A few days ago, I flew back to the US after having spent almost two weeks in Japan. This was my first solo international trip, and I can’t help but think that this is a personal accomplishment, and the next big step for me to become a more worldly, diverse, and independent person. I have friends and family who often travel to exotic locations, and frankly, hearing about their experiences has encouraged me to pursue one of my own. Of course, as someone who’s lived in suburban America for most of his life, I couldn’t help but feel like I was completely unprepared for this trip (and as it turned out, I was right in some regards). On the other hand, I knew that I could never be completely prepared for something as big as this trip, as that’s just not how life works.
Prior to Japan, the most exotic place I’ve visited was Paris, France. That was during a family vacation when I was still in high school, and it was surreal to be in a place where English was not the primary language (though many I encountered there spoke English to varying degrees). Of course, the language barrier wasn’t the only difference from what was “normal” in my eyes. Just about everything around me seemed so different from the US, from the food we ate to the architecture we witnessed while walking the streets of Paris. I had seen depictions of France earlier in life through various media (news, movies, the usual), but I realized that I was not merely watching Paris through a television screen; instead, I was actually there. With that trip came a reminder that there is more out there in the world than just America, and since then I’ve only grown restless for more chances to travel.
Life events continued to grant me opportunities for more traveling, both for business and pleasure. A later vacation to London gave me another taste of Europe, and that trip solidified my feeling that I would love to visit western Europe again in the future. Moving to the American Midwest for work showed me how different life and culture can be in the middle of the country, and it gave me my first experience living away from all of my family and friends in the Northeast. Visiting clients around the United States gave me brief impressions of other cities I may have otherwise never gone to, such as Seattle, Charlotte, and Cleveland. Even when I am in a new area for only a few days, I try to take in what I can about the people, the culture, and the life there. Sometimes, this helps me get a better idea of not only the city and its people, but also what I personally enjoy about the city and its people. Nothing like getting a different perspective, one city at a time.
In a way, I would say that even the video games I loved as a kid helped mold my desire to travel. Considering my fondness for role playing games like Final Fantasy, games where you often get the chance to travel an entire world (often by traversing the entirety of the game’s “world map”), I often fantasized about the chance to set out on an adventure of my own, even if I couldn’t exactly battle monsters or become some legendary hero.
If you’ve ever played Pokemon or watched the anime, you may have shared similar sentiments of wanting to be a 10 year old venturing off by yourself, visiting and defeating all of the “gym leaders” in the region, and seeing the world in the process. Based loosely on parts of Japan, the Kanto region of the first Pokemon games is set in modern times, making it a slightly more “realistic” setting than the swords and sorcery setting in many other role playing games. I feel like many of the gamers I’ve met would agree that Pokemon is one of the games that could inspire that sense of adventure and imagination even at a young age, and for me, that translated to the desire to have an adventure of my own someday (though I’d do so without capturing supernatural creatures to have them fight for me).
Of course, no video game that I ever played can come close to the immersion of physically going to a new country or city, talking to the people there, and learning about the different cultures there. It’s something that cannot be truly replicated in a video game, no matter how well crafted a virtual world or its inhabitants are. That’s one of many reasons I am trying to travel more now: to immerse myself in a way I haven’t experienced before, to learn more about the world, people, and myself, and hopefully come one step closer to becoming the person I am striving to be.
My goal is to post my thoughts and feelings on my trip to Japan on this blog in the coming weeks. They will include not only articles about what I did and where I went in Japan, but reflections on the travel experience as a whole, and my impressions on the Japanese culture and lifestyle that I was exposed to. Looking further in the future, I definitely would like another chance to do this for some exotic international destination.
Where will I end up going next? I’ll let you know when I find out.