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!)

Ferry to Vancouver

Monday morning came. I laid in bed for a little while, wondering what was happening outside the walls of this hotel. Were people frantically trying to get to work on time? Were children apathetically walking to school? If I was home I would be in the former category, but I was not at home. I was in Victoria, British Columbia. And this morning I was going to Vancouver by ferry to catch the 3 0’clock train to Alberta. Now, that was exciting to me.

My suitcase was pretty much packed from the day before, so I only had to get dressed. The drive to Enterprise rental car was calming. Looking outside to see the colourful scenery in the comfort of a luxury car, with my favourite music playing was idyllic. I felt a sense of completion because I had done everything I wanted to do in Victoria. I anticipated whatever was going to happen next. I was quite surprised when Enterprise told me that they would provide me a taxi to the ferry at no cost to me. Within five minutes the taxi arrived. Every thing went seamlessly.

READ MORE: From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

After being dropped off by the taxi driver, an Indian man who had been living in Victoria for the last 25 years with his wife, I went through the ferry terminal doors. It was easy enough to purchase my ticket, then follow the escalator down to the lower level to sit with the other passengers. As soon as it was 10:30, I heard the announcement calling for the passengers to commence boarding. I peered through the little peeping holes (like the windows of an airplane), to watch the orderly flow of cars driving unto the ferry. It reminded me of when I took the ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island.

READ MORE: Adventures to Prince Edward Island.

I was in a long flowing line of passengers going though a lengthy hallway. I showed my ticket and stepped unto the ferry. That’s when I realized this was nothing like the one I took. This one was huge! I didn’t know where I wanted to sit because there were so many options. I took a corner row that had five very broad seats, with equal seats in front of me. I had that row to myself. After I was settled in, I decided to go exploring – only to find there was a section for dining. A full restaurant with everything, including chefs that were making meals, cashiers, as well as a cold food section. And there were so many dining tables. It was a restaurant, and one with the best views! I left the dining section, I opted not to take the elevator, so I could climb the stairs to the upper level. This was where the deck was. The deck also had tables and several seating areas on both ends. Some people were getting their meditation in the sun, and backing in this glorious experience. I went back to get my wallet.

The ferry started moving. I looked out of the numerous windows to observe the snow covered mountains in the distance. It looked like the mountains touched the sky. The food line moved quickly enough and I was at the cashier ordering a burger with fries and a hot chocolate. I carried my tray upstairs to the deck. The wind almost blew my tray away. It almost blew me away too. Another passenger picked up my wrapped burger from off the ground and walked with me to a table. Luckily, there was an overhead covering that blocked the wind. It was a bit cold, but not too cold to prevent me from staying on the deck long enough to get my heart’s content.

The ferry ride was only 1 hour and 30 mins and I really wanted to take in as much of the view as possible. So after lunch, I walked around the deck, my hoodie blocking the wind. I went under the overhead covering to look through the glass at the rough waves the ferry was making. I wondered if I would see a whale or dolphin in the deep blue sea, but I saw nothing. Being at sea though wasn’t boring. The sea drew me to reflect on the Creator of this magnificent ocean. And I worshiped the Lord, God.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

It turns out that the Gray line sightseeing tour bus was a great idea after all. On my third day, I was itching to get to Vancouver, for a number of reasons. Mostly, so that I could catch the Via Rail on the Monday afternoon. I felt that by arriving in Vancouver on Sunday I would have time to see the city and get to the train hassle-free in time. Since my hasty decision didn’t work out (or at least, I caught myself quickly enough….literally), I decided to use the tour bus as an opportunity to see more of the city that I might have missed.

Photo by cheyyenne north on Pexels.com

Let me explain what I meant by “I caught myself.” I was dressed and getting ready to check out of the hotel that Sunday but I was running late. I still had to drop off the rental car and get to the ferry on time. I began feeling a little anxious. My scarf got caught in the zipper of the suitcase, while the scarf was hung around my neck, and the zipper just wouldn’t close! As I was bent over the suitcase, I also noticed I wasn’t wearing my socks (the ones I had in my hand just minutes before being stuck). In that moment, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit asked me, Why are you in a rush to leave today? To that, I quickly assessed the position I was in and decided against leaving. Strangely, the zipper loosened right away, and I glanced at my socks in my handbag. Do you believe in these random signs?

READ MORE: Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill.

I left the suitcase where it was, unpacked some of the unneccesary items and looked at the time. 11:30am. New plan: I will catch the sightseeing bus at 12pm. As usual, it was raining. Non-stop. I arrived on Wharf street and I saw the tour bus down the road, but I went the opposite direction to order my meal to go. I looked at the time while waiting for the server to pack my meal, 11:55. When I finally got my order, I hasted. “Ticket for one” I shouted jovially to the conductor, once I knew he could see me. “Hey we waited for you yesterday for 2 hours” Commented Derek. I was surprised he remembered me. “No, you didn’t.” We laughed. I made my way into the bus and was seats away from Derek, who would conduct the tour. “Oh you’re sitting with me today.”

“Yes. Am I able to eat in the bus?”

“Certainly.”

I unmask my face and made myself comfortable. There were a few other tourists, but they chose to ride at the top of the double decker bus. On a summer’s day, I am certain I would have loved to sit up there. But, it was too cold since the top section was roofless.

READ MORE: When it rains, it pours.

My Sunday tour turned out to be perfect. I listened to the audio tour guide, combined with Derek’s interpretation of Victoria’s history, and updates about when we were stopping. Since I was sitting so close, I asked my own questions. And he answered them in between his announcements. We passed through some of the places I had visited already like China town. Once we left the inner harbour though, I could see the Pacific Ocean in the outskirts. I was itching to join the people at the scenic lookout points. It was a glorious kind of deep blue and the sun glistened on the water. We passed through Beacon Hill and continued again along the ocean.

I hadn’t realize how much of Victoria was surrounded by the sea. Of course, I knew it was an island. But, it was on the tour bus that I could to see much more of what the island had to offer in terms of scenery. I decided to get off at Oak Bay. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to spend time by the ocean. “Be back here in 2 hours.” Derek told me. “I will be looking for you.”I stepped off the bus, in the cold, feeling sure I wanted to see the ocean up close. It was too beautiful not to. I walked down the hill, the bus passed me and disappeared from my sight. The sun that had come out earlier, had disappeared again. I kept on walking (yes, thoughts about getting lost, crossed my mind, but I ignored it.) hoping to see the ocean. It was too big not to miss. I passed houses after houses, and decided to turn down one street.

When I spotted the ocean, I followed the boardwalk that led to a restaurant. I could see the change of colour in the water. The deep blue emerged with large waves splashing on the rocks. What beauty. That’s when I realized, I have been from coast to coast. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. I was inspired. In awe. Absolutely amazed that I completed what I set out to accomplish eight years ago.

READ MORE: Travelling post Covid-19

These are the experiences you will have to experience for yourselves, because the telling of them doesn’t quite do justice. Like I said in an earlier article, travelling for me is a calling. I see things in a new way and experience life, in my opinion, the way it ought to be experienced. With Wonder.