In a poor attempt to test my spontaneity yesterday, my clever husband asks me if I am up for going to Japan in 7 days. No plans, no preparation, no idea where we would stay except that this time, we must go to Hakone to climb Mount Fuji – be not impressed; it’s no Everest, everyone can climb it – and that we would have confirmed seats in business class; the fares are extremely reasonable due to significantly slower travels to Japan.
Ah Japan! One of my biggest loves, even if I rarely talk about it around here. We fell in love with Japan during our first visit back in 2004 and it wasn’t just the cherry blossoms that stole our heart. Over the years, we were lucky to return three more times, thanks to the sweet mix of pleasure and business, and each time, we were further intrigued and mesmerized by the unique culture, the divine food, the musical language, the highly efficient infrastructure as well as the originality of tradition and custom that is highly ingrained in the Japanese people.
We were complete outsiders, Gaijin according to the Japanese, and yet we always felt incredibly safe, welcomed, well taken care of, and happy. The dichotomy of it all never ceases to fascinate me. In fact, I describe going to Japan as going to another planet altogether, and that, my friends, is meant as the highest praise to the Japanese.
Yet I hesitated, even with promise of business seats and a chance to capture Tokyo and Hakone from the lens of my new camera! So while the outcome of this particular conversation is still up in the air and while my hubby is impatiently hovering his mouse over Expert Flyer (affiliate) booking, I wanted to explore the reasons behind my hesitation.
Deep down, I just haven’t yet figured out my next true travel destination.
Some people know exactly where to visit next, a skill I am desperately trying to fine-tune here. Many others day dream of traveling and devoting days and weeks of their lives to trotting about the globe if only they could stop working or somehow break free from obligations of the daily grind.
No doubt the desire for seeing the world is strong but where do you start? How do you ideally select the destination and in what order and logic? Do you have a master destination plan, a top 10-list, a spreadsheet, or does it not even matter as long as you get to leave home and get on the road?
In my Fear-Crushing Travel Guide, my main focus was simple (though far from easy): Empowering people to crush their fears and anxieties about leaving home, getting on the road, fulfilling their dream of traveling and making the idea of travel accessible to everyone willing to do it.
That’s the first travel root: Overcoming the fears and embracing travel itself. I sincerely trust that’s a yes-check-done-move-on kinda nod for everyone reading this?
Awesome! Moving right along to the second root then: Where on earth do you go and why exactly?
You may argue that your next travel destination is always largely driven by your circumstances and opportunities that are yet to come. Where the friends gather for a reunion, where the next fabulous conference for your hobby or profession of choice lands, or where the traditional holiday get-together takes place. Fair enough, I suppose. That’s one kind of travel.
Now can you go one layer deeper and give specific answers here:
1. Where do you ache to go? The thought of what place in this earth tugs at your heart strings? What corner of this world do you consider an exotic, must-see paradise and one you desperately wish to see someday?
2. Why? What are the compelling reasons calling your name to this destination?
3. How many of these specific destinations and matching reasons do you have in mind?
Reality checks are rude awakenings but they spring us to action more often than not. We have a finite time in this world and I say the choices of travel destination must resonate deeply within our hearts before we pack our bags. Travel for the sake of travel can be wonderful, fun, and very exciting but it slowly runs its course. Travel with an intent and purpose, on the other hand, awakens your deepest senses of curiosity and fulfills you on a different level. Those intents and purposes can be intimately personal but it pays to think about them, to write them down, to say them to someone, to hear yourself acknowledge them and to find a way to fulfill them someday. Here are some of mine:
To attend a conference or a summit: To be able to experience the power of the human connection and to bask in the learning opportunities of your area of interest. This is part business, part self-growth and education. I happen to love it. Do conferences pique your curiosity enough to pick up and go?
To return to a place that needs closure: If you do not have a list here, smile and move on. It’s a good thing. For me, it is places where I lived and left not knowing whether I shall ever return: Iran, Turkey. A return visit has been in the waiting for over 20 years. Do you hold such places in your heart?
To satiate hunger for architecture and history: Some histories hold more mystique and intrigue in my eyes than others, with the ultimate ones being Greece, Italy – the unforgettable Pantheon, and Egypt – yet to happen. Where does history hold intrigue for you?
To explore and get lost in sight-seeing: Dozens upon dozens of cities and countries lend themselves to this one perfectly. London, Paris, Berlin, Sydney, Singapore, and Hong Kong have been some of my favorites. I can return to either one again and again. Where would you like to get lost in sight-seeing?
To see an utterly exotic and unique culture: I learn from cultures and people that are beyond foreign. I feel a sense of connection despite the massive distance and I crave the feeling. I feel alone and yet connected to the human thread. Japan is on this list, no doubt. Can you think of equally exotic places?
To commune with nature: To bask in the amazing beauty of Mother Nature, to spend time in nature, and to simplify life by returning to simpler roots. Hawaii and New Zealand are unmatched in my memories. What about yours?
To go on a spiritual journey: This one is on which I have not intentionally embarked but I admit that Bali came close and Mysore, India is on my list for someday. What is your definition of a spiritual journey?
To photograph wild life: I haven’t the skills or the equipment to do it yet; all I know is that it shall come to be. And that I will set foot in Africa someday. Have you known the joy of shooting or observing wild life?
To participate in a festival: My favorite ones are yoga and Argentine tango and while both have taken a sad back seat, I’d love to travel again exclusively for this reason. What hobby and passion holds your interest to the point of traveling for it?
To fulfill a childhood dream or fantasy: Who knows why we hold on to an idea or a place in our childhood but alas we do. For me, it was always America, Rio de Janeiro and Paris. Go figure! Two out of three is pretty good so far. What childhood dream do you need to fulfill in your travels?
Maybe it doesn’t make all that much sense to structure travel. Maybe spontaneity is the best way to approach the dream list of destinations. Maybe it is best not to create a bucket list that may never be checked off.
Maybe it is better to not dream, lest it not come true.
Maybe. Maybe not.
What do you think? What would you do?
Oh and tell me, should I pick up and go back to Japan in the middle of these insanely busy days and with no preparation or planning whatsoever?