Timeout in Tokyo

Catching up on some writing I did during our September in Tokyo.


I’ve been away from home much longer than this before. Maybe not so far from home, but definitely for more time. There’s this thing that starts to happen… it’s not really homesickness… because I don’t necessarily miss home. I sometimes long for my neighborhood coffee shop, or the Colorado summer weather. Of course, I miss my family and could use a huge hug from my uncle Wally, but I’m not homesick. On a few of the travel blogs I follow, I’ve read about this thing called “travel burnout.” I really dislike the term. I find it snobbish and cliché. How can someone get burnt out on travel? Every day is new, everything you eat, see, and do is new! Herein lies the challenge. I thrive on change and would go so far as saying that adaptability is one of my greatest strengths. So why is it that I’m finding myself needing a break from all this change?

Paul reminded me of this guy Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Here’s your reminder:

Maslow-hierarchy

You have probably seen our photos from the top of Fuji. Wasn’t it gorgeous? More important than that incredible photo op was that the summit was a measurable accomplishment. A goal executed with time and effort put into preparation. Planning day-by-day, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants international travel is nothing to understate, but after a few months we have gotten pretty good at it. What we’re missing in our lives are more tangible goals. Typically very productive individuals, aka supernerds, we are fighting with our new lifestyle. About one time each month we have to be somewhere at a specific time to catch a flight. This is not the sort of routine we thrive in, in fact we’re dissatisfied with our lack of routine. “Want a boring every-day routine?!” you say from your cubicle chair, “why don’t you just come back and work?!” Not that kind of routine… We’re working so hard each day at fulfilling our basic needs like food, water, cleanliness, sleep, clothing, and shelter that we have little time left to focus on the bigger accomplishments toward the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.

So we’re taking a travel break here in this land of orderly things called Japan and creating some basic routine. We’re looking forward to enjoying time for directionless exploration, writing, calligraphy, cooking, birthday celebrations, and spontaneity. After months in grimy places, we even splurged with a trip to H&M. Immaculate Japan drew attention to our vaguely dirty and well-worn belongings. A pair of jeans and a white button up for Paul, and a new sweater for me. Simple luxuries. We both feel a little less like we just stepped off the Appalachian Trail.

Maslow aside, we also miss the in-person intimacy of our dear friends and family: a day of skiing, making dinner together, high-fives cheering on the Broncos, familiar hugs. FaceTime is a gift of modern technology; we’re thankful for the easy communication, but it doesn’t match catching up over a glass of wine and evening full of deep-belly laughter.

Maybe I am a little homesick, but I’m grateful to share my sorrows over cheap beer with a guy who makes light of our silly travel-weary problems. At least this way when we feel lonely surrounded by people in a busy plaza in Tokyo, we’re also holding hands taking on each new place together.

Bring on China.

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