5 January 2016

In 2015, my body visited 31 American states. A good deal of this travel materialized from two privileges: a new day job and a summer adventure. After graduating college, I had a couple months before starting my new job and this window afforded a long trip.


Instead of blowing hundreds of dollars on plane tickets, a couple friends and I boarded a train. Amtrak offered a 30-day, 12-leg rail pass for under $700. With this pass, we could travel basically anywhere Amtrak offered service. The trip we designed was a journey of the Western perimeter. We used our first legs to travel from our various homes in Michigan (Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Detroit) to convene in Chicago. From there, we traveled along the Canadian border to the Pacific and along the Pacific Coast to the edge of Mexico. We then traveled along the Mexican border to the Mississippi and followed the River back to Chicago.


We stopped at the following stations:

Chicago, Illinois (CHI)

West Glacier, Montana (WGL)

Seattle, Washington (SEA)

Portland, Oregon (PDX)

Emeryville, California (EMY)

Los Angeles, California (LAX)

Tucson, Arizona (TUS)

San Antonio, Texas (SAS)

New Orleans, Louisiana (NOL)

Memphis, Tennessee (MEM)

Chicago, Illinois (CHI)


We took some of the finest trains, from the Empire Builder to the Sunset Limited and the City of New Orleans to the Coast Starlight. For the duration of the trip, we lived out of backpacks and camped in a variety of climates: freezing rain in Montana and scorching heat in Arizona. We stayed at a friend’s Malibu beach-house and a smorgasbord of hostels, but spent many nights on trains. It was the longest vacation I had ever taken and surely the most exciting. The trip afforded ample time for writing and reflection. And as great as it was, I surely learned that America isn’t designed for pedestrians (especially for Western tours). The inconsistency of public transit quality from city-to-city and state-to-state, while inconvenient, forced us to explore other means of transit and see places we would not have otherwise visited.


There is no better way to see America than via Amtrak.