Help Me Catch That Train!

6:12 AM


An Experience Like No Other
With less than a 20% chance of our view not being obscured by clouds, nervous excitement shimmered among the passengers of the McKinley Explorer. Along the way, we ohh-ed and ahh-ed at clear running rivers, rushed to the windows to see a startled moose and her calf before they disappeared into the woods and watched dozens of caribou peacefully grazing.

And we waited as one with our breath collectively held…to round the curve to see there before us…the McKinley Range in all her fabulous splendor! We celebrated this momentous event with hugs and grins, all strangers just an hour before... 

Our family of seven took an epic trip to Alaska back in June 1997. We had seven glorious days of out-of-this-world experiences. Our pace was just short of maniac with small bouts of calm interspersed. The opportunity to sit back and enjoy the gentle sway of the train on our ride to Denali was one of those sane periods of relaxation.

The large glass windows gave us plenty of room to look over each other's shoulders to take in the views. Throughout the trip, we shared many moments of camaraderie with complete strangers that seemed to form instantly as we shared those new experiences, but never more so than when we were waiting to see if Denali would reveal herself!

Lessons Learned
As this was our first big trip, we learned a number of valuable lessons. This was back in the day before digital cameras were around so we shot roll after roll of film, and we waited until after the trip to have them developed. This lead to a bit of a problem...unless you're intimately familiar with glaciers and mountain ranges, they all start to look pretty similar after the first dozen or so!

We looked at our itinerary to see if we could figure out where we were in the photos, but when the detailed information says, "Bus trip from Valdez to Anchorage," you don't have a lot to go on! The other surprise at the time was nothing, and I mean nothing, looked the same in the photos as it did when we were there! Everything was HUGE in Alaska, but in the photos? Not so much!

Too late, we realized we had relied too heavily on photos to capture our impressions of this marvelous state. While photos are a very large part of any vacation, they're but one piece. Unless you're Ansel Adams, chances are your photos are not going to capture the air temperature when you're out on the sound, the freezing winds slicing across the tarmac, how hard the mosquitos bite or the delicious, late-night meal shared with new-found friends.

Something we thought of—later—was writing down those impressions that don't translate to a photo: overheard conversations, observations about each day, favorite memories, the horse's name that was intent on dragging you through the low-hanging trees on your day trip and so forth.

It became obvious fairly quickly when we started to reminisce with our family years later, that we all had different memories and perspectives of the trip. We often wondered if we'd all been on the same trip or had taken different ones! Time blurs the details. You forget. You don't think you will, but you do. There is simply too much going on life to remember it all!

One of things we did get right was bringing home business cards, newspapers, maps, postcards, tickets, and just about anything else we came across during our trip. It turned out to be invaluable when we began to map our days. Just looking through the collection of ephemera often jogged a memory or forgotten detail.

I think the biggest benefit to going back and putting together a travel journal was simply that it allowed us to relive the trip and our experiences again! Sharing our impressions and memories with one another brought the magic back to life.

It wasn't until we pulled out our box of ephemera and photos along with my sister-in-law's scrapbook that we realized just how much we had forgotten. As my husband and I worked on our travel journal together (this trip occurred waaaaaaay before I became a serious, sketchbook-keeping artist), it became obvious that time stands still for no one and it takes our memories with it on its relentless forward march.

There is something about traveling that opens our eyes, our minds and our hearts. It elevates the ordinary day to the extraordinary and it helps us to see the world and our place in it much more clearly. 

Please Help Me To Catch A Train!
Raileurope.com is offering a chance at a phenomenal trip via rail across Europe in September of this year and I so want to be on that train! As I have just started to work on a book about travel journaling, I'd love, love, love to win this opportunity so that I could incorporate my experiences into the book based on the lessons learned from our Alaska adventure twenty years ago along with all the other trips in-between. 

A Little Help From You, Please
The #TalesonRail2017 competition ends in a little over a week and I would greatly appreciate your help. If you have an Instagram account, I would so appreciate it if you would scoot over and leave a like and maybe a comment on my entry. You can find it here. Thank you so very much for your help!

@raileurope    #TalesonRail   #TalesonRail2017   #Travel   #RailTravel

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1 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Dear Laure - it was such fun reading about your trip to Alaska. So hope you can catch the train in Sept. It sounds like an awesome trip. Hugs!

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