Finding a New Pace on the California Zephyr

Finding a New Pace on the California Zephyr

As children, adults remind us to enjoy it now, because life speeds up the older we get. The days are long, but the years are short, they’d say. Eventually, we begin to experience it for ourselves. We forget moments. We frame our memories by decades. Anxiety delivered by the pace of it all.

A recent train trip from San Francisco to Chicago shifted things for me. At the nudge of a new friend, I cancelled my return flight from California to Boston in exchange for a long way round. I would board Amtrak’s California Zephyr and trade a six-hour return above the land for a 52-hour journey across it.

I found myself battling the operating system postmodern society seems to run in us all. At 44 years of age, I’d become adept at grabbing onto the progress of our times: mobility and technology. A six-hour flight would free me up. A 52-hour journey? I don’t have time for that.

Traveling through the Sierra Nevadas and the Colorado Rockies on over 100-year-old technology sans internet and a broken iPhone turned out to be the perfect prescription. The opposite of losing 46 hours, I gained them back. An eternity of open space and time to examine cloud formations once again. To hear the laughter of strangers, and the sounds of my own thoughts. In solitude with my camera, I would record fresh landscapes as new memories at a beautifully slow pace.

Our culture has become adept at convincing us that the more time we save, the more we have. This time-warp isn’t true. Staying active and busy builds memories, but they’re most remembered when we stay present. Details are preserved and experiences recalled more vividly, giving us the sensation of time passing slowly. Choosing to warp-time through speed and progress doesn’t work. It only causes the sensation of life passing by as our recollections fade. If you’re unsure of this, leave the keys and take a walk. See how time slows and more details come into view.

If I could convince you to take the long way home, to choose paths that take more time, I believe you’ll start to notice the white fluffy clouds again, making the days and the years longer.

About the Author: Brett William is a lover of open spaces and wild places. He is a cinematic photographer and director based in Northern New England; you can see more of his work at