On Challenge for Change’s (C4C) first trip, Senior Producer Brittany Spencer and I travelled by train to Halifax, Nova Scotia in search of great conversations. After meeting up early that morning at Toronto’s Union Station, we bonded over cups of coffee from a pop-up cafe, preparing ourselves for what was sure to be an unforgettable trip.

From coast-to-coast, C4C collects conversations between people whose life experiences are as different from your own as they are similar. Whether speaking of significant loss, childhood, or feminism, each story is woven together by an awareness of the past and shared sense of hopefulness for the future.

Last week, the railroad was our soundtrack, the eastern Canadian landscape the perfect backdrop, and the constant sway a gentle reminder of the distance we all were from home. We wouldn’t stop swaying even after we stepped on solid ground, arriving in Halifax the following day and setting out toward the Dalhousie University residence we would call home that night—Shirreff Hall.

Brittany (front) and Catherine aboard the train to Halifax, Nova Scotia

As we travelled, Brittany and I grew accustomed to trading our own stories, and you won’t be surprised that two women journalists found a common thread. On several occasions we were even tempted to turn the mics on ourselves—sharing our perspectives as witnesses of this time in history, our feelings on the tenuousness of reproductive and human rights, and recalling just how deeply affected we both were by last year’s U.S. election results.

It doesn’t take long for conversations to turn political when women get together these days.

In January, millions of women and allies took to the streets to protest the inauguration of President Trump, prompted by a call to action that shook a false assumption that the fight for women’s equality was won long ago. The original Women’s March on Washington, which inspired millions to march in sister rallies around the world, drew over half a million people alone.

The morning of our departure, packed up, checked out, and heading to the Halifax train station, a plaque in the Shirreff Hall lobby caught our attention. To our surprise, this was exclusively a women’s residence until 2005. The irony was not lost on us.

From left to right: Nancy, Linda, and Pearl on their way to Quebec

I overheard Nancy, Linda, and Pearl on the way home from Halifax. It was clear right away that they had known each other for years, laughing and joking as old friends with familial comfort tend to do. Linda and Nancy had been friends since childhood, growing up under the watchful eye of Linda’s mother, Pearl. Later that night, Nancy would try to remember a time in her life  that the two women hadn’t been a part of.

When we met, the three were bent over The Chronicle Herald, stuck on an article about Joyce Carter, President and CEO of Halifax International Airport. “A woman CEO!” they marveled. As three women ranging from their mid-sixties to nineties, it wasn’t a position they were used to seeing a woman hold.

Our conversation with the three women poured into the next day—love, family, and paving your way—by the end, Brittany and I felt like we had just spoken to a supportive troupe of aunts rather than a trio of strangers. They cheered us on in our careers and congratulated us on our positions at C4C, which I should mention is produced entirely by a small team of women.

Our first journey ended in Montreal the following day. Lingering on the platform, we quickly spotted Nancy, Linda, and Pearl. “Good luck,” they told us. “You girls are going to have a great summer.” We couldn’t help but agree.