Short answer: I have no earthly idea. *
Long answer: It’s difficult to elaborate on something when you have no earthly idea why you do it. The easy answer would be money: last year I took a train from Chicago to Portland, Oregon (2.5 days), because I had a free ticket. I then took a train from Portland down to Los Angeles (1.5 days) because it was less expensive than a plane ticket during the holidays. Currently I am sitting on a train from Chicago to New Orleans (19.5 hours), and I’ll soon be on a train from Savannah, Georgia to Washington, DC (10 hours), and after that I’ll finish off with a train from Washington, D.C. to Chicago (20 hours). Not to mention the 14ish hours I will spend on a bus.
And all of this has been done in a seat, not a sleeping compartment.
I guess there is the fact that it usually makes for a good story. Train seats have a lot of legroom. There are weirder, more interesting people on cross-country train rides, because who in their right mind would take a train for 20 hours instead of flying for 2? There are restaurant cars on trains, which seem to provide a very satisfying sense of luxury, an opinion I’ve based solely on the smug facial expressions of everyone who strolls past me after dinner while I’m sitting in the much less luxurious but arguably more fun bar car.
There are computer outlets. You can pack as many sharp objects and liquids as you want – no strict security checks! For the smokers out there, there are designated smoke breaks along each route. The scenery is nicer than that outside an airplane window – unless you’re passing through North Dakota. I’ll take clouds over North Dakota. I guess there is also something basic and comforting about the movement of a train, the physical feeling of moving forward. It’s always fun to see if you can find a song on your playlist that’s epic enough to match the scenery flying past.
I guess I take trains because they are comforting to me — even after 20 hours of sitting in a seat. I’ll take those 20 hours over the five I’d spend in an airplane seat any day of the week because you know what? Airplanes are terrifying. Metal should not hurl through the sky. Trains are the way we were meant to explore — feet up, headphones in, face and hands plastered to the window staring out in utter delight at the scenery flying past.
*wording borrowed from Skyler in this scene from the season finale of Breaking Bad. I just really miss Breaking Bad.