As a dependent in the military, travel in my lifestyle has been a constant experience. When you pack your belongings and move away to a new place every three years in a routine fashion, it begins to become apparent that no city, state, or even country is any more exciting than the next. However, the summer before last, my woes of travel expired with the trip that changed my outlook and taught me to cherish each moment during my travels.
The first time my father told us that we would be going to Japan, my older brother squealed with delight. He had always envisioned the technology, the video games, and of course, the women. On the other hand, there was me.
I had spent the last three years growing close to people. In no way was I going to be ecstatic about leaving it all behind for a cell phone with a navigation system, the latest game full of jumping, moving, flying animated graphics, or lastly, women. Besides, hadn’t traveling to a new place always been the same? There were schools everywhere.
Food, people, languages, sites to see – they were common experiences. Unfortunately, I hadn’t a choice. In a few months, my father, brother, and I were on a fourteen hour flight to Tokyo.
A few weeks after our arrival, my lack of enthusiasm didn’t go unnoticed by my father who insisted on planning an outing to explore this new culture every time a look of boredom or discontentment was written on my face. Finally, I surrendered and the three of us were on a tour bus, sliding and bumping in our seats down the crowded streets of Japan. Immediately, what I saw captivated me.
The hundreds of men and women walking along were dressed brightly. They all seemed in a hurry, but miraculously, still had time to smile and bow their heads to passing strangers. I wondered briefly where they were all going.
It was then that I asked my father where we were going. He had woken us up early that morning and instructed that we dress warmly and wear good shoes. I realized now that I hadn’t the faintest idea where our destination was.
When asked, my dad simply smiled, leaving behind an unspoken, ‘It’s a surprise.’ The bus ride was long. I had fallen asleep somewhere along the road. The skyscrapers and smoggy skies had been replaced by an abundance of trees and waterways.
‘How odd,’ I remember thinking before dozing off again. By the time I was shaken awake by my brother, night had fallen. I glanced around the bus. We had stopped. Slightly confused, I followed my family off the bus. We stopped with the group of people we had traveled with to listen to a male speaker, he pointed behind him and wished us well. My eyes followed the crowd. I gaped. I allowed my gaze to travel upward. We were at the base of Mount. Fuji. My father intended me and my brother to climb to the top with him. At night? Why not? I can honestly say that I believed everyone willing to attempt this had to be crazy. At the same time, though, I realized that I was one of them. I can’t remember a time in my life when I was more exhausted. Every part of my body ached. Each step upwards got more and more difficult, but we had a time limit, my father kept reminding us. ‘I am crazy. This is nuts,’ I told myself all the way to the top. But it was at the top where I finally understood why I had done this. Mount. Fuji’s peak rises just above the clouds. We had climbed all night to see what few people get to see: the sun rising over a sea of clouds. It had been worth it, each painful step after the other for this beauty, this point of view. That’s what I realized I was doing, I was looking at the world from another perspective. I knew at that moment that moving here to Japan didn’t have to be a negative experience. I could make it beautiful and wonderful by simply looking at things in a different way. I smiled warmly at my family. They smiled back knowingly. I knew then, that although I had to endure the hardship of moving away from the familiar, like this long, difficult climb up the steep mountain, the end result could be well worth it.
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