Amtrak: camaraderie in suspended time

I am lucky to have this season of life to slow down and take in my surroundings. I took my first ride on Amtrak a couple weeks ago and found an overwhelming sense of peace in that journey. It was picturesque to be sure, but even more remarkable was the air, this spirit of camaraderie in suspended time. Perhaps it’s the dated perception of train travel, that the lounge car was filled with families from a Canadian Amish community, or embracing the now foreign idea of sharing a meal with strangers, but as we chugged along through golden fields and reddening trees I felt an overwhelming clarity. Like a snow globe of a forgotten era, we were living. Truly living.

I also decided to treat myself to a dinner reservation in the Amtrak dining car. Sharing a meal with three strangers and talking about this need for slower living, I looked at myself from the outside and noticed a changed self. I knew that I had changed and will continue to change. As Amit Abraham says, “Happy are those that evolve from within.”

While on the Amtrak I wrote this poem:

What a marvel, this other world of train travel.
Like a bygone era, towns and fields pass by silently, perfectly.
On we go, traveling where cars can’t reach
Seeing this land with new eyes, better eyes.
We are all humans here, coming or going,
Sharing this space so differently than we would the air.
Open and content to enjoy the ride.
A wise woman once said that our lives are a poem.
I think this train is a poem, its passengers writing each line as they roam, as they engage, as they breathe.

[Elisabeth Fondell]


Note: the wise woman noted above is Naomi Shihab Nye, a wonderful poet that speaks to the idea of our lives being a poem. I originally learned of her in an On Being interview with Krista Tippett. Please listen here and be changed:

Also note: Amtrak shared the photo above on their instagram. See here:

My name is Elisabeth Fondell. I quit my corporate retail job in May of 2016 and have been on a self-appointed sabbatical ever since. In the pursuit of reclaiming my life, I’ve spent this sabbatical filling my days with travel to illuminating places, thought provoking words, poems, pottery, and the pursuit of wholeness.
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  • Jumping over here to say that I love the Amtrak and thought was reflection was a perfect summation of Amtrak travel!

    • Andy, thank you! I cannot believe I didn’t travel on Amtrak sooner – I guess I never had time before (or never thought I had time, that is). I am hooked and look forward to my next cross-country trip.

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