Into the harbour to seek shelter

It’s a common tradition in Japan to receive a fortune after making a small offering when visiting a temple. I did just that at the Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto back in January this year, less than a week into my Asian adventures. This is what it read:

“In the autumn evening when the wind is blowing hard, a sailing boat is coming into the harbour to shelter for the night.”

I enjoyed contemplating on these words at the time, and carefully tucked away the folded paper into my passport holder. Numerous months later, I came across the fortune in Amsterdam during a show-and-tell session on the passport holder’s contents (passport, random currencies, entrance tickets). I unfolded the paper and found it so appropriate to be reading the same words knowing that I’d soon be returning home after all these months.

The boat has been at sea for almost 9 months since it was last in the harbour, and has been away for most of the last 17 months. It has sailed around the world through both rough and calm waters, docking at some magnificent locations. At times, the boat has been solitary while navigating the waters, while other times the boat has shared the journey with a formidable convoy. The boat has been damaged by natural and man-made calamities and has been repaired on multiple occasions. Throughout the voyage, I believe the captain has weathered it all with a lot of dignity and enough command, but the captain needs a rest.

There’s two more nights left until that autumn evening arrives. I’m coming into the harbour and seeking shelter. I’m coming home.

passenger ferry boat to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

passenger ferry boat to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

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The last weeks…

This past year in Asia, I was attempting to be more flexible with my travel plans, to see where the world would take me depending on who I met or how I was feeling or what I had heard about. The effort brought me to some amazing places on this Earth and in my heart.

The past three weeks, I’ve made more concrete plans to be in certain cities during certain times to stay with friends that I’ve met during the last year or so of travelling. I dare say, things couldn’t have turned out any better. Nothing in this world is perfect, but I couldn’t have imagined or conjured up a better way to end all these months of travelling.

It’s been such a welcome change to spend time with people who have come to matter to me, and not just do the hostel thing and exchange the obligatory pleasantries and travel questions (e.g., where are you from? how long are you travelling? where have you been? where are you going? how was [this city]? how was [that country]? oh yeah, what’s your name?)

Sean, who I met in Armenia, and later again in Georgia and Japan – dekuji for hosting me in Brno! Sally, who I met in Georgia, and later again in Armenia and Turkey – shukran for hosting me in Hamburg! Bernard, who I met in Nicaragua – bedankt for hosting me in Amsterdam! Philipp, who I met in Thailand – danke schön for hosting me here in Berlin!

It’s been my pleasure to have all those whimsical conversations with you where others would think I’m crazy, it’s been my privilege to see and reconnect with you again, it’s been a blessing to share more meals with you, and it’s an honour to call you my friends. ☮

Land of the rising sun, land of contradictions

I’ve often been to places and have thought to myself that what I’m seeing is so contradictory and perplexing, but after my time in Japan I think I’m willing to say that nowhere have I set foot in this world that this contradiction is so strikingly apparent. And this is precisely what I have loved about my time here. Every interaction and experience piques my curiosity and has me attempting to rationalize why things are they way they are, at least to eyes that were raised in the Western world. All at once, at least on the surface, Japan is modern and traditional, familiar and foreign, logical and incomprehensible, orderly and chaotic, flashy and subtle, flamboyant and reserved, friendly and distant, superficial and inward.

modern and traditional Tokyo

modern and traditional Tokyo

I can’t wait until I get back to Osaka in February and continue, likely without much success, to figure it all out…