A Retrofuturistic Train Journey to Explore America’s New Frontiers

Tomorrow, a group of 25 millennial pioneers will embark on a retrofuturistic, crowdfunded train journey across America known as the Millennial Trains Project.

Along the way, they will meet with local innovators, grow as leaders, and build trans-regional perspectives relating to their personal, professional, and creative interests. Instead of buying souvenirs, they will use 3D printers to manufacture tokens of their extraordinary, crowdfunding-enabled encounters with America’s new frontiers.

Travel that Prioritizes Creativity over Consumption

By pioneering a fundamentally new form of travel that prioritizes creativity over consumption, MTP is attempting to inspire others to imagine how they too might change the world through travel.

This marks the second journey in a trilogy we kicked off last summer when we ventured from San Francisco, CA to Washington, DC, stopping in 7 cities along the way, and which we will complete in 2015 with a similar journey across the southern United States.

Our upcoming journey will depart this Thursday from Portland, OR and stop in Seattle, WA, Whitefish, MT, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN, Milwaukee, WI, and Chicago, IL before ending in New York City on August 15th.

As with our first journey, participants have crowdfunded their way on board with innovative projects they will advance across the communities where our train stops. These projects focus on some of the defining issues of our time, including disaster preparedness, racial dialogue, climate change, STEM education, small business growth, energy innovation, and creative placemaking.

A Journey in Search of the New American Dream

Collectively, they evidence my generation’s search for a refreshed, compellingly remixed version of the American Dream. And I don’t just mean my generation of Americans – I mean Millennials everywhere because, after all, the American Dream has always been an ideal shaped by foreign perceptions and imaginations in addition to those home-grown.

So, in addition to 20 American participants that have crowdfunded their way on board, we will on our next journey be joined by 5 Fulbright Foreign Students, whose participation has been be made possible by the U.S. Department of State. They are from Yemen, Columbia, Pakistan, Russia, and Indonesia – five countries that, needless to say, differ greatly from the United States, as well as one another.

Seeing Things As We Might Yet Make Them

Our caravan of vintage rail cars will serve as mobile space for creative thinking, cross-cultural dialogue, and rapid prototyping. Our lecture and dining cars will serve as a staging ground for seminars led by distinguished on-train mentors, and locally-sourced meals prepared by our renegade chefs.

We will pass through pristine wilderness areas of the Pacific Northwest, connect with unsung heroes in small and medium-size cities like Whitefish and Milwaukee, likely be delayed by oil shipments as we pass through the Dakotas, and learn how major metropolises like New York City actually work from leading systems architects and engineers.

As we persist eastward with open minds, we will grow as leaders, and come together as a community.

Along the way, we will see things as they are, and plant seeds of inspiration for how we might yet make them.

Joining Us for the Journey

Whether or not you share our belief that travel can serve as a vehicle for leadership development, cross-cultural exchange, and creativity, I invite you to follow our journey as a means of learning about Millennials and how we are increasingly re-shaping the cultural, economic, and civic landscapes of contemporary America.

My colleague, National Geographic Travel Associate Photo Producer Tyler Metcalfe (@tyler_metcalfe), will be posting content throughout our journey via the National Geographic Society’s On Assignment blog, and the Millennial Trains Project will be keeping our followers up-to-date via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

We hope you will join us as and wish us well as we embark on this exciting journey.


Meet the Author
Patrick Dowd is a creative strategist who works with the world's leading brands and institutions to craft transformative experiences that build leaders, engage communities, and tell powerful stories. As Market Innovation Lead at West, he helps visionary startups to identify and cultivate large markets for new ideas. An outspoken champion of cross-cultural understanding and purposeful travel, Dowd has been a featured speaker at the White House, US Department of State, the US Mission to the United Nations, and many local community organizations across America. His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, Mashable, and Fast Company. As founder and CEO of the Millennial Trains Project, Dowd has pioneered an award-winning model for trans-regional leadership development and helped organizations such as NBCUniversal, The Rockefeller Foundation, US Department of State, IDEO, and National Geographic Traveler to forge authentic connections with next-generation innovators. In addition to having served as the youngest-ever Editor-at-Large for National Geographic Traveler, Dowd has been recognized by GOOD Magazine as one of the world's top 100 individuals at the cutting-edge of creative impact. Previously, Dowd worked as a J.P. Morgan investment banking analyst, U.S. Senate campaign speechwriter, and legal reporter. He was also a Fulbright Scholar in India, where he produced a documentary on informal sector e-waste recycling. As an advisor to the National Endowment for the Arts, Patrick is a champion for multidisciplinary creative projects and entrepreneurial ecosystems in communities across the United States. Dowd is a graduate of the University of Oxford, where he earned an MBA with a focus on strategy and innovation, and Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, where he served as Student Body President and honed his proficiency in French and Hindi. A member of the Explorers Club, he has traveled to over 50 countries.