GETTING THERE

So, you’re over 60 with time on your hands. Maybe you’re retired and looking for a new experience. Travel, you think. Excellent idea, as long as you actually travel. You see, traveling is not about simply moving from point A to point B. That’s a business trip, for which modern flying was invented.

Oh, one can still travel by air—just not you or me. If there are any travelers on a plane, they’re up front, being served a five-course meal before they’re tucked into their real beds for the night. Not back in the cattle car with the rest of us.

Traveling—the kind that’s broadening, as the saying goes—is most definitely not about ‘getting there’, which seems the only reason today’s aerial cattle cars exist.

Real travel is about exploration.

It begins the moment you lock your front door and climb into that taxi. You, the traveler, have chosen the opportunity to slow down, to pay attention, to be aware of the people, places and things around you. That’s why, sauvignon blanc in hand, I’m writing this from the cocktail lounge of Via’s transcontinental train, the Canadian.

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Next time you’re snacking on stale pretzels at 35,000 ft., think of this. Cream of asparagus soup, followed by braised shrimp and scallops on a bed of greens, served with fresh potato salad and Saskatoon compote. That’s what I had for lunch this afternoon as we watched the amazing snowscape that is Manitoba in winter speed past our window. Better yet, it’s included in the price of my ticket, as is tonight’s dinner and all subsequent meals, until we arrive in Vancouver 36 hours hence, showered, rested and refreshed.

Dining on a train is a unique experience. Instead of isolating, it invites conversation. The people you’ll meet, travelers all, are invariably interesting in my experience, their eagerness to share stories only enhanced by fine wine and good food. Train people—sadly a smallish fraternity in North America—have been places and seen things that those poor souls trapped far above us can only imagine. Yes, those fliers will be in Vancouver long before me. But when I compare their stories of cancelled flights and lost luggage with the tales I’ve heard on the train—what the midnight sun is like in Tromso, Norway, the progress of medical projects in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or the challenges of running a political party in Alberta—I know where I’d rather be.

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