacation sounded ideal. Having only ridden a train in the U.S. once before—on a day trip to Canada when Carly was little — I was looking forward to our couples’ getaway but had no clue as to what lay ahead.

We boarded the train at King Street Station in Seattle. The grandeur of this station set the stage for slowing down our clock and expectations of our train ride ahead. As we boarded the train, we were impressed by the roominess of the seats and the space surrounding them. After leaving the station, we moved to the observation car, sitting at a table for four, where we could soak up the passing views. As I laid out our picnic, we listened to volunteers from Trains & Rails tell us about the historical highlights. We enjoyed the stress-free train travel as we rolled down the tracks through beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery. Not driving made for a totally stress-free visit, and I believe it slowed down our internal clocks further.

As we arrived in each station along the way, we learned a bit more from our park department volunteers about how our train track came to be and why the routes were established. Four hours later, upon arriving in Portland, we disembarked and walked to our hotel. Being in a public transport-friendly city allowed my frenetic clock to continue to unwind. We walked, explored, ate, and slept during the next 24 hours. When boarding the train the next day, I felt as if my clock had been reset to a slower pace.

Maybe trains are not just for travel but also for reengaging with a more natural rhythm.

How do you slow down your time? Can your rhythm of life be readjusted? Do you think cites and our work lives set the pace of our days?

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