My vacation in San Diego has been a much needed break from work. It is also a chance to visit my brother, but unfortunately he still has to work this week so he cannot chauffeur me around. I don’t have a car down here and that is pretty much unheard of in Southern California but off of my brother’s suggestion I decided to take a train to Solana Beach, which is about a half hour north of downtown San Diego.
As soon as I got on the train, I noticed these two guys sitting a few rows in front of me. They had huge backpacks and what sounded like Scottish accents. I immediately felt a pinch of sentimentality. They were obviously backpacking through California. I felt an even harder pinch when they said “Cheers” to the conductor. Even the littlest things like those backpacks and hearing “Cheers” makes me miss my travels through Europe. Even stepping onto the train through similar sliding doors and sitting on those airplane like seats made me miss Europe. I traveled on the Eurail for two months with my tiny suitcase and as tiring as it can get living out of a suitcase, nothing beats watching unfamiliar scenery roll by through the window of a train and absolutely nothing beats arriving in a new city in a matter of hours with so much anticipation for all that is waiting to be discovered.
I was looking forward to laying on Solana Beach, soaking up the rays for a few hours. However, as the train rolled into the station it was uncharacteristically overcast. I started to panic. What was I going to do for the next few hours if I couldn’t work on my tan? I had no idea what else there was to do in this town. The excitement for the unknown was not as strong here as it was in Europe. I was disappointed in myself for reacting this way. I walked down to the beach to see what was there and there wasn’t much. There was no sun and it was windy and not that many people around. The next train wouldn’t be leaving for another couple hours and just when I was starting to pity myself and feel defeated I remembered my last post and kept telling myself, “There is a silver lining.” As much as that sounds like an after-school special, sometimes its important to repeat that to yourself when things look grim. That is one of the benefits of travel – you learn to see the good more than the bad in everything.
Well, my silver lining turned out to be the Java Depot. It was a restaurant with an appealing outdoor patio that I came across as I walked down the main street past the train station. I ordered some food, sat down on one of the benches outside, and wrote a new story.
Whether I am sitting at an outdoor restaurant in a beach community or in the comfort of my own bed, there is a writing exercise that I learned at the Travel Writers conference that never fails me and helps me bust out stories left and right. Our teachers gave us a sentence, such as “The best day I ever had was,” or “The best meal I ever ate was,” and then we were asked to finish that sentence and continue writing for ten minutes. We were given only four rules:
1. Do not stop writing.
2. Do not worry if what you are writing is complete rubbish.
3. Do not be afraid to write whatever comes out of your head.
4. Be as specific as you can in your writing.
These four rules have helped me immensely. It has allowed me to write for myself and to write for the enjoyment of writing, rather than to write for what I think readers will like. If I did that, it would probably take me a day just to write one paragraph that I thought would be remotely acceptable. I have the freedom to be happy with whatever I write and as long as I get everything onto paper now, I can worry about the revisions later. No matter where I am or how down I feel, I know that I can take out my notebook and write a story using these four rules and I perk up right away.