I was incredibly lucky as a kid to have a family that on occasion took me to far corners of the earth. And while most of it had goofy religious justifications I was really too young to understand that, but still old enough to know I was going on a great adventure around the world. I don’t remember every bit of it, actually just flashes like a slideshow. In fact it’s weird what images from those trips are burned into my head. My grandfather standing in a hallway of a hotel in Rome. My cousins walking through the lobby of yet another hotel looking out over the Adriatic Sea in Split in what used to be Yugoslavia. Some people standing on the side of a street in Medjugorje, current day Croatia. I barely remember the landmarks, but I remember these images vividly. Anyway, point being when I was growing up I was exposed to this wild stuff and it great.
It was great because it taught me that nothing was out of reach, and even these places all the way around the world were accessible. And there were people there just like me.
That understanding continued with me through my teens and early adulthood even though I wasn’t traveling as much at that point. But I missed it, and when I had the opportunity to go somewhere far away and different again I jumped at the chance. I’d dreamed of visiting Japan for as much of my life as I can remember – originally because of an obsession with Japanese monster movies and robot cartoons, and later an affinity for a handful of Japanese film directors and martial artists, as well as the cultural aesthetic in general – but I’d always had a reason not to go. When I finally said fuck it and just went, I was both delighted that it was better than I ever dreamed, and disappointed that I’d talked myself out of visiting so many times previously.
Some friends of mine who I hung out with on that trip laughed at me saying that the charm of Japan wears off after away and it’s just another place. It’s been almost 6 years since that first trip to Japan and since then I’ve been back probably 20 times. Maybe more. The charm has never worn off, and the other day someone commented that it seemed that I almost willed myself a situation that keeps me coming back. Maybe I did. Tokyo feels like home to me now.
But here’s the thing, as soon as I realized (or maybe remembered) that being able to travel to places I dream of is a completely attainable goal, and decided to stop letting my “what if” paranoia talk me out of it, actually traveling became a snap. And it’s not just to Tokyo, that was the gateway drug to everything else. It changed my worldview about everything. About people. About culture. About how were all different and how we’re all the same. And how, like I learned when I was a kid, nothing is out of reach. And there are people just like me everywhere.
This realization impacts everything about how I view the world and the people in it. I can’t remember when I read the news and thought was I was reading was happening to someone “over there,” in some far away place I have no connection to. Everywhere is a place I’ve been or a place I haven’t been yet. Maybe I’ll never go some places but that won’t be because they are impossible to get to, it’ll be because I just didn’t get the chance before I run out of time.
I talk to people all the time who look at my travel schedule and tell me they can’t imagine going to some of the places I go to. I tell them they have no imagination. It’s 2013, going places is easy. The hardest part is giving yourself permission to take the trip. Once you get past that it’s cake. And then there’s no turning back. Once you realize you can touch that thing you’ve been lusting after, nothing else seems unobtainable.
All you have to do is make the decision to reach for it.