Debra Smith, Alberta

Senior Writer

Debra was born curious. At the age of five, she was taking apart toy telephones to find out how they worked. The school library was her favorite place to be. She read everything she could get her hands on and by Grade 3, she was self-publishing a weekly newsletter for her class. A trip to Europe after graduating from university started a travel habit that grew into a travel writing career. It continues to be her perfect combination of continuous discovery, learning and writing. She has written for major United States and Canadian newspapers and magazines on subjects ranging from Portuguese fado music to mid-century modern architecture. She spends most days in an incredibly cluttered office, graced now and then by the presence of her orange tabby, Lucy.

As a Story Terrace writer, Debra interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Training Day

I remember my first vacation like it was yesterday. My mother and I took a taxi that dropped us off in front of the grand, grey pillared portico of Union Station — a Beaux-Arts style railway station modeled after Grand Central in New York. As I stood there in my best brown checkered dress, patent leather shoes, and straw hat, I was awestruck by the soaring arches of the Tyndalstone ceiling, and the long, brown wooden benches filled with busy travelers. We were going to travel by train across the country from Manitoba to Alberta to visit family. I was seven years old and we had never done anything so exciting before.

We settled into our private compartment, where I admired the tiny taps in the bathroom, the little brass hooks for our coats, and of course, the magical way that our bed would appear when the porter flipped the latches at night. But, most of all, I loved to watch the miles of landscape flash by the window. With my feet tucked up under me on the green velvet upholstered seat, every passing town, farm, and field was a new discovery.

When we reached my grandmother’s farm, I could hardly wait to pet the horses, feed the chickens, and play with the dogs. I ran around the fields and ponds with my older cousins all day long and came home to huge family meals that went on for hours. Quite a change for a city girl.

I still love to travel by train every chance I get. I’ve seen the backroads of Russia, the plains of China, and the dunes of Egypt on memorable train rides. While other passengers are glued to their phones, I’m the person looking out the window, still mesmerized by glimpses into other places and other lives.

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