USA East To West Coast: Tom’s Epic Adventure After A Year in New York! [Part One]

A few month’s back, we caught up with Irish Travel Blogger and US Grad Visa participant, Tom Burke on his first seven months living and working in New York City.

Unfortunately for him, all good things must come to an end. Having said that, what better possible way to end a life-changing 18 months in the US than travelling from NY, through 13 states, all the way to San Francisco on the Pacific coast.

An unmissable read for any J1er, Irish Grad in the US or just anyone inspired to see more of America than just the big cities. Here’s part one…

Deciding On The Final US Odyssey

I’m just finishing my J1 Graduate Visa in New York City and I wanted to end it with a big trip around America. I have already visited the main cities on the east coast (Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, etc.) so I wanted to focus this trip mainly on the west coast and the south as I have never been to either before. I will be visiting Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, LA/Santa Monica, Austin and New Orleans in just under four weeks, all by train. I will then return to New York and fly back to Ireland shortly after.

Overall, I’m devastated to be leaving New York but I’m hoping this trip will soften the blow somewhat! I will be staying in hostels all along the way and I will be on my own for the majority of it, meeting a small few friends along the way! I will be writing on the go and will be releasing new entries every couple of days. I hope you enjoy and find it useful!

Leaving New York Behind To Ride The Rail West

I saw an advertisement in Penn Station in New York about the Amtrak train experience about six months before I booked this trip and since then, I had always wanted to do it. I never got to Interrail around Europe so I didn’t want to miss a similar opportunity. One of the main reasons I’m writing these entries is that when I started planning this trip, I couldn’t find much information about it other than on the Amtrak website. Any unbiased, personal and insightful feedback was impossible to find. The main purpose of these entries is to give a valuable, informative and helpful insight into what the Amtrak train experience is like.

How do you book the trip?

Firstly, Amtrak provide three different types of packages:

  • 7 stops in 15 days – $459
  • 12 stops in 30 days – $689
  • 18 stops in 45 days – $899

Amtrak have main stations all over the country which count as one stop. You have to plan your trip accordingly abiding by the restrictions of the plan. For me, I wanted to travel for at least three weeks so the 12 stops in 30 days suited me perfectly. Although I only used six stops on my trip, I wanted to spend more time in each place as opposed to visiting more places. Quality over quantity is a way I would look at it. It really is all up to you. The system map can be found hereIt is quite extensive and covers pretty much the entire country.

IMPORTANT – You get individual tickets for each separate journey on the trip. You can change any individual part of the trip and reprint these at any point but you also get an overall package ticket, WHICH YOU CANNOT LOSE!

Getting The Packing And Essentials Right!

For this trip, I had no idea what to expect, I had never done anything like this before. I never got to inter-rail around Europe so I had nothing to compare it with. Also, being on my own for the trip definitely didn’t help the nerves. Mixed with leaving New York behind too, this created a lot of strange feelings as I left my apartment.

Overall though, I was really excited to see new cities, especially on the west coast as I’ve never experienced them before and heard such good things from friends who spent time there.

Packing wise, I knew there would be long train journeys so I kept my focus on those so I wouldn’t get bored. Here are the essentials I packed:

  • Phone (goes without mentioning I suppose).
  • Kindle
  • Camera
  • Laptop
  • Chargers for everything, including portable battery chargers

Definitely the big three to keep you occupied for the train are books/kindle, music and movies. The scenery is great on the train journeys during the day but once the sun sets, you will get bored and need to keep yourself occupied to pass the time.

Clothes wise, this is a personal preference but I definitely didn’t want to be carrying an extra heavy bag around so I packed light. Most of my hostels have washers/dryers which I will definitely put to use along the way.

So I finished packing, left my apartment in Astoria,Queens, had a coffee in Times Square and made my way to Penn Station for the first leg of my journey to Chicago…

Follow Tom’s epic journey on Instagram and Snapchat (tburkey91) and check back here later in the week for Part Two!