IT'S A GREAT BIG COUNTRY
GANDY DANCER is a nickname used for early railroad workers, more formally referred to as "section hands", who laid and maintained railroad tracks in the years before the work was done by machines. They were known for traveling en route as their worked the length of the railroad tracks.
It's going to be an extraordinary trip, and a remarkable experience traveling this summer. I'm currently on a once and lifetime trip for over a month, and chronicling the journey here. I've been lucky to visit exciting places before, but this opportunity is different. Most of my travels have been leisurely or more social in nature, and most visiting relatives across Canada and the United States.
On the horizon of my 22nd birthday, I knew this was an ideal time for me to go and exploring in a new kind of way. I’ve moved away and traveled alone before, but nothing of this magnitude. I’ve lived at camp for as much as three months, and done the same moving to Florida for work before. When I went away to University, I was away from home almost a year and a half.
But in every case, I was only moving once. I would go to another “permanent” spot, and stay there for however long I was planning. This time is different, because I’m going to be constantly mobile for nearly five weeks.
Best and worst of all, I’ll be on a train.
For all our new viewers at home, I, Tyler Collins, am embarking on a grand expedition. I will be traveling solo across Canada for the entire month of July 2017. For thirty-two days, I will be living on and off passenger trains as I go from coast to coast.
It began in March when Via Rail offered a limited number of tickets for anyone under 25 to use unlimited travel on their cross-country network of trains for one month. After two days of contemplation and shuffling on computers and phones for six hours (overnight!), I was among a small, lucky group who acquired one.
Via Rail is now calling us the Canada150 Youth travellers, but we in the group have connected since online, and we have nicknamed ourselves the #club1867, named both after Canada’s year of confederation, and the (supposed) number of passes sold.
My route will travel more than 14,700km of rails, and another 800-1,000km by car, boat, and on foot. I will be visiting 23 cities across 8 provinces, including eight of Canada’s capitals. Along the way, I’ll cross five time zones and every climate and natural environment Canada offers, from prairies to tundra and forests to shores.
I’m going to visiting some places I’ve visited before, but many of them for the first time, and most for the first time since I was a young child if at all. I’ll be visiting parks, museums, landmarks, and doing things I enjoy from hobbies too. (See: love of theatres and roller coasters.)
To help with my travels, I’ll mostly be staying with relatives and friends (or friends of friends) in various cities. Some are people I know and don’t see often because they live further away - others are known friends and family I’ve never met before.
There’s a great deal I’m going to see and do, and I’m eager for everything I’ll get the chance to experience this summer. But there’s also some questions on my mind. This promotion posed an opportunity to see Canada’s grandeur in everything it is, and so I want my trip to be about the discovery of several things.
What does celebrating a confederation mean to various people? How is the country and its citizens different from others across Canada? How are they and it the same? What qualities define our Canadian identity? Where are there things unexplored and undiscovered to be found for anyone willing to look?
These are some of the questions I’m hoping to answer or at least better understand over the next month. On a more personal level, I also want to think about myself. Who am I as a Canadian today? How am I different and the same as my city, my province, and my country as a citizen of both here and the world? Most of all, who do I want to be, am, and become?
Not everyone traveling on the Canada 150 Via ticket is going so far, or even the whole month. People using every day and train possible are in a small group, but I know I’m fortunate to be someone who can. I don’t know what I’ll learn, but I’m committing myself to answering these questions as my goal as I go.
Everyone I share my trip with is excited on my behalf, and they wish me luck and good will as I prepare to leave. Some people are envious, but most people are joyful and encouraging of me and on my behalf. They’re also far less anxious and cautious than I.
I’ve never prepared so methodically and thoroughly for any project before. But strangely enough, I’ve also never felt so prepared and armed before while also feeling so unprepared and uncertain at the same time. I have such blank expectations, with no clue what the outcome of this trip might be.
I, in attentively thinking, have no real scope or idea what I will see this summer. I can’t make an accurate guess about what I’ll feel, what I’ll learn, or what I’ll experience. I can think about what I want to see and do, but I’m also going with a creed of spontaneity, and a promise to myself I’m willing to go where the wind takes me.
That’s not to say I’ll be unsafe or overly trusting. More so, I want to be open and adventurous, willing to see something unexpected and be willing to explore things I haven’t planned. While I have bought my train tickets, and I have a safe place to sleep every night, the times in between as I wander are in God’s hands.
And I’m opening myself up to a country I know everything and almost nothing about.
Lastly, I’ll be chronically my journey here online for everyone else to see. There’s a list of people I know who’ve provided encouragement, advice, funds or assistance planning for my trip, and I, they, and you want to know what’s going on.
So I’ll be writing my daily travelogues every day here for all to see, and sharing pictures I take along the way too. This daily recap will be unedited and unfiltered (while remaining family friendly) so it reads like a journal - what I experience and think I’ll write. I’ll also capture one video log a day to share on Facebook, with links here to watch.
I’m setting these basic rules and parameters so I have some structure and order to my daily business, but also some discipline to how I document the trip for others to follow and me to remember it by. My greatest fear about going is finding something extraordinary and then forgetting it.
But I also confess, sometimes I’m too serious for my own good. I also want to go out and enjoy being in the country I’m from. I keep reminding myself how lucky I am I have the chance to go and celebrate the milestone in Canadian history by being a part of it.
With this outline in mind, I’ll stop yammering here and simply let the adventure that is be and start here. We’ll see how my optimism and openness holds after a month in coach class. For now, I’ll simply resolve myself for the journey ahead.
It's been a remarkable journey so far! Click here to see the latest updates as
my cross-Canada expedition continues!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.