After the whirlwind that was our Summer by Rail experience, I’ve finally had some time to sit and think about all that Cate and I have seen and done. Looking back on pictures and blog posts, it seems surreal that we actually completed our 28-day, 25 city, 10,000 mile journey. From Niagara Falls, to the Rocky Mountains, to the Pacific Coast, we’ve seen some incredible things, and have had some life changing experiences along the way. However, what has struck me most is the sense of connectedness that is truly present in our country. From community to community, I saw neighbors helping neighbors, and friends supporting one another in countless ways. People care about small businesses that create community and drive the economy of their towns. It was wonderful to see the American Dream alive in countless communities across the country. On another note, after experiencing several cities and towns, I feel a physical sense of connectedness to a variety of places in America.

With this physical connection comes a feeling of community, especially in times of hardship. Take for example. with the devastation that Hurricane Harvey left in its path, I feel a sense of connection to Texas and the Gulf Coast that I have never before felt. When natural disasters such as Harvey, or Katrina, strike, it is easy to feel removed from the situation, though nonetheless sympathetic, if we are not directly impacted. However, after actually passing through Texas, and seeing the Gulf Coast for myself, I feel a sense of closeness to these communities, and the people who live there. In my opinion, the only way to begin to fully connect with one another is to spend a day in one another’s shoes. That connectedness, I believe, is something that can only be brought to us by long distance train travel, and the communal, shared experience that train travel offers.

Cate and I were greeted with nothing but kindness, hospitality, and generosity in each town that we visited. Most every person we encountered went above and beyond to welcome us into his or her community, even if it was just for a day. There is so much value in getting to experience the entirety of America. It is my hope that more people will take the time to travel this way, and to see our country from sea to shining sea, and everything in between.

By – Victoria Principato

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