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Potential visit to Canada and the US by moult

My job came to an unacrimonious end last month, so I have time on my hands, and I’m thinking about visiting the US and Canada. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but have repeatedly put out of mind.

I’d like to see places, meet people, understand the culture(s) better (ideally replacing my 15-year-old self’s foggy observations of it), capture ideas and references for my art, and (I hope) break down a little of my own timidity and reclusiveness. (Putting off the inevitable job-hunt is purely incidental.)

The route is currently a bit blurry in my mind, but I’m thinking to start in New York, go around south-eastern Canada through Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and continue into the Midwest.* Beyond that I don’t know. I would love to make it all the way to the north-west coast, but I don’t know whether the time allotted (90 days without special permission, I believe) or my money will last that long.

To add to the fun, I don’t drive (working on it, but I won’t be a candidate for car hire for at least a year), so I’d be trying to do this by train and bus, staying in hostels and B&Bs.

I’m trying not to leave it too late (as I understand the winters there can be a bit parky). Having got a couple of weddings out of the way, I could be going by late September.

Americans and Canadians among you: does this sound at all feasible? Have you ever done something similar? Is there anything you’d recommend I should see or do (or warn me not to see or do)?

* If that route holds and the timing's right, there is also the (fun/scary) potentiality that I could attend this year’s Midwest Furfest. My history with furry cons is brief and anxiety-sodden, but it’s so tempting, and I hope I’m more resilient now than I was then.

Potential visit to Canada and the US


11 August 2015 at 02:58:37 MDT

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    Hmm... I would recommend against Amtrak if you want to travel in the U.S. by train, but it's unfortunately the only option. But, there is a low cost bus service in Canada and the U.S. called Megabus:

    I've ridden between states many times and it's always been pretty decent with stops for fast food and pee breaks. It's also VERY cheap depending on how long you book in advance.

    I would also recommend looking at AirBnB for staying in Canada and the U.S. I've never done it before, but I've heard good things. Basically, someone runs an independent hotel of sorts out of their own home, an extra apartment, or guest house:

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      I'm not hearing much love for Amtrak :) I do love train travel but perhaps it comes of living in a small and trainy nation, so I won't pursue that love over common sense.

      We have Megabus here too. I haven't tried it but it's incontrovertibly the cheapest way from A to B.

      A few people have recommended AirBnB. Presumably you need to exercise a little caution, but it seems like a relatively cheap and sociable way to accommodate yourself.

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    You could totally do it by bus, but don't expect it to be anything like travelling by bus in the UK (er, that's where you are, right?) Large cities can be hundreds of miles apart. You'll spend a lot of time just riding. And riding. And riding some more. Hostels are also not really a thing over here? That AirBnB link looks promising but your options might be more limited here than they are in your area. Of course, there's no shortage of choices if you do have to go with a hotel/motel. You can find places to stay one way or the other.

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      Yeah, that's one of the things I've heard about people coming to the U.S. for the first time. Travelers sometimes don't realize how vast the distances between major cities are. If you don't own a car, outside of major cities your options can be pretty limited and that also applies for traveling between cities. If you want to save money and don't mind spending all day on a bus, Megabus or even Grayhound might be your best bet. Other than that, I'd fly since I've never met someone who has willingly ridden Amtrak more than once.

      As for places to see, Chicago and New York City are really cool! The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago was really impressive and deep dish pizzas are pretty good too!

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        Amtrak was fine 20+ years ago; some of my best childhood memories are from cross-country train trips. I never hear anything good about them anymore though. :c

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          That's what I've heard! Most of the recent experiences and reviews of Amtrak paint it as being pretty hellacious. It's kind of a let down, because the Japanese rail system is phenomenal and I know I'm going to miss it when I return to the U.S.

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      i wouldn't say hostels aren't a thing, but they're certainly less of a thing. most major cities have at least one and some smaller cities also have them. still, i can speak very positively of airbnb. i've taken advantage of it on six or so occasions and have always had overwhelmingly positive experiences.

