After what is probably the longest travel day of my life, I’m in Texas and settling back into my normal routine. Getting from Tokyo to Austin was an interesting journey that involved:
- a two hour commute to the Narita airport
- waiting around until 6:30pm Japan time on Tuesday evening to board for our flight
- Flying 12(?) hours until we landed in Dallas at 4:30pm Texas Time… aka 2 hours earlier than we left
- a four hour layover in Dallas where I legit slept in the lobby circa Laurenincollege2003
- A short flight home
By 11pm central time, I was snuggling my dogs and handing out presents to my roommates. It was the longest Tuesday in history, but really not as bad as I’m making it sound.
There’s something about flying long distances — it makes the world feel small. You can get on a plane in a country where you’re a solid 12″ taller than most people and don’t recognize a word of the language, and then get off in a land that’s as familiar as breathing. Sure, there’s an obnoxiously long flight in there… but that’s what movies are for (I watched 7 between my two flights, not counting the ones where I kept falling asleep). Flying across the world makes me feel like I’m in a sci-fi film. It’s tiring, but addictive.
As for Japan, I keep getting asked if it was what I expected. That’s a hard question to answer. I had a lot of expectations about this trip, but they’re hard to quantify. Getting around was so much easier than I thought it would be, which was a pleasant surprise. I thought I’d have time to meander the city on my own, but was rarely without the company of at least one of my travel friends.
I’ve never traveled anywhere that I felt so completely opposite. Really most places in Europe I can kind of blend in. Sure, I’m usually carrying a big camera and totally look like a confused tourist most of the time, but there’s nothing about my physically that says I’m an other. In Japan, I stick out like a sore thumb. Tall, blonde and heavy — I was constantly aware of how un-Japanese I am.
Still, it’s a welcoming country. I’ve never been anywhere more clean, well organized and safe. One night I walked back on my own to my hotel. It was pretty late, and I may or may not have hoofed the almost mile walk because Sake kept me from figuring out the Subway system. Construction workers bowed to me as I power walked, slightly buzzed, down the neon streets.
Since I’m me, I documented the trip meticulously. As always I brought my camera and took home around 2,000 pictures I need to sort through and process, but this time I also kept a journal which I hope will help me write some more detailed blog posts about the places I visited. You can expect to see my impressions of the fantastic places we visited, from glittering excess in Tokyo to peaceful Zen gardens in Kyoto.
If I could sum up my biggest takeaway from this trip though, it would be reflection. There’s something about traveling that helps me look at my life from a different perspective. While wandering through temples and queuing for trains, I thought a lot about my life here in Texas. About chapters that are closing, and new things on the horizon.
On the train back to Tokyo towards the end of my trip, I wrote in my journal and watched the rice fields whip past the window when I was hit with a wave of emotion. It struck me how fortunate I am. I’ve seen such amazing places, and my journey through the world isn’t over. There’s no such thing as a trip of a lifetime to me, because my life is hopefully long and each venture brings something new. From cathedrals to temples, I’ve seen so much in the world — more than my parents ever will. More than many, and for a long time I had the greatest person to see it with.
For the first few days in Japan, I was a little bit down. I missed Tim. It seemed strange to travel without him, and more than once I turned to look for him in the crowds of people circling around me. It didn’t last though, partially because Tim is so intrinsically a part of me that it’s hard to dwell on the absence of the physical body.
And partially because I am hungry. I’ll keep him with me, but I want to see everything. I am a force that grief can’t stop, and I want the whole world.