West is a photo story I created on the Amtrak train this past spring
from Glenwood to California and up the West Coast to Vancouver with
stops along the way. This piece is about my experience riding Amtrak
alone for the first time on the first leg of the trip from CO to CA.
I step onto the train in Glenwood Springs headed for California with a heart
beat in every inch of my body. I am anxious and yet somehow ready for this.
The hallways smell like recycled air, stale smoke, and my freedom.
My vision is blurry. I have no intention to leave the life
I have built here behind, but in order to evaluate my relationship to
my environment I need to step outside of it.
I sit down in my seat and try to take ten deep breaths,
cliche, especially within four feet of a stranger, but necessary.
The scenery flies by at 70 miles per hour and after a while of zoning out and sipping whiskey to calm my nerves, I am too far from home to turn back and can feel a tangible shift. I start to slouch in my seat and feel a
calm smile creep onto my face.
I grab “supplies” and abandon my seat to explore the
train in hopes of finding someone else who looks as passionately lost as I feel.
Every time I wish to be back in my comfort zone, I think again to push myself further out, only to feel more weight lift.
The folks in the lounge car flip playing cards and scan
pages entirely undisturbed by the conductor on the PA passing out bits of history or by the cowboy in the corner strumming softly. I ask to share a table with a boy about my age. For a few minutes I sit and observe the
people observing the scenery beyond the glass. The energy in
the car shifts and the people start to warm up.
I quickly become acquainted with a host of beautiful strangers from many backgrounds and places. Before long two violins, a guitar,
a harmonica and my own ukulele fumbled through old country tunes with a
chorus spanning the observation car, led by a “proper cowboy.”
Bottles and snacks are passed around along with stories and small talk.
I am ready for the immaculate sunset over the desert.
By midnight we hit Salt Lake City, my whiskey is happily demolished
by new friends. I have forgotten almost entirely about the stress of routine, about the part of me I am using this train to run from.
I try to be still and focus on the sound and vibration of the
giant metal snake coming to a halt in dark.
I am so thankful to be headed west.
Visit caitofosterphotography.com/west to see the rest of this photo story.