Started from the bottom, now I’m at the top… of California.

Or really, I should say “out of” California, since I’m posting this from Portland, OR.

My Amtrak-sponsored trip started off in San Diego on Monday and in less than a week, I’ve made it almost all the way up the coast towards my final destination of Vancouver, BC with overnight stays in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. More than 30 hours in transit and around 30 more to go!

San Francisco

San Fran vantage

San Fran sunset

A hop, skip and jump from the SF Amtrak Ferry stop.

One thing that I loved about the train months ago and that has held true throughout my trip north is how social the other passengers are. After getting a real bad taste in my mouth from a cross-country bus ride, the refreshing zeal of Amtrak’s travelers was exactly what I needed to restore my faith in humanity… and also my high expectations for any form of travel that takes you through geography instead of over it.

As the Coast Starlight toward Portland rocked along the track early in the AM, relaxing the passengers with a subtle back and forth sway, I set up my HERO3 in the observatory car and it wasn’t long before I was talking to another passenger about her travels: a train trip across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver and the country’s vast and impressionable expanses of nothingness, her trip along the coast and other shenanigans here and abroad. Amandine was born in France and was taking some time before heading back to Europe to experience the legendary parts of western North America. Similar to the ease with which our conversation started and continued, she told me about similar experiences on other trains with extroverted passengers, eager to have as much stimulation from the fellow train riders as the landscapes they were riding through.

Coast Starlight

From the Coast Starlight. They were laughing because I was being awkward.

The landscapes and views separate train travel from the rest of the transportation pack, but it is in fact the passengers that make it king. I’ve generally found that people who board trains require little but are looking for a lot. They head to the observatory car to socialize even after a day or two of wearing the same clothes and broken sleep. They turn their eyes expectantly to the windows and their ears toward their neighbor. They love the efficiency of trains and they are themselves efficient travelers with only a bag or two and maybe a bicycle to get around the cities they visit. They would rather have a relaxing and mind-opening travel experience as opposed to speed, arrival times and hurried goodbyes.

Pacific Surfliner

From Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner between San Diego and Santa Barbara.

So far, I’ve had a great time in each city I’ve been to. The Amtrak stops are always conveniently located and long, expensive taxi rides are never necessary. And even though I do have the money for a cab ride, some people seem to think otherwise, like in San Francisco where I was mistaken for a bum! I was standing on the sidewalk, minding my own business and drinking a Coke out of a cup when some guy walked up and dropped $.75 into my drink and just kept on walking like karma was now on his side! Good thing I was tired of drinking it anyway.

Today I head up to Seattle, WA before going into Canada and then ultimately all the way back down to San Diego. Keep up on my trip with Amtrak by liking the Glass Duffle Facebook page for updates as they happen!

Author: Eric White

Eric graduated Ohio University in 2012 with a degree in Advertising and immediately went out to San Diego, California to start not using his degree. At the start of 2013, Eric quit his job, let his lease run out and started backpacking North America. Eric has worked with Amtrak, Crowdtap, HootSuite and others, and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA... when not on the road.

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