Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Refill

The Refill is a Fukuoka E-Zine that comes out every two months. It's written and published by JET's for JET's and covers topics such as travel, upcoming local events, and life in Fukuoka Prefecture. This past issue, I wrote an article (guess what it's about), so check it out!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fool Me Twice...

I distinctly remember swearing to myself that I'd never do it again. Sure, at the time, I convinced myself it was worth all the pain and effort. The feeling of self-accomplishment and afterglow made the following hours of complete immobility worth it. However, once was enough. I told myself that it was a check off my bucket list, and since it was completed, I never had to do it again.

I wouldn't call it "fun"...

Well recently, I was going over my bucket list. I have a lot left to do, but I've completed a few since I started it a few years ago. One of those was, as I mentioned, the Los Angeles marathon (not LA specifically, but run a legitimate marathon without any breaks or walking). I noticed, though, that I neglected to write down my time. Why didn't I write it down? How fast did I run it? Wasn't it around 3:50? Was it faster? Slower? Is my time lost forever?!?

I couldn't remember (thankfully, it was still online--3:49:16), but it got me thinking. "Well... I'm trying to run more anyway, why not have something to run for?" I played with the idea of a half-marathon here in Japan. That lasted about 5 seconds as I reminded myself that a half-marathon equals half an accomplishment.

So it'd have to be a marathon again. After briefly google-ing a few different marathons in Japan, I found one that would be in a city close enough to visit in a weekend. At 6 months away, it could be the perfect amount of time to train properly... but no. No. Never again. I promised myself.

But... it would be cool to say I ran a marathon in Japan. I'm sure it's a cultural experience in itself to race in a foreign country. Plus, since I have experience completing a marathon before, I would know what to expect.

Wait a minute, I know what to expect. That's the reason I don't want to do it again! Right?

I half-jokingly messaged a friend asking if he'd be down to run a marathon. There's no way he could say yes. I expected a,  "Hell no," and then I'd try to convince him otherwise. Like how it's an amazing experience, it's worth it at the end, there's plenty of time to train, et cetera. Or at least, there'd be some sort of resistance. Then he would say he'd think about it, but ultimately decide no. I would be able to say I tried, but it wasn't meant to be. And that would be that.

Notice how long he took to decide... so fast, there's a typo.

Instead, we were registered around 11 that same night. By the next day, we were paid entrants for the 2011 Osaka Yodogawa Marathon--my second marathon.

Too bad there's no bonus check on my bucket list for doing something twice...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thoughts on Travel

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.

I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the idea of living.

Iwatayama Park, Arashiyama, Kyoto
Iwatayama Park, Arashiyama, Kyoto

I travel to learn. It's as simple as that. As a human, I am the ongoing result of a lifetime of experiences. Everyday, we grow and develop as individuals as we build on the foundation of experiences we have lived. However, without traveling, there are entire worlds that we will not interact with. For me, this is the sake of travel. It matters less where we go—what is important is the act of traveling, or travel for the sake of travel. Anywhere that is new to us, anywhere we have never seen or experienced; these locations are the best opportunities to learn.

Most likely, the best learning experiences come from interacting with the previously unknown. We fill in the gaps of our knowledge as we try new things. This unknown is a strong factor in contributing to our learning process as humans. Naturally, this includes the unknown about another's culture, customs, and ways of thinking. However, it also includes the unexpected events that occur while traveling. While life surprises us everywhere including our own neighborhood, it is safe to say that while traveling, these occurrences are much more numerous.

We can plan out every minute detail of our trip, but in the end, things will not turn out as planned. Some are good: the spontaneous invitation to a new friend's house for dinner, getting lost and discovering an alley untouched by tourists, or even just deciding to say hell with your schedule and enjoying the rest of the afternoon in the shade of a cafe. Others will be... less fortunate, such as the time you get conned into something you never intended or the moment you realize you missed the last train. However, regardless of your luck, it will never fail to provide an experience. Even when it may be the worst feeling in the world, in hindsight, it will likely prove to be your most valuable lesson.

This leads into the last concept of learning—personal development. By definition, when we learn, we grow as individuals. How we live our lives is the result of the collective knowledge acquired over a full lifetime. However, unlike the learning that goes on in a classroom, travel provides an education impossible to learn through books or memorization. We grow the most when we are out of our comfort zone, and the easiest way to push ourselves is to travel.

Through travel, we learn about ourselves.

We learn that we are much stronger than we could have ever imagined. We challenge ourselves in ways we would never normally consider whether it be eating things to be polite that even locals scoff at, or getting over a fear of swimming in order to see the Great Barrier Reef up close. In addition, we develop a heightened sense of perception to our surroundings. Like children, everything in the world becomes new again: sights, smells, sounds, even the simple act of crossing the street becomes an endeavor.

Travel is not permanent. Eventually, we will return to our everyday lives, whether it be back at home or develop new habits living abroad. However, just as we cannot un-live an experience, what we learned on our travels never leaves us. "It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the idea of living."