Why Train Travel Shouldn't Be Skipped
Trains are an often-overlooked form of travel. Back in the day, people took the scenic routes across the United States, through Europe, and even across Siberia. It's unfortunate that in this day and age, people place the speed and ease of traveling by plane over the slow, but authentic, type of travel that one can get while traveling by train.
Our first instinct is to drive or fly, with buses and trains often considered a last resort. Some travelers don't even know you can take cross-country and regional trains anymore. But train travel should be in our minds. For one it is more relaxing; you have more space, more legroom, you can walk around, and it can be cheaper than flying. The best argument for train travel, however, is that it actually allows you to see the country. Flying just gives you a bird's-eye view of the place you are heading to, but train travel lets you see the size of the land, what it looks like on the ground, its colors, its feel, and the movement of life. In short, you get to experience the land in a way that flying simply doesn't allow.
I always knew America was big and diverse, but I never really understood that until I drove from coast to coast. I had flown across the country several times, of course, but at 36,000 feet I was never able to appreciate the landscape or the sheer size of the United States the way I did when I cruised through the Rocky Mountains and the cornfields of Iowa. Train travel, on the other hand, lets you experience all this and more.
When traveling overseas, Europe and train travel seem to go hand in hand. Flying around the Continent may be cheap (especially with airlines like RyanAir or Easyjet), but we say buy a Eurail pass. Seeing the countryside and experiencing a place instead of flying over it is definitely the best way to do Europe.
Up north, there's nothing like taking the train from Vancouver to Toronto and actually seeing Canada. You can't really appreciate the amazing beauty of the Canadian countryside in a six-hour flight, but rambling down below you get up close and personal with the forests of British Columbia, the rolling mountains of the Rockies, and the farms in Ontario. Taking the train in Canada is also a luxurious way to travel, and it plays a large role in Canadian history.
There's another reason to love trains. For a two-hour flight, when you factor in your waiting time plus any potential delays, a short two-hour flight can quickly turn into a four-hour ordeal. For an extra two hours, I gain a scenic view, more legroom, and I don't have to deal with the TSA and snide gate agents.
Additionally, train travel can be cheap. While buses have greatly undercut train prices, comparing train prices to airline tickets, trains still work out cheaper. It costs about $80 to go from Boston to New York City on Amtrak, but it can cost more than $100 to fly. Amtrak also has free WiFi. Though I'm personally not a huge fan of Amtrak, I'll take it over flying any day.
Paco Seoane, flickr
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