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Family Travel Unyear, Days 1-3 (Sept 14-16): Amtrak to Indiana

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 26 September 2016

During our year of family travel, it is our desire to rely on cars as little as possible. There’s principle underpinning that desire. For decades, I have advocated for (and written about) a form of travel called responsible or sustainable tourism. (More on that at a later date.) There’s also practice: I don’t really like driving. And as I’m the only one of our quartet with a license, we will often have to search for alternatives.

Jane, Rohan and Kai headed out the door

The beginning of our journey, hurrying out the door to catch a train at Penn Station. All rights reserved

But, as a family, given the reality of our economic situation (I need to keep working in order to afford what we’re doing) and, sometimes, the speed required to cover some ground, we’re hardly going to be orthodox ecotourists. (That can be a future journey, one I would very much like to take.) Think of us as flexible vegetarians, guided by a desire to eat what’s right, but when hungry and facing limited choice, open to bending the rules. Respectfully.

Our first choice of conveyance was an easy one. We all really like trains, even the boys. Trains may take longer than other means of transport, but they’re not cars (enough said on that point), way more comfortable than planes (in economy), offer an ever-shifting ground-level view of the landscape we cross, are usually more environmentally sound than the alternatives and, as I have been carefully collecting miles on the Amtrak Guest Rewards program, could be booked for free! Quintuple win.

Jane and Rohan with Indy the dog

Jane and Rohan with Indy the dog on a Lake Michigan beach in Indiana Dunes National Park. All rights reserved

So on the mid-afternoon of September 14, right around the time when Rohan’s and Kai’s friends were getting out of school, we boarded Amtrak train 49 (the Lakeshore Limited) at Penn Station in NYC and headed west! (We arrived with not as much time to spare as desired, so, alas, I don’t have a proper ‘Heave off’ picture. This hasty grab two above as we were walking out the door of my dad’s apartment will just have to do.)

After an very tolerable overnight on the train, our first port of call was Elkhart, Indiana, where we were met by my friend and colleague, Kit Bernardi. Kit and I both work for the Family Travel Association (FTA), a coalition whose mission is to inspire families to travel more by expanding their understanding of what’s possible. A great fit with what my family is doing, right?! You bet. We’re walking the talk! (Kit and I will be meeting again, along with scores of other delegates, at the FTA Summit being held in Tucson, Arizona, from October 23-26.)

Rohan and Kai on the shores of Lake Michigan

Rohan and Kai on the shores of Lake Michigan. All rights reserved

Kit, a professional travel journalist of long standing, had offered to soften the landing of our first days on the road by letting us stay with her in Beverly Shores, a beautiful community on the edge of Lake Michigan and surrounded by Indiana Dunes National Park. Under her generous care, we enjoyed two sweet days and nights of conversation, games, good food, dips in the cold waters of the lake, skipping rocks, romping with Indy the dog, and even a special visit by Jessie Voigts and Ed Forteau, travel writing colleagues of several years whom it was great to meet in person. (Rohan performed some magic and Kai played his ukulele to mark the moment.)

Kit has the high (and deserved) privilege of being the first name on our Unyear Honor Roll! Many thanks to her for her hospitality. And to Jessie and Ed for the excellent company and delicious additions to dinner.

Next stop: Chicago!

The four of us with Kit Bernardi at Beverly Shores train station

The four of us with Kit Bernardi, preparing to leave Beverly Shores. All rights reserved

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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beaches, children, lakes, national parks, North America, Northern America, personal experience, USA,

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