If Canada features in your RTW trip plans, mind you don't miss it in the blink of a flight. Of course you can zip from Toronto to Vancouver in an afternoon, but why not give yourself a break from endless, grey airport corridors and cattle queues? Stop and smell the pine trees with a
You''ll get a proper sense of this vast country, make some friends along the way and be treated to a rolling gourmet feast of landscape. Via Rail's flagship journey is the Canadian, from Toronto to Vancouver in 4 nights. It's more akin to a 'land cruise' than budget travel, but if you can be flexible, book a 75% off discount fare, advertised a week or so before departure. These cost only marginally more than a flight. Factor in the 3 course, restaurant quality fare you'll be fed three times daily and it's pretty unbeatable value.
Accommodation ranges from a curtained off bunk in a communal car to a family cabin with its own toilet and wardrobe. Regardless of your sleeping quarters, everyone eats together in the dining car at set times, like the nuclear family of yore. Getting to know your fellow diners is one of the train's most enjoyable rituals. Try and sit with different people at each meal.
Of course you'll want to spend some time taking in the panoramic views from the glass-domed Park Car, but when darkness descends head over to the Activity Car. Each has its own Activity Manager who oversees the day's diversions, ranging from beer and wine tasting, to film screenings and even bingo and sing-a-longs. There are two daily stops, where you can stretch your legs and take some air, often in poignantly deserted ghost towns such as Hornepayne or Melville, home to an extraordinary vintage car junkyard.
On the second morning, you'll get a few hours to explore Winnipeg while the train changes crew, and well, that's probably ample, but Forks Market is worth exploring for craft gifts and organic foodie fodder from across the globe. If you can only afford to do part of the route, it's worth knowing that Jasper to Vancouver is easily the most scenic and varied stretch. This takes you through the boreal mountain valleys of the Canadian Rockies to the semi-arid scrub of the 'Badlands', where the trains snakes through tunnels carved into the rockface, through gaping canyons, broad river valleys, and into the more populated farmland of British Columbia.
With no mobile or wi-fi signal for most of the way, you'll have plenty of time to reflect on your life – and isn't that a big part of what travel's all about?