This trip. It came together so quickly, so randomly: I read an article on my favorite travel site on cross-country train travel, and I lamented how hard it must be, if it takes a travel blog organizing a group trip for anyone to do it. And I’d already been thinking about taking a Europe train trip in 2016 as my next adventure. But then I got to thinking: how off would it be for me to take that trip around Europe, and come home and have seen more of Europe than of the U.S.? And then: I want to see all 50 states; what’s holding me back currently is the time and cost it’d take to get to each of my remaining ones individually. And so I planned this trip- cross-country and back by train, through 19 states, 8 new to me- booked it, and then, for the most part, waited. I planned what to do in each of my stops only as necessary (plans to meet up with people and booking excursions in Montana, where pre-booking is required). But aside from that, I booked my rail pass (in September), booked my hotels (many months later- in early December), and went. I’ve been figuring out what to do in each city as I get there, or at the earliest, on the train ride in. And it’s become the perfect trip. I’m halfway through by time, and by number of stops. Hop off the train, find some things to do, hop back on, and repeat. It’s not a trip I necessarily thought I’d like as a whole. I love visiting places, but as I always say, I hate traveling. I hate going from point A to point B, but I like being there. Well, luckily, this trip has been different. The train is one experience and each city is another. And train travel is so, so different from anything else. Different than air travel, absolutely- more space, smoother ride, friendlier people, and no security checks! 😉 But before I left, I’d started to equate it to a road trip. Well, the similarities stop after you acknowledge the fact that both take place on the ground instead of in the sky. You can’t stop the train to get off and see interesting things you pass by, but you can take pictures of gorgeous scenery as you pass, some of which you can only see from the train if the tracks are separated from the road/nearby towns by, say, mountains (as is the case near the Colorado-Utah border). The train is also a communal experience- even if you’re traveling with a group, you’ll meet other travelers in the lounge car or the dining car or in the seat next to you; most of them reciprocally understand this and are more than willing to chat. It’s interesting to learn why everyone else is on the train! (Yes, foreshadowing a future post…☺) And it’s just easier than any other form of travel. Since the train stations are in the cities they’re named for, there’s little additional travel time to get to your hotel. You can eat, snack, sleep, and work throughout the train. You’re allowed to carry on 2 bags plus personal items, and check 2 more. So what I’m trying to explain is this: while cross-country train travel sounds foreboding and strange, it’s actually manageable and fun! It’s a totally different experience than traditional vacations where your trip is to visit somewhere, but if you want to see America, I think this is the way to do that.