• Michelle Mackay

Travelling Hopefully

Freight Trains i​n Canada are HUMUNGOUS

In September I became fascinated with Canadian freight trains - who isn’t right? We travelled by train from Jasper in the Rockies to Prince Rupert on the western coast of Canada - an historic 1160km train journey developed in the early 1900’s for, among other things, European fur traders, desperate to fulfil the demand back in London and Paris. The geography of the Rockies and early engineering practices resulted in a single track in some places. This, coupled with the fact that freight takes precedent over passenger in Canada meant quite a bit of time for us sat in a railroad siding, sipping a G&T, waiting for the seemingly endless freight trains to pass.

And they are long, ridiculously long - up to 2 miles long and they double stack the shipping containers to create a chain of hundreds of huge, multi-coloured boxes brimming with consumer delights travelling from Asia to the rest of Canada, the US and beyond.

We arrived in Prince Rupert at 1:30am - only 5 hours behind schedule with the crew still in fine form - apparently that’s a good day - they have been delayed 24 hours before. Prince Rupert Container Terminal is expanding, it has already increased it’s capacity by 50% and will expand further by 2020 to cope with demand. The train company is working to implement double track where it can, but the landscape sometimes makes it impossible.

Seeing the sheer number of containers and the enormity of the Container Terminal really made me think about how much stuff we all buy and I couldn’t help wondering what all the containers were carrying and whether we really need it all. Based on recent purchasing habits of my granddaughter they were probably full of little pots of slime and things called squishies (these appear to be stress balls for kids, often in the shape of a unicorn, who knew….). I wonder if the pioneers who built the track would have approved?

One thing is for sure, the delay on this epic train journey is sadly only going to get longer with more expansion. Thankfully, this was about the journey and not just about getting to a destination, so rather than getting cross or frustrated, we sat back, relaxed with the new friends we had made and enjoyed the awesome scenery - who doesn’t need more of that in life?

Sometimes we need a leap of faith to make stuff happen

That trip to Canada was a pretty big adventure and I’m not a naturally adventurous traveller - in fact I’m not very brave at all, travelling or otherwise. I’m an analyst at heart, one who can massively overthink the what-ifs and I love getting lost in parallel universes - great for creativity and problem-solving, not so good for decision making. Historically, I have needed a cast iron guarantee before I’ll embark on something - the outcome and each step along the way very clear before I even begin. This year I noticed that I have started taking a different approach, I’ve realised that sometimes you can just do step 1 before deciding what steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 look like or whether they even exist at all. What a revelation.

Remember Indiana Jones trying to save his father in the Last Crusade - the bit where he got to the Invisible Bridge and he had to take a literal leap of faith? He thought about it for what seemed like an age, eventually took the step and immediately gave a massive sigh of relief as his foot hit something solid. Sometimes we don’t know what will happen until we take our own leap of faith and the fear of that unknown can paralyse us, but the most amazing things can happen when we do and often it’s not as scary as we built it up to be.

If I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and left my corporate career I would never have met or reconnected with the amazing people that have featured in my life this year. I wouldn’t have been approached by the small businesses I’ve worked with, reviewing processes and providing coaching and I would never have started my own business - something that kind of happened by accident and is exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measures.

You can make yourself feel braver

I’m not suggesting that I now live recklessly, making decisions willy-nilly without thinking about the consequences — once an analyst, always an analyst. I still weigh up the pros and cons and think about the outcome I want to achieve, I just don’t spend so much time worrying about the negative scenarios as they are normally much scarier in my head than in real life. Rather than waste time thinking about the what-ifs, I’m now much more likely to find the confidence to do something, see what happens in reality and plan the next step accordingly. My life went Agile.

Ok, maybe not completely Agile - it’s not totally within my comfort zone to operate this way, I still have to dig deep at times to take that first step, but I know that there are ways I can make myself feel braver about it.

Amy Cuddy’s Body Language TED Talk is a good start - it’s bloody brilliant and the Wonder Woman pose really works. Taking yourself back to a time you felt confident also works. In the same way a smell or a particular song can evoke powerful memories and trigger an emotional state, a strong enough memory of feeling confident can induce the actual state. Working with people on confidence issues and seeing them harness the confidence they forgot they had and be able to conjure it when they need it is just brilliant to watch. Try it - like anything it takes practice, but as Dr. Pepper says, what’s the worst that can happen?

Ok yes, you could lose your job, end up divorced, homeless and ultimately dead on the streets - anyone can catastrophise.

However, good stuff could happen too and I’m going to turn to the wonderful new Doctor Who to help me summarise. In her last outing before the New Year’s Day special, she ended the Season Finale with this:-

“None of us know for sure what is out there, that’s why we keep looking. Travel hopefully. Keep your faith. The Universe will surprise you, constantly.”


May you Travel Hopefully in 2019 - literally and metaphorically.

Happy New Year.



Michelle is Professional Development Coach based in Swindon. She helps people achieve their career goals and overcome the obstacles that are stopping them reach their full potential.