Wednesday, April 21, 2010

OK, I Think I Am Ready to Have My Mind Blown

I have never been to Asia, but in 10 days I will be there, likely in awe, with a bit of exhilaration and confusion thrown into the mix. I am alternating between feeling totally ready to be surprised and the lingering thought that I'll just be overwhelmed.

The long haul flight starts in L.A. and lands me in Seoul, South Korea, for a few hours before I transfer to Shanghai (top photo above) for my friend Steve's 40th birthday celebration. After 5 days there, I fly back through Seoul to Tokyo (below photo) for a week, where I will see my friend Nate, who is now living there. I've been talking about this trip since last year. And suddenly it's the end of April and I need to pack and figure out last-minute details before heading to the airport.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do this right now. I promised myself a few years ago that I would do one major trip a year as long as I had the money to make it happen. It's not every day that your friends celebrate 40th birthdays in distant cities or happen to live in one you have always wanted to see, so it's best to take advantage, right? Most definitely.

Contrary to some people's thoughts, I am not exactly the best traveler. Oh sure, I appreciate wherever I go. I am open to simply wandering and finding my way around and being surprised by what is shown to me and what I discover alone. Yet I have a tendency to get a bit stressed out about it all. I always relax once I get to where I need to be, but the transit part tends to make me feel a bit crazy. A control issue, to be sure.

Right now, however, it feels very much like I need to be kicked in the ass. I need the utter surprise of being somewhere almost completely alien. I likely need the shock of very different cultures. When it comes down to it--underneath the planning and the nervousness about the small "what if"s--I know that I need to be taken out of my head, my element, my routine.

To that end, I say "bring it." Show me something new. Show me something I may not be able to see again. There are many reasons to travel. And those are what I will keep in mind when figuring out subway maps or street names. Sometimes you just need to get lost.