I come from a town in Ohio where most people are born, raised, and remain for their entire lives. Many of them will travel or relocate temporarily, but they always end up back in Ohio. And I won’t be any different. I love my hometown, I love the people I grew up with that are still my closest cohorts today, I love the chili that I can only get back home, and I love knowing that I have a HOME to go back to. Though it’s not an actual brick and mortar house, it’s a feeling that can’t be bought and will never be replaced.
Despite the fact that my heart is in Ohio, you’ll recall that I’ve moved 26 times in the past ten years. From Rhode Island, to London, and now Chicago – I’ve tried to be fearless and explore. My explorations have been more than just an everchanging address, they’ve been stamps in my passport and boarding passes wadded up at the bottom of my purse, countless photographs posted to Facebook, and random coins from various currencies floating around my wallet. If you asked me in January whether or not I thought I was a well-travelled person I would absolutely have said “yes!” without a doubt. I’ve been all over Europe, to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean – that’s a lot of the world that’s been seen! But as our vacation to Japan quickly approaches, I’m realizing that’s really not the case.
A worldly, well-traveled person probably wouldn’t be fretting about the massive language barrier they will likely encounter and the fact that they won’t be able to read any signs or maps. They wouldn’t fuss about whether or not they’ll be able to enjoy the local cuisine. They’d have no fear regarding the navigation of public transportation. They wouldn’t question their ability to enjoy a place that is so unfathomably unknown and outside of their comfort zone. They’d just figure it out when they get there, adapt, relax, and enjoy.
I don’t think I’ve ever had this much travel anxiety prior to a new adventure. I’ve always looked at my explorations as just that, adventures, and this one is truly no different. I am still very excited by the possibilities and potential discoveries. The fact that I am so blessed, lucky, and fortunate to be able to travel the world never escapes my consciousness. But I’d be fooling no one if I didn’t admit to the trepidation I am feeling as this adventure approaches.
I think the root cause of this fear is the fact that although I’ve traveled all over Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean; I’ve never experienced anything truly foreign. Please don’t misinterpret my meaning and take offense. I just mean that in all of the places that I’ve been before, they are so very similar to where I come from and what I know. The people have always shocked me by their impeccable grasp of the English language to the point that they don’t want me to attempt my pitiful Italian or French. The food is not that different, though much more delicious. The maps and signs always have English subtitles upon which I rely heavily. And now that I know these things after travelling there extensively, I don’t put as much effort into trying to adapt to their culture.
It won’t be like that in Japan, at least I don’t imagine that it will be. I won’t be able to rely on my English language crutch. I will need to use guide books and translators to figure out Japanese characters. I’ll have to try my best attempt at Japanese phrases when asking for directions or change. Besides sushi and ramen, I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be eating. I don’t know what the beds will be like or the bathrooms or the transportation. I know nothing Jon Snow! And that totally freaks me out!!! But it also makes me realize that I’ve become lazy in my adventuring. The whole point of traveling, for me at least, is to discover and immerse oneself into a new culture, to learn something about the way other people live and to take away new points of view when returning home.
So after all of this self-reflection and honesty I’m suddenly realizing I’m super stoked to go to Japan! I’m excited to get my travel groove back! I’m ready to get lost and have fun finding my way back. I won’t fear stumbling over new words, taking one train only to realize I should be on another, tasting an octopus when I thought it was a squid, looking super American as I frolic around with a giant grin on my face. I’ll just be exploring, which is the whole point.
I’ll see you soon, Japan! Let’s do this!