Apr 20, 2017

Japan Film & Thoughts on Traveling (Solo) and other Musings

I have been wanting to go to Japan for ages. So on a whim, I decided this year I would go. I haven't traveled out of the country for almost three years (!!!). I couldn't find anyone to accompany me, so I traveled to Japan solo...and so ensued another solo travel adventure. I began my trip in Tokyo and then made my way to Nara, Kyoto, Mount Koya, and Osaka. I'm sharing a few of my favorite shots that I took on film. I was hoping to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, but I was a bit too early and the weather was a bit too cold. That didn't take away from the beauty of the country or my experience. There is so much to see, do, and experience in Japan that I'll just have to go back.

This wasn't my first time traveling solo. My first time was right after I graduated from college and I went off to Europe for 5 weeks. That was a scary, amazing, and an insightful experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. But when I came back from that trip, I was forced to face the "real" world after graduation. I had no job. I came back to a post-grad slump. I debated with myself about going back to school. I worked a job that I didn't love. I quit my job. Started a new job. Figured out new career goals. Dated - a lot. Had my heart bruised. I traveled more (domestically). I moved back to Orange County. I made new friends. I've been growing. 

So traveling solo this time wasn't as anxiety inducing. I was excited and ready to see what this new country had in store for me. I arrived in Japan and fell in love with the country instantly. The people, the culture, the food. Because I grew up and went to school in predominately Asian areas my whole life, not too many things were shocking. I experienced some culture shock - the language barrier was a huge one. But nothing too difficult to overcome. I met some awesome people in Japan. Some of the best conversations I've had have been with strangers (who later become friends). I don't think I'll ever forget those drunken nights talking about life, travel, dating, photography, friends, our homes. Amazing how quickly strangers can connect with each other. 

Traveling solo has been one of the most rewarding decisions I've made. One thing that I hear from people when I tell them I'm traveling alone is that they aren't sure they could do that because they enjoy sharing the experience with someone else. Well, I can say I've shared a lot of experiences with a lot of strangers and new friends. And honestly, if I wait for people to travel with me I would have probably not traveled out of the country by now. Traveling solo is a unique experience, and I'm glad to be able to do so. Travel is a different experience for everyone. I travel to experience new cultures, meet new people, and ultimately experience humanity. A lot of conversations I had with people I met were about how when you come back home nothing has changed. The beauty of travel is that all your titles and who you "are" is stripped away. While I agreed with everyone that things are the same when you come back home, I mentioned that while things may be the same...you aren't. Travel changes you in a way that's hard to describe. Since returning, I've met up with a few friends to catch up and talk about my travels. And although things were the "same" when I returned home, I realized that I wasn't. And while that can be frustrating