5 Train Rides That Will Change The Way You Think About Travel


I’ve been planning again, preparing to strike out on a new adventure. It’s one of my favorite phases, the gathering of locations and information, recommendations from those who have walked before me – directions on cocktail napkins to a restaurant in an alleyway I may have never otherwise found. But I want something new. And I want above all else to be able to write, a lot, while I am traveling. And I have outgrown five dollar hostels. I want to relax and I want to absorb the world not just survive it. I had teacher who once told me I was a foolish girl because I believed I could have everything. I took it as a challenge. And I’ve found my solution. I will travel only by train.

There is something inherently romantic in the idea. I’ve watched Darjeeling Limited countless times, like I’m studying some lost art of train riding. I’ve gotten curious on the workings of them and the history and the routes I might take. I imagine the strangers I will meet in the dinning car. I see myself doused in six o’clock light and thumbing through the pages of Calvino’s, If On A Winter Night A Traveler. I am eager for days, weeks, without internet and a view of the world I simply have never had before. The only thing I have left to decide is where in the world I am going to go. I’ve narrowed it down to these few railways:

1. Trans-Siberian Express

This is the creme de la creme of train rides, all the Golden Eagle Luxury Trains are. This route was the one which originally captured my attention for this adventure. The Trans-Siberian charges across the mysterious expanse of Russia. This 15 day trip will take you across 6,000 miles, 8 timezones and two continents. It is here I imagine myself penning the first draft of a novel as a foreign and delicious world trips by my window. All three classes of cabins onboard are plush and equipped with a private bathroom and turn down service.

2. Rovos Rail

This is fancy. I love it. Traveling across Africa while the men wear suit jackets and I sip martinis in a luxury refurbished railcar reminiscent of the glamour of the 1920’s. Yes please. They are committed to creating and maintaining the romance and elegance of a bygone era and therefore there are no televisions or radios onboard, and any computer or cell phone usage is restricted to the privacy of your suite. Rovos offers several different routes and journeys to suit your ideal adventure style, ranging from a two day excursion to a fifteen day trek – an endless kaleidoscope of landscapes to explore.

3. The Orient Express

The Orient Express is arguably the most famous railway in the world. It took its maiden voyage in 1883 from Paris to Vienna, and was soon expanded to include the dreamy Paris to Istanbul route. Over the years the trains stopped periodically, during wars and political unrest, and then finally in 1976 it closed completely. However, for us lucky travelers today the line has been reopened as a private venture and restored to it’s original pristine class. Today the train runs magical routes including many of the trains original stops in cities like Prague, Budapest, and Dresden. And for us heavy on the nostalgia the celebrated Paris to Istanbul trek is resurrected once a year.

4. The Rocky Mountaineer 

Canada is vast and breathtaking and they have free healthcare. What a world. The Rocky Mountaineer has several loops and routes from coast to coast that will take you all over fine country. And glass topped train cars so you never miss a single thing. The trip I am seriously looking into is one of their circle trips, delivering you back to Vancouver at the end. It’s called The Grand Rail Circle, totaling eleven days with views of The Rockies, Banff, Jasper, and Whistler. There is also a route that takes you form one coast to he other, just incase you can never get enough Canada. When I imagine staring out the window for hours on end this is the train I am on.

5. California Zephyr 

Not the most exotic ride on the list but I am madly in love with this country and this pick happens to be in our backyard. The California Zephyr runs from Chicago to Emmeryville, California and has been since 1949. This 2,438 mile trip will take you two days and cross seven states. You will follow the Colorado River, cross the Sierras and the Rockies, traverse the deserts of Utah and Nevada and all the while you never have to stop and get gas. It is the ideal way to see a heaping portion of this country. Another wonderful revelation I’ve just had of traveling via train: I can drink at any hour. What a world. Bon voyage!

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