#PassportExpress passenger Fran Tirado looks back on the final train ride of the trip.


As we got closer to the final moments, the Passport Express felt more and more like a beehive preparing for winter. Our final leg on the train brought us from Portland to San Francisco, giving us almost 20 hours to talk together in the observation car, buzzing and huddling together to feel warmer.



The ride started with sage advice from Cubby Graham, one of the brilliant minds behind the Community Team at Charity: Water. Cubby’s talk was unlike any we’d heard to that point, as he discussed the power of inspiration and the beauty of working in philanthropy. He sparked a lot of conversation about the influence of positive reinforcement, rather than guilt, and the Passport Express members were able to ask our own questions about how we can create an impact.


Though the trip now feels like it happened in the blink of an eye, we’ve all unanimously agreed that if we were to start an agency together, or some immense creative collective, we could easily conquer the world. As we all share stories, knowledge, bits of advice, encouragement, it almost feels as if we’re contributing to a common goal. Though our own creative projects are what brought us to this train, Cubby reminded us of something easily forgotten: we all have the capacity to make change, in big or small ways.


Our cups were filled to the brim, and we knew the afternoon’s talk from Ruthie Lindsey would have us spilling over. Ruthie’s story is one of trial and tribulation, a story of gratitude that starts from the very rock bottom of her life and works its way slowly upward. The powerful talk came at the perfect moment, as we had all spent two weeks getting to know her and seeing the beauty she brings to the world. In the quiet of the observation car, with trees and mountains zooming past, we learned a lesson on pain and on overcoming it, on choice and living with intention.

Ruthie’s story is one that cherishes and champions the power of helping someone embrace their potential and their greatness. In honor of her father, and to all the people that supported her during a very rough time in her life, she challenged each passenger on the Passport Express to write a letter to the person on their left. She asked us to compliment them and write about their strengths.


Without any sort of agreement, everyone on the train spent the next few hours writing letters. We all split off into quiet corners and took time to pass each other love notes like we were in grade school all over again, exchanging cards on Valentine’s Day. Though we had a huge box of cards for the group, we ran out ofstationary within an hour and took to writing on Post-it notes, scraps of paper, anything we could find.

With so many snacks leftover, so many tears shed, and an evening to ourselves inside the train, the only thing left to do was dance. We had two bluetooth speakers at our disposal as we blasted 90s hits, vintage R&B, and all the guiltless top-40 songs we could muster up the strength for. At a certain point, the train stopped for an 8-minute smoke break, and everyone paraded off the train with the speakers to continue dancing on the platform, much to the confusion of the other Amtrak passengers.

The dancing lasted until the wee hours of the morning, and it was clear to all of us that this form of catharsis was another way for us to say we didn’t want it all to end. What happens after the last event in San Francisco? What future lies beyond this train car draped in fairy lights?

With kind words and the power of impact in our hands, we felt more powerful than ever. Though we’re getting ready to say goodbye to each other, it’s comforting to know we have an enormous support system to keep us on track. As we finally take our ship to sea, we can look back at 40 little lighthouses on the shore signaling, “Keep going! You know what to do! We’ll be right here if lose your way!”

Come along for the ride.

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The Passport Express