I had actually begun writing this epiphany in my notebook midway through my travels through Japan rather than at the end of my trip, but I had gotten cut off by a cultural fusion, so I think it’s excusable.
I had been sitting in the Nakajima Tea House in Tokyo’s Hamarikyu Gardens when the girl waiting for matcha next to me happened to be looking extra photogenic as she sat cross-legged looked out the window. Being a solo traveler in need of photo subjects, I asked to take her picture. We began talking, and it turns out she had just moved to Tokyo from Mexico City with her husband who had gotten a job there. We proceeded to converse entirely in Spanish till the tea house closed, and exchanged contact info after. Yep. Japanese teahouse. Spanish language. In Tokyo. My mind was blown.
This painfully spectacular fusion of cultures, among other encounters with travelers from around the world, “reawakened me,” in a sense. While walking across the bridge into Ueno Park on a sunny cherry blossom-fueled day, I felt changed. I’ve always been so future-oriented, so motivated to figure out the next three steps in life. It was even an improvement to be focused on the next two years ahead rather than five when I graduated in 2015. However, after this trip, I feel like I’ve become motivated to be even more present-oriented, to truly seize the time I have NOW to travel the world while my current life situation so willingly, practically encourages it. Although I’ve been doing much travel over the last couple years, it’s truly the last couple of solo adventures that have overstimulated me positively. Walking around these cities, these forests, driving alone, eating alone — I take everything in so much more, and I truly submerge myself in a culture rather than observe it as an outsider. Putting myself in these situations internationally has amplified those experiences even harder. Crossing that bridge in Tokyo, I actually emotionally felt all the cliches about traveling being an “eye-opening experience” and how it makes you realize how big the world is. I felt it so much my heart ached and swelled and felt like it was going to burn through my chest.
I think lately I’ve been so focused on leaving Los Angeles, packing up my bags and moving to New York City, as if that were the only way in my 20s to experience a different world. That’s such a narrow thought to have when, in reality, the whole world is at my fingertips right now. It’s funny how so many cliches find truth in your 20s. But at the same time, it reminds me I’m not alone in these chaotic thought paths that occupy my mind at this time in life.