I’ve never travelled long distances by train. When I was younger, my family always drove or took to the skies for family vacations. I had nothing against train travel, I’d just never really experienced it.
This changed in early March, when my friend Maddie and I heard about VIA Rail’s new Canada 150 Youth pass. The passes would be sold to a limited (and incredibly lucky) number of passengers for Canada’s 150th anniversary. When we discovered this unbelievable deal, there was no question as to whether or not we would try to get one. Luck was on our side, and in June we graduated university eagerly awaiting our #VIACanada150 trip. We were among the youth and young adults who had secured these passes, and would be privy to unlimited travel in July through VIA Rail.
It is now day seven of our month-long trip and here’s what I’ve learned thus far: travel by train rocks. VIA Rail travel is far more spacious than airplane travel; I don’t infringe upon the personal space of the passenger behind me when I lean my chair back, and I can comfortably have a purse and a small backpack at my feet with legroom to spare. The food has been tasty with a much better selection than other forms of travel. And hot water is among things provided for free – as a tea lover, this has me on cloud nine!
My favourite thing about travelling by train has been the people I’ve met. Airplanes and airports are hubs for antisocial behaviour; people are often tense about getting through security and safely to their destination. The mood on trains and in train stations could not be more different. People are relaxed and excited about both their destination and the journey itself. When a person’s travel is enjoyable, everyone is more pleasant to be around. The natural side effect of this type of experience is that you get to meet awesome people, which is part of the reason why journeys like this are so important.
I met Marianne, a student from Vaughan, Ontario, while on my trip to Montreal. She’s also a Canada Youth 150 Pass holder, and she recognized us by our yellow ‘Youth 150’ bracelets (provided to all pass holders by VIA Rail). I’m not normally an outgoing person, but meeting people who are travelling on the same trains as me, andespecially the other Youth 150 Pass holders, has been easy. I love how getting this pass has connected me to the other young people of Canada, in person and online.
The VIA Rail Youth 150 Facebook group, #Club1867, was created by Josh Gawa as a way for travellers with this pass to connect. I’ve never been to the east coast but I will be travelling to the Maritimes this month, so I asked the other members for suggestions. The influx of recommendations and advice from group members overwhelmed me, and it’s been the same for anyone who posts on the group page.
We share our itineraries, advertise spots in our rental cars for those travelling the same way, comment on Instagram pictures and dream of those destinations to come.
And the #VIACanada150 journey continues …