From Seattle to LA on The Coast Starlight
“Sorry, sir, we don’t have any window seats left,” the attendant said, “but the observation car has big glass windows.”
With that picture in mind, I boarded Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles on a sunny winter day. I curiously went to see the observation car.
I’m from India, where the majority of people travel by train. Thus, I carry a distinct perception of a train journey: crowded coaches, aunties making conversation, families playing card games, the smell of home cooked food, the noise of crying babies, and the freedom of opening the doors of the running train to feel the wind.
While that feeling is unmatched, this Amtrak journey on West Coast was like daydreaming. The minute I entered the observation car, I was met with floor-to-ceiling windows, grand views of Pacific Ocean, dolphins jumping out the water, and snowy peaks of the Olympic National Park. It was a relaxed, yet exciting, way to experience nature.
Portland was my first stop and I quickly realized it’s an easy city to fall in love with. When the sun comes out here, the city transforms. If you don’t see people out enjoying the snow, its because they are busy eating amazing food, enjoying tax-free shopping, or hiking the mountains.
Although the train was delayed, my second stop brought me to San Francisco’s Financial District. The downtown area felt like a scene out of Westworld: busy, big, and scary. Once I was away from the giant buildings, San Francisco offered easy access to stunning hills and the Pacific Ocean, with above-the-clouds views that lend themselves to the city’s charm and individuality.
My last stop was Los Angeles. Winter in L.A. felt like a Seattle summer, and I was happy to spend some time here. L.A. has its own unique offerings — Hollywood, actors who are really waiters, waiters who are really actors, Griffith Observatory, the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, and astounding street art. The United States’ second largest city has something for everyone.
After my visit to L.A., I traveled back to Seattle—just in time to welcome the new year and enjoy the snow.
There are many things I’ve learned from my travel —being spontaneous in the moment, the power of putting down the camera, or of making conversations with strangers—but the most important is to find patience, to see it breathing and changing forms.
Sometimes I just stared out of the window for hours looking at ocean and mountains. I walked to unknown destinations just to feel the pleasure of walking. I watched the setting sun and observed how it transformed both the landscape and human emotion with each minute. There’s power in that, in understanding the fundamentals of our invisible self. Patience, pleasure, desire, and emotions. Traveling makes you slow down and gives you enough time to think about things that make you, you.
About the Author: Nitish Kumar Meena is a travel photographer based in Seattle and works as a designer at Microsoft. You can see his work at instagram.com/nitishq.