Surprising Things About 160 Hours On Amtrak Trains + Photos

  • As a solo traveler, I decided to explore the United States by train with an Amtrak Rail Pass.
  • I was surprised by the fresh meals, the friendly passengers, the relaxing solitude and the feeling of security.
  • The lack of Wi-Fi didn’t bother me, as well as the amazing view and the roomettes were worth it.

I traveled the Americas by train in less than 30 days using an Amtrak Rail Pass which I got for $ 299 (the price is now closer to $ 499).

Traveling by Amtrak train was the perfect transition to the intrepid world of solo travel. The room options were impressive and even more comfortable than flying first class through the air.

Here are some things that surprised me during my trip:

I had to reserve my place for meals

a rose in front of a dining car window next to a box of sugars and a bowl of cream

I didn’t expect to have to reserve places for meals.

Kaitlyn cheung

About an hour before the start of the meals, a member of the crew came to take our reservations for our seats in cabins reminiscent of American diners in the late 19th century.

It seemed old-fashioned to have to reserve a seat in a dining car, but there was nothing wrong with feeling like you were on a train at “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

I loved watching the scenery unfold through the window as I ate lunch with my nose in a book.

Food on the coach was basic but options in the dining car exceeded my expectations

A fresh salad with croutons and orange juice.

A chef prepared fresh meals for first class passengers.

Kaitlyn cheung

For Amtrak, the coach is the lowest seating level, and these passengers have a cabin-shaped cafe on the lower level of the train or at the end of a compartment, depending on the type of train.

It was stocked with burgers, hot dogs, and other microwaveable treats and snacks that one would typically find at a baseball game concession stand.

During this time, in first class, I learned on board that the train has a chef to serve passengers in the rooms with freshly prepared meals.

After a refreshing salad, warm baked potatoes and a gooey cheesecake, I’ll never be able to go back to slicing Biscoffs on planes.

The strangers on the train were friendly and chatty

Freelance writer Kaitlyn Cheung with a camera.

I didn’t feel alone at all.

Kaitlyn cheung

I thought making friends with strangers on a train would have been difficult or embarrassing, but my train mates were almost always the ones to initiate the conversation.

I discovered that my full size DSLR camera served as a great conversation starter. People turned to questions like “What photos are you taking? “” Where are your travels taking you? And “What kind of cameras do you like and why?”

Some fear that traveling alone will be lonely, but I have been able to meet interesting people with different stories.

I didn’t feel the need to be online

A menu against a window.

Without distractions, I was able to read and think.

Kaitlyn cheung

Thanks to the lack of Wi-Fi on a number of Amtrak trains, I found that most passengers were just daydreaming out the window, reading a big book, or having a friendly chat with the people sitting around them.

A train isn’t what people typically think of when it comes to leisure travel, but I have found a lot of personal care value in traveling under the radar where no one can reach me.

I also found it easier to be present without distraction.

I felt incredibly safe traveling alone as a woman

With the conductor often traveling down the hall to check tickets, I felt reassured knowing that there was always a crew member on board.

As a solo traveler for the first time, I felt my belongings were safe from pickpockets and I didn’t experience any harassment or unwanted advances.

The views took my breath away

A view from the seat of an Amtrak.

The sunny views from the train were unbeatable.

Kaitlyn cheung

I got to see fascinating views of states I had never set foot in before, like New Mexico and Montana.

I felt like I was on Mars walking through the red sand dunes outside of Albuquerque. I felt so peaceful walking through the lush forests of West Glacier.

I wouldn’t have been able to see these views if I had been in the clouds.

the small rooms were designed in a very compact way

amtrak room

I thought there was a lot of space in my room.

Kaitlyn cheung

i was impressed by the Amtrak chamber which had seats below and a foldable bed on top. Theoretically, each space could contain two people.

On the upper bunk of the alcove there was a comforter and even a seat belt to prevent a person from falling out of the bunk.

On the bottom bunk there were pillows, free bottled water, a charging socket, and a trash can.

The train passenger community is very strong and welcoming

Amtrak on the rails.

The train community was a nice surprise.

Kaitlyn cheung

Before the trip, I had no idea that there was such a large community of avid train travelers.

From chatting with a Phoenix mother and son, I learned that he memorized all types of trains, could tell me which route to take if I wanted to travel from city to city, and which cities had stations in a state.

There is even Facebook memes groups for those who love public transport and swear by it.

Some of the passengers were extremely well prepared

A box full of tea, food, and masks on an Amtrak seat.

Some passengers were super prepared for the trip.

Kaitlyn cheung

Most overnight train passengers brought pillows, snacks, newspapers and eye masks.

They came prepared with everything they would need to help them make an overnight coach train ride. Someone even had a bag of fruit and a paring knife.

After my experience I’m a big fan of train travel now

Freelance writer Kaitlyn Cheung on the train.

I highly recommend traveling by train.

Kaitlyn cheung

This entire piece is basically a hymn to train travel.

With plenty of legroom, a long digital detox, nice people to chat with, I can’t say enough good things about train travel. Plus, I fulfill my dream of staring out of a train window and wistfully thinking of my long lost lover.

If you haven’t tried it yet, traveling by train should be your next adventure.

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