First time Travelling by Train to Edmonton

Leaving Vancouver on Via Rail was something else. I was passing through Vancouver to visit Edmonton for the first time. Everything was new. The Bridges, the buildings, and even the buses. I read once that the brain thrives on new experiences: “Novelty.” I may not know the neurological process, but I know that what I was experiencing felt good. Travelling makes me come alive fully.

READ MORE: 10 things to know while travelling

My train ticket from Vancouver to Edmonton costed me just under $200, which covered one economy seat. It was spacious enough and no one was sitting next to me. There were two bathrooms per railcar and I had access to the other railcars as well. Once we were settled in our seats, the conductors introduced themselves and laid down the rules and expectations for us. As soon as they were done, I made my way to see what the other cars looked like and where the dining car and the skydome were located. Basically, just to get a lay of the land. Familiarize myself with my surroundings since I would be travelling for 26 hours. I learnt that the bathroom in the other car next to mine was more spacious. And since there were fewer passengers, hardly anyone used it. Next, I grab my laptop, books, and note books and sat in the dining car to begin my writing. Too bad there was no wifi access. It is a feature benefit in the business car though, which was further from where we were. In a way, I felt an invisible label “lower class” placed on me. Not that the service was bad, it’s just that I felt the division. Maybe it was the way the server barked at me when I ventured down a hallway pass the kitchen were I shouldn’t have crossed. It was just a feeling…

On Via Rail in the dining car

Still, travelling across the country by train was a bucket list item. When I woke up the next morning, I could see snow covered pine trees. I didn’t order breakfast because I was still full from dinner the night before, salmon with rice and veggies. I planned to get breakfast in Jasper once the train stopped. I sat in the dome car with others, looking through the transparent ceiling at the mountains all covered with snow, the aqua coloured water below, and the pine trees lining the mountains. “Gorgeous” were the words just rolling off the tongues of passengers, and “Aw” and “Wow” “Unbelievable” “Breathtaking.” The best word that described this experience though was “Divine.” It wasn’t made by man, but by God. And it was perfect and flawless.

Inside the dome car

The train sped under tunnels that went through the mountains. The mountains were on both sides of the train. Our eyes swung from side to side, ahead and behind…just trying to capture every moment with our eyes, with our mind. I think I had. I can still see the experience vividly. But, not the same way as what it looks like on the many photos I took or the videos taken. No. The one captured in my mind cannot be replicated. It is as I saw it, and it will remain that way forever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, I made conversations with a few passengers, listening to travel tales, and strange meditation practices or grounding practices. I often find that passengers who travel for fun are the retirees, which puts me as an anomaly. I was the only black person, except for the French conductor. Half the passengers were in my age group. One family was travelling with two infants, which must have been difficult. There wasn’t a bed for them to sleep on, or a place to play. The boy occupied the aisle with his toys. The baby was spread out on the large size seats. Very uncomfortable.

Stopping in Jasper for breakfast for the hour broke things up a bit. I was able to get fresh air, walk around, buy touristy things and grab breakfast before re-boarding. I went straight to the dome car to eat. I wanted a good view as I enjoyed my meal, with matcha tea that had messed up my white gloves, and left blotches of green on my black coat. After not bathing for over 24 hours or changed my clothes, I started to feel, dirty. Maybe I belonged in the lower class car at this point. It didn’t matter in the moment.

READ MORE: The Halifax Citadel: Lest we Forget.

I used my afternoon to read and journal about my experience. As it started to get dark again, I made my way back to my own seat. And sat there to enjoy what was left of the train ride. It would be arriving in Edmonton in 2 hours. Approximately 6:30 pm, I said my good -byes. The conductor was kind to take down my luggage and had it ready at the door for me. As I waited for my ride with an elderly woman beside me talking my ears off, she whispered, “we call it Dead-min-ton.” And then disappeared in her taxi.

10 things to know while Travelling

“Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”

Actor, Alan Alda

I find travelling to be the most creative of things I can do, specifically when I do it alone. I am connecting the dots through every decision I make. I am connected to people I’m never going to see again, at restaurants, while walking, or standing in line. Each person I meet has no idea whether I am a local or a tourist, not unless I actually tell them. When I was in the west of Canada, there is no distinct marker between me and the people I meet. Saying, “I’m from Ontario” doesn’t create any surprise reactions. Except, the people are curious about how my experience is going. Sometimes I would share my next venture with them, that I am on my way to Alberta.

Granville Station, Vancouver

When I got off the ferry, I took a bus to Vancouver’s skytrain. It wasn’t hard, just frustrating to figure out where I am going while on a strict schedule. I wanted to be at the Via Rail train station at 2pm. I sat on the bus between two asian young women, one white man at the back of the bus, and another white woman joined him with her suitcases. Once I got off the bus, I followed one of the asian woman. She agreed she would show me where to get the skytrain since she was going on the train too. While we arrive in the elevator, a black man (which I had seen in the ferry terminal in Victoria) was already in it, and an elderly white woman joined us. Most of us didn’t really know where we were going. We were figuring it out together. We lost the man who ended up taking the escalator, while the rest of us women walked to another elevator that took us to the platform. On the train, we started talking about Canada. I shared that I was on my way to Alberta, the Asian girl shared that she went to visit her parents on one of the island and she is returning. The elderly woman shared how she has watched Vancouver transformed into the big city it is now. There was another young white woman behind me who got my attention, and shared that she used to live in Alberta, but she is happy to live in BC now. She is in graduate school but doesn’t think she’ll be going back to Alberta. “Don’t go to the Edmonton Mall” she said, “Everyone goes there. Go to the Art Gallery or the Museum instead.” Well, I took her advice.

Art Gallery of Alberta

The elderly woman had told me to get off at the City Centre. Even though my GPS wanted me to continue on the train. I decided to take the elderly woman’s suggestions. When I got out of the train, I asked a number of people for directions. What I noticed was, no one was from Vancouver! The strangest thing… Two young girls directed me down an escalator, and from there I followed the signs to the platform. Nothing was completely difficult, it’s just that with the added stress of not wanting to miss my train, created anxiety. Anxiety and travelling is an uncomfortable mix. That’s probably why most people won’t do it. But, what calms me down is the confidence that, no matter what choice I make or not make, everything will work out just fine.

READ MORE: Ferry to Vancouver.

Travelling opens up my curiosity and puts all my assumptions and expectations behind closed doors. I wish that I could live like that in my ordinary life. Each moment is an opportunity to create a memory and to not take anything for granted. When travelling, I am fully aware of how to live in the moment, because I am certain that I won’t get another opportunity to come back to that very spot. Sitting in the train with strangers talking like ole friends hardly happen for me at home. We connected over our transitory journey.

So to end this post, I want to say that I have learnt a lot while travelling, I just have to use those same lessons in my regular life. Let me share 10 of them with you:

  1. Always ASK questions, don’t assume nothing.
  2. LIVE in the moment and don’t take anything for granted.
  3. Set aside plans, and go with the FLOW (this is the one that I use as my mantra).
  4. Be CURIOUS and try new things (this is a staple of travelling)
  5. Always go with your HEART and set aside every limitation.
  6. Create MEMORIES not nightmares.
  7. Be OPEN minded.
  8. Be anxious for NOTHING.
  9. Make MISTAKES. They can turn out to be best memories.
  10. Be completely FREE to be yourself (no one is judging!)