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      I'm very wary of the scale of North America. Your average US state seems to be about the size of England :)

      I'm willing to spend the odd day getting between places, but I don't want to bore myself absolutely stupid for the sake of thrift - so I'll try to weigh up the time and the cost as sensibly as I can.

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    MFF is great. Id try to persuade you to head south, but there really isn't anything interesting down here.

    Id also say that bus is okay for short distances, but anything more than a state or two is terrible. Maybe Canada has better buses?

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      Nice to hear that MFF is one of the good ones (since I don't have much of a clue).

      I think the south (or the South) may be an adventure for another time.

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        It's not a great one, so you won't have to feel bad about skipping it.

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    Canada has Via Rail. I've never used it, but it's pretty affordable. It takes a long time to get around, what with all our vast, empty spaces, but you can get from Halifax to Vancouver if you've got a week to spare (And like $600, but less ambitious trips are a lot cheaper). It sounds like you're trying to take a pretty relaxed vacation, so I think Via is the way to go if you come through Canada.

    If you come by Toronto, I would recommend:

    A. The zoo is really large and nice, though strangely lacking in canids (But the penguins are fun)
    B. The Royal Ontario Museum is full of fun stuff no matter what period of history you're most interested in.
    C. The Art Gallery of Ontario is nice but be prepared to see a lot of paintings of snow scenes.

    I'd stay away from the downtown core. Maybe it's just because I work there, but it's a hellscape.

    You can get just about anywhere on public transit, and it's a safe city, too.

    If you'd rather see the countryside, there's a commuter train that'll take you north to our lovely Lake Simcoe for about fifteen CAD. There's a lot of lovely countryside on the way there, too.

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      My heart thrills to the phrase 'vast, empty spaces' :)

      I'm not in a hurry, and it sometimes grates with me to take the plane (you're sealed in the magic can at point A, gravity things happen, and you're unsealed again at point B. It's convenient but something's lost from of the experience of travel), so taking the VIA route is tempting. I'll try to cost and schedule it out.

      Toronto's definitely on my itinerary, so thank you for the pointers.

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    Greyhound used to have a 60-day pass called the Ameripass. A friend of mine traveled around the country that way a few years ago, but I can't find anything about it now. I think it may have been discontinued.

    For all that people are saying about Amtrak, frankly it isn't that bad. Lots of delays, but I feel like you get that with any form of mass transit. The trouble with Amtrak is that it doesn't go through all major cities -- it has limited routes especially in the flyover states. If you want to reach a city that has no Amtrak route, you'll have to take a bus partway there anyway.

    If you come to the States, it's worth passing through the Denver area and seeing the Rocky Mountains. Gorgeous in the autumn.

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      It's a pity if there isn't a pass like that, though I suppose that sort of thing is always of marginal interest, and marginal profit to the bus operator :/

      I'll see if I can get to the Rockies for Autumn. The problem with the timing of this trip is that somewhere has to get the short end of the seasonal stick and be the place I head for as winter draws in; and that's more likely to be the States, being the more temperate of the nations. (I'm oversimplifying I know, and I'd wrap up warmly anywhere, but that's what's weighing on my mind.)

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        If you're spending most of your time in the eastern part of the continent, it may be easier to focus on the east coast in the U.S. There's more comprehensive inter-city train service and everything's closer together. Things spread out pretty quickly as you head west.

        I think it's worthwhile to take some time in the South (I'd suggest Savannah, GA, or New Orleans), if only because it's like a different country from the upper east coast. It's also light jacket weather there when the north is buried in snow.

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    Come to Ottawa if you like museums & brutalist architecture!

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      That's two yeses!

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    there's a service on the east coast called MegaBus that has like ~$20 or less bus fare, but i'm not sure how far off the coast it travels or if there's an equivalent in the midwest or elsewhere. at any rate i hope you can find comfy transit and accommodations!

    (also i just moved to the pacific northwest and if you can get here i would highly recommend it because it is a beautiful green cathedral of huge floppy evergreens)