For the longest time, my good friend Kang and I had wanted to go on an adventure together. We spoke of India before, but as I had recently been, we decided on a place that was dear to both our hearts – Japan.
Knowing Kang and his wild spirit, he spoke of a magical route from a different time in the world, known as the Nakasendo. Formed in the Edo period, it was the official route of the Tokugawa shogunate, and was traveled by government officials, samurai, messengers, ordinary folk, vagabonds, and everyone in-between. It was an early “highway” between Edo (then-Tokyo) and Kyoto.
So in late October of 2016, with a little sabbatical from work, and after many months of planning, Kang, myself, and our respective partners Janice and Sam, packed our bags and headed to Japan to take a walk of our lives.
For this particular trip, I stopped to smell the flowers a little harder, I breathed in the fresh countryside air a little greedier, and I held on to every second I was out there a little tighter. That’s not to discount every other trip I had been on as being any lesser than this particular trip, but it helped that I was at a crossroads in my life. A lot was weighing on my mind and soul when I had begun that journey, that it was only with the magic of the Japanese countryside (far from the tourist-ridden cities) and lots of self-reflection that all my discontent seeped away.
At the end of it all, we walked a considerable distance. Some paths were steep, some were uneven, some were lonely, some had no end in sight, but it was always breathtakingly beautiful. A lot of the places we were traveling through, we could count the number of people we came across on one hand. But of those that we did meet, we spoke with them, and saw how they lived. We drank sake with dirty old men, eavesdropped on sweet couples on dates, watched as kids shrieked at a small playground just outside a neighborhood school, and even shared a kotatsu with an old lady who told us to watch out for bears late at night.
There’s so much more to tell, but I’m going to leave you here with this. As 2016 closes out, I have an insane amount of things to be thankful for. And I truly believe the walk in Japan had a major part to play in changing me and my perspective on life. Within a week or two after my return, everything started to fall in place. It was as if I had picked up some goodness out there.
Here’s to a beautiful 2017. And more walks in places we love.