In February I embarked on the wildest adventure that music has lead me to thus far; a cross-country train trip from Toronto, Ontario to Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada's rails are historic and I was fortunate enough to travel them thanks to Via Rail's Artist on Board Program, an opportunity that allowed me to perform on the train in exchange for room and board. Enjoy the following footage, collected onboard and on foot after my arrival as I explored the beautiful British Columbia.
My good friend and fellow musician Sarah Hiltz was initially the person who tipped me off to the whole idea of the train and was an incredible guiding hand through the whole process of applying and preparing for my trip (peek her amazing tunes here). She herself has travelled many times on the train as a performer and was able to forewarn me about their infamous delays. My initial train from Toronto to Vancouver was about 36 hours late getting into our destination. I certainly wasn't complaining about the extra time onboard, mostly because the meals were delicious and the crew members were so friendly. Every extra minute was savoured.
The trip was incredible, spanning 3 weeks, including two seperate train trips (roughly 5 days each) with a trip to Tofino, Victoria and Vancouver, BC sandwiched somewhere in between. I was so fortunate to spend five days in Tofino with my brother Kevin who lives there full-time. My brother Matt also happened to be returning from living abroad so along with our old family friend, we spent the time together learning to surf and exploring the wonderful trails in the surrounding area. We were blessed with much sunshine and little rain which I'm told is quite out of character for Tofino at that time of year. I surfed for the first time ever (!!!) and also went into the pacific ocean for the first time (!!!!). I was atrocious, and did not stand up once for the three times we went out on the water, but would do it again in a heartbeat, even just to be able to paddle past the break to watch the waves roll quietly in to the shore.
While this trip was incredible, and I felt so fortunate to be provided this opportunity by VIA, I must say that the historic rails of Canada have a complicated past (much like the rest of Canada) that cannot go unacknowledged in this newsletter. There were many moments on the train I was reminded of the pain and terror that went into building the rails. An estimated 15,000 chinese workers built the rails in the harshest of conditions. Historians estimate 600 were killed in the process, though many memorials cite 4,000 people or higher as a more accurate number. The railway is a valuable part of Canada's history and we can appreciate it's beauty while still acknowledging and respecting the truth in its creation. These things are not mutually exclusive. You can read more about the history behind the Canadian Pacific Railway here.