I’m off! The first leg of my travels have taken me from Toronto to Jasper (Alberta).

Saying goodbye to my brother and father at Union Station in Toronto. My bag is very new and shiny.

Freight trains have the right of way, which means this little train had to wait and wait throughout the night. But it doesn’t matter at all to me that’s we’re two hours behind schedule.

Trains trains for days and days.

Boys from Ottawa travel West with their guitars without cases and play Let It Be, which is at first is a bit obnoxious and then charming and then obnoxious again. On the train, you can watch the sky become light and listen to 20-year-old boys compete with pot stories and be glad they’re both getting off in Sudbury.

The soothing sounds in economy class.

On the first day on the train, I thought maybe I’d become un-fun and too uptight to travel like this. But it turned out that it was because it was my first day and I hadn’t quite relaxed enough to truly appreciate how cool it is to sing along to stummy renditions of songs by The Arcade Fire at 6am.

Ontario’s trees and water are very pretty.

I shunned away negative thoughts and enjoyed speaking to the nurse from Kerala sitting across from me. I learned the word for tiger, but I’m not sure exactly in which language. Ontario is beautiful and huge. The Arrogant Worms were right when they said “There are rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks; there are rocks and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and water.” But they’re really nice trees and rocks and water and the sky is an unbeatable blue.

Train (and hostel, it turns out) breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After days of Ontario, it seemed that we whipped through Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I slept through Saskatoon.  At 10:30 pm, the sun wasn’t quite set yet and there were hundreds of huge dragon flies outside the train window. I listened to farmers talk about crops and the politics of selling elevators.

The prairies.

When we pulled into Winnipeg before anything was open in the morning, I unsociably separated from the little train clique that had formed because I wanted to be alone and walk in silence for a while in the Forks and not go searching for bacon and guitar strings. I met a couple from Rimouski that had ridden their motorcycle all the way to Winnipeg and were getting ready to ride back through the US. They suggested I take the half-hour boat tour. And I did. And it was amazing to be outside with the fresh air and wind whipping through my hair after days on a train.

You cannot buy a cup of coffee in the Edmonton train station.

From Edmonton to Jasper, I sat upstairs in the bubble car, where you can get a higher-up, better view of everything (including bug carcasses splattered across the front windows).  Watching the Rocky Mountains appear behind the trees and through the clouds was amazing. The pictures of this moment are not amazing. But this is how excited and in awe we were:

Jacob, Olia and Matt as the Rockies appeared.

When we arrived in Jasper, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay on the train. Looking out a window now, it’s slightly weird that the trees aren’t whizzing by. They’re just rooted there.

But then I walked around the town full of adventure equipment shops surrounded by mountains, had a sandwich on fresh bread, caught the shuttle to the hostel surrounded by forest and mountains, listened to ukulele tunes around a camp fire and slept in a real bed (top bunk, mind you).

Elk!

And after spending a morning at Maligne Canyon checking out falls and rivers and tasting buffalo berries (bears eat 200,000 of these berries that taste like cranberries, soap, and cigarette ash with a lovely astringent aftertaste a day), having my breath taken by Maligne and Medicine Lakes, and, as the other people in the little tour took a cruise around to Spirit Island, my amazing guide Marie and I walked and saw flowers and lichen and when it started to pour, took refuge under trees with a deer.

Jasper National Park.

Now I don’t want to go back on the train tomorrow to continue the journey. That’s the trouble with travel: you’re constantly leaving. This can also be a good thing, depending on the context. My hope for this trip is that I’ll always and consistently be sad to be leaving places.

My home sweet home for the next little while.

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