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The Train Diaries: Part Three

So I’m back in San Francisco and the hectic swing of things has resumed. As such, I don’t feel I have time to capture the rest of the weekend moment by moment right now. I also don’t want to leave it too long so that the clarity of the moments begins to fade. So for this final volume, I’m going to do things a little differently. I’m going to simply outline some of the events that coloured the rest of my time in Sacramento, give a little bulleted version of two more days of wonderful experience. And then, to end this little series, I want to do some reflection, a nod to what I’ve learned over this unexpected adventure, as a rounding out note to end on.

So, here goes.

On Friday morning, I had breakfast with Aunty. Filipino porridge and toasted buns, which she prepared for me. We watched Good Morning America together. I walked through the park towards the Capitol Building. I thought my drink bottle was rattling and stopped walking. It kept rattling. I turned around and there were two horses following me. Spent a few hours drinking a Costa Rica pour over and doing work at Temple Coffee. Went to thrift stores, second-hand bookstores, and walked and walked and walked. Had dinner with Eli and Aunty. They prepared a fish dish, which was incredibly delicious. We drank a lot more wine. I fell asleep watching ‘Lion’. 

Saturday we drove an hour and a half to Napa Valley to go wine tasting. It was as good as it sounds. I tasted a $165 bottle of wine. It was as good as it sounds. We got home after dark. Another beautiful dinner. More wine. More conversation.

Sunday morning I had a 6am bus back to San Francisco. It was $3. Eli got up at 5am to drive me to the bus station. At around 8:06am I was back at 1412 Market St and dumping my backpack on the floor of my room.

Within these few days, there was so much. So many moments of wonder. So many dynamic conversations, so much appreciation of the simple pleasures in life, so much pure, unadulterated joy. These moments will not be forgotten.

Just as the moments will stay with me, I want the lessons to stay too. I learnt an awful lot over my few days in Sacramento. A lot of learning I didn’t expect to happen over those few days. 

I learnt that no-strings-attached generosity is one of the most beautiful and powerful things in the world. Eli would have to be one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. He single-handedly turned a failed exercise in spontaneity into one of the best weekends I’ve had in the States so far. Being able to impact another human like that, through sheer and utter kindness, is really something. 

I learnt that while Eli is a rare case of extreme generosity, the small things matter too. Not everyone can be as wholeheartedly generous as Eli all the time, no matter how much we want to. I’m a big believer that everyone can be 10% kinder though, and that this 10% makes the world of difference. In our smallest actions, if we take the extra few moments to share a touch more kindness, we help to shape a kinder world. Don’t underestimate the impact of 10%.

I learnt to slow down, and value the winding conversations, long dinners, and extended road trips. I don’t like feeling rushed, and yet I spend the majority of my time feeling this way. For example, I love food. I’m passionate about the craft of cooking, of combining flavours to create magic, of tasting new and exciting dishes. And yet, I often eat my dinner in five minutes, itching to get on to the next thing. Having five hour meals with Eli reminded me of the value of slowing down. Of letting go of what “needs” to be done next and simply enjoying the present, however long it lasts. Taking your foot off the gas to experience more deeply and with more attention.

I learnt to embrace change, even when it frightens you. Sacramento wasn’t planned. I probably should have just gone home on Thursday night. I didn’t, and I’m ever so glad I made this decision.

Perhaps most importantly, I learnt that I have a lot to learn. Often I struggle with being as kind as I want to be, even as I get swept up in everything that’s happening in my life. Eli was busy when I reached out to him. Despite this, he offered me three days of kindness. I don’t yet know how to do that, and it’s something I really want to work on. 

Eli, if you’re reading this, thank you. 

I’ll be seeing you soon, I’m sure. 

Chris HaganComment