The Trans-Siberian is one of my dreams, though in the current political climate it’s probably best to put it on hold. Truth is, I love all trains, local and long distance. If I had one to recommend, I would suggest grabbing the Amtrak that runs up the coast from San Diego or Los Angeles and take it all the way to Seattle.
There is something about the relaxing pace of train travel, the uninterrupted enjoyment of the passing landscape, the ability to roam around the massive moving structure and the chance meetings with complete strangers that is ultimately captivating, the epitome of slow travel.
If you haven’t the time, the money or are still leery of trains, start by moving up and down the SoCal coast on the Coaster where the stops are frequent and the scenery mesmerizing, or taking the MetroLink commuter from the Inland Empire to the beach. Surprisingly, after years of using Los Angeles as an example of how to build a city devoid of public transit, there is actually a pretty useful and functional lightrail system in place. It’s great for exploring. If I had to recommend a random stop, it might be Mariachi Plaza.
Enjoy this video of the Trans-Siberian Railroad trip.
I have long been a proponent of the urban adventure, taking that kind of exploratory wanderlust that we normally reserve for the wilderness and directing it to our built environments. You can choose your own route, you can ‘map your walk,’ or you can follow one of many marked, designated, and otherwise outlined paths through the concrete jungles of the world. You’ll find surprises along the way for sure, maybe even meet a fellow trekker or finally at last discover that a slow pace helps you to discover a sense of place.
My own ongoing urban adventure follows the California Coastal Trail from Mexico to Oregon, covering a lot of pavement along the way. I’m taking a break from it while I’m abroad, but look forward to resuming the walk when I return to the West Coast.
Read more about hiking urban environments in this Outside Magazine article.
One major problem in the world of travel is the high stakes involved with every adventure. We paint our experiences extraordinary in order to justify the cost, and perhaps to sound culturally sensitive. I think that each travel experience has its value even if some are less picturesque and blissful than others. Hell, I’ve been to some places that are serious dumps and in the end I think I can generally say that I am better for having visited. It’s not the destination after all, but the path we take to get there, right? Some journeys just happen to take us to places it’s best to keep on moving through.
Anyone who has attended my lectures knows that I am a strong advocate for getting out and seeing the world. If you ever need any inspiration to do just that, I recommend picking up a copy of Once While Traveling. It is the story of the adventurous minds behind the indisputable masters of the guidebook, Lonely Planet. It’s at once a global adventure as well as a wild ride along the ups and downs of building a business with the most unlikely of entrepreneurs. Good reading. I highly recommend it.
I spent a season long ago as a botanist on the Carrizo Plain, one of the coolest landscapes I have ever encountered, so I was a bit dismayed this week that it’s National Monument status might be up for revision by the new presidential administration. Then I read that Patagonia (yes, the retailer) was standing up to the attack on monuments (read about it here). It brought to mind one of the most significant and impacting films I have seen about adventure and the environment, 180° South.
One that I wish I had known about and pursued when I was a student: whitewater guide. The major rafting companies offer guide programs programs every year. I recommend OARS. Check them out here.