Why do I keep taking 20+ hour train rides?

by Jackie D on October 17, 2012

train station in monaco

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.
durango and silverton narrow gauge railroad

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.
durango and silverton narrow gauge railroad

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.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ekua October 17, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Airport security can be a bit overzealous at times, but the knife thing is a little disconcerting. I hope people are required to store them where they can’t access them. Otherwise, interesting thoughts on train travel in the US… it rarely crosses my mind to explore the US via train, but it seems like it has its merits!


admin October 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Right? I wrote that and then was like “Wait…that’s actually kind of frightening.” I mean I guess it’s the same thing in Europe, too — you don’t really have to go through security checks for any trains. I haven’t been on any trains outside of Europe or the US so I’m not sure what the security is like elsewhere. I guess one thing that makes me feel safer on the US trains is that whenever I take one it’s an overnight train, so everyone passes out pretty quickly!


Megan October 18, 2012 at 2:36 am

most people would think you’re insane for these train rides but i totally get it. i often opt for them too when i have no time worries. in norway there is wifi and plugs aboard trains. i learned i get the absolute most done on a train. i can blog, put together posts etc. when i am not frequenting the trains (i was living in between bergen and oslo for about 6 months…which is a 7 hr train ride), i get wayyyy less done!
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admin October 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I WISH all US trains had wifi. Right now only some of them do. It at least it forces me to open up a Word document and actually just sit there and write for hours without Facebook distractions. And I do love reading on trains, it’s so relaxing.


Susan October 18, 2012 at 5:05 am

You take the trains because the planes are out to kill you! And you can eat your apples the civilized way–cut with a knife! And you can drink beer!
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admin October 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Wow, how could I have forgotten the alcohol? It appears you have a lot of experience with that recently…those pictures of you and the Russian men on the trans-Siberian are hilarious


Emily @ Hope Squared October 18, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I’ve only been on sketchy Asian trains – so this train looks so fancy and I feel I could ride it for 20 + hours. Ask me after I have tried it though.

and P.S. I totally miss breaking bad. Like a lot.
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Colleen Brynn October 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Hm… did I just read Trans-Siberian!? I am planning to do that next summer. I am following this comment by a little click over to Susan’s blog.
And another thing we have in common: Breaking Bad! Obsessed.
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admin October 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

WHAT I am so jealous. Take me? I’m super experienced at sleeping in train seats now. Meaning I’m just used to not sleeping.


Georgeonthego October 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I love love love long train journeys! I once spent 4 days going from Sydney to Perth. You meet so many cool people I spent hours and hours just looking out the window it was incredible. I guess I like being by myself a fair bit too xx
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