How to Travel Into the Unknown World In Your Thirties

I’m writing this from Tokyo. It’s officially 2:30 am here.

I say “officially” because I just came in on a flight (two flights) from New York, and in my mind it’s 1:30 pm, so things are a little messed up right now. I was able to sleep on the flight for 8 hours (amazingly), but I can probably still sleep again now, even though my body thinks it’s the afternoon. I’m pretty adaptable like that.

So I’ll keep this brief.

This trip is something I’ve been planning for a few months now, and I kind of can’t believe I’m here. Literally, my mind doesn’t feel like my body is here. It’s a flaw that I have that when good things happen to me, I sometimes can’t accept them. I’m working on that. Also, technology is so advanced now that I can connect to anyone through my computer in milliseconds and not be so far away. Well, I am far away, but it doesn’t FEEL like it. Of course, there’s that whole language barrier thing, but I didn’t have to deal with it much at the airport today- I’ll encounter that way more tomorrow when I journey outside into the unknown in daylight- so it doesn’t yet feel like language is an issue. The flight to Tokyo from Chicago was 13 hours, so I know I’m not in Kansas anymore, but sleeping through most of the trip made Tokyo feel like a hop, skip and jump away.

I spent the past few months kind of unsure about getting here. I’ve never been to Asia, and I haven’t gone on a big international trip for more than 6 years. And I certainly haven’t gone on a solo international trip before. It’s funny, the whole point of this trip was to go to this completely foreign country all alone and explore with no plan, and be free. But then, a bit before I left, I began to feel anxious about going alone and having no particular plan. I mean, I know where I’m staying and have a trip outline, and I’m meeting some people here and there, but I haven’t filled my days full of manic activity- I just kind of want to be solo in a foreign world.

However, even though I fly more than 50 times a year and I still felt mildly anxious leading up to this particular trip- so I know travel fear can happen to anyone. I think this kind of fear stems from fear of the unknown. I like feeling prepared, and my plan to let go of things and remain less planned out caused me anxiety. Worries popped up in my head about about not bringing the right items and forgetting something Very Important and not knowing the language and missing some Very Important Sightseeing Places. I worried about feeling judged for not seeing things that were Absolute Must Sees.

But you know what? None of that matters. I’m here. I made it. I took a 13 hour flight, plus a 2 hour one plus a layover. And no one who matters is judging me…except for myself- the harshest judge of all, of course. And all that ever mattered to me was to stay open and loving and in flow. I just wanted to let go and let life come in. So I’m damn well going to do that as best I can. And of course I’ll probably feel afraid again, and things might be weird and foreign sometimes. But I have to remember that it’s not about the plans or the places. It’s not about the Perfect Itinerary or the Perfect Day. It’s not about the Must Sees or Must Dos. It’s about being in this very different place at this very particular point in my life right this second. It’s about breathing the foreign Tokyo air into my lungs and seeing how it feels. It’s about going. It’s about staying. It’s about the new. It’s about this moment.

So don’t be afraid to travel. Don’t be afraid at all.  You may feel fear but it’s okay. Go anyway. Grab the moment. And let go of everything else.

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I have no idea what this subway sign means. But I like it. 

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