Right now I’m sitting on a train watching rice fields fly by with mountains in the hazy distance. I can’t believe I’m in Japan right now. I have had some of my favorite thoughts sitting by the window of a train/bus/plane/car thinking about being gone. I used to sit in the backseat of our car as a kid and think of all the places I wanted to go. I didn’t care where then, and I don’t care where now. Gone is a great feeling. To be away from everything I’ve ever known, all by myself. To some it seems terrifying, but I love it. I mean honestly, how many times in your life can you say, “I did this all by myself.” I went across the world alone. I sat on a train in Japan. The train passes through a little town and everyone is getting off and commuting to work, but not me. I’m so thankful that I’m not heading into an office right now. I know that someday I’ll probably have a 9 to 5, but at least I can smile today knowing that it won’t be anytime soon. I’m away from my usual. I’m gone.
The truth is that I wonder everyday why more people don’t want to travel and see things. For me it is an insatiable feeling. I welcome the excitement of both fear and joy. The other day I had my first moment of panic. I was running late to the train station. I hadn’t bought my ticket for Nikko yet because I was searching for an ATM. As I was briskly walking to the station, I was ducking into every convenience store/bank trying all of their ATM’s. None of them would take my card because it isn’t issued in Japan. I started to get nervous. I went into a bank lobby. It was Sunday and the bank was closed. I put my card into the ATM. The ATM showed a woman on the screen who sadly put her head down and told me, “We’re sorry. There is an issue with your card.” The screen froze up and it wouldn’t spit out my card. The machine wouldn’t let me do ANYTHING!
I franticly picked up the phone next to the ATM and heard an automated message in Japanese. I started to panic and shake. I dropped my pack in the lobby and ran out onto the street. I found the first guy I saw and said “Sumimasen, kudasai!” (Excuse me, please!) He followed me to the machine and used the ATM phone to make a call. He handed me the phone and said “For you.” And a woman speaking English talked me through manually ejecting my card. The man waited with me to make sure it worked. It did. The woman on the phone told me that I needed an international ATM and that there was one a block away at the 7-11. I thanked her tremendously, grabbed my stuff, and made for the ATM and train station. I made it to the station with 6 minutes to spare.
As I got settled onto the train and calmed down I realized that the situation could have been handled a thousand different ways. I could have caught a later train. I could have called the bank from my cell phone. I could have just went to the nearest police box and had him help. Everything was okay. I wasn’t being injured. Nothing got stolen. I have another bank card and three credit cards. There were multiple solutions to my minor problem. I was just caught up in the moment. And it is a fact that there will be more moments like these for the rest of my trip. They come with the territory of being gone. But the more of these I have, the more I will be able to roll with the punches, both abroad and at home.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that people should put aside their fears of being gone from the comforts of home and learn to roll with the punches. Things will go wrong. That doesn’t mean that you should just choose to not experience something new. I may have to spend the night in a train station at some point. I may not eat but one meal a day because I forgot to get food before boarding a bus. Who knows, I may even get harassed, robbed, or injured along the way. But when I sit on this train and look out that window at those rice fields and the mountains, I know that the good moments will forever outweigh the crazy ones. This trip is supposed to be an adventure, not a tour. And even tours go wrong, ask Gilligan. So what if my card gets eaten? So what if my glasses get left at the airport? So what if I get a pollution headache? No one is around to care. I could cry about it and catch the first plane home, or I could pick up my pack and figure it out. Because I know that when I sit on this train and look out that window at those rice fields and the mountains, it was all worth it just to live this moment in my only life. I will pick being gone any day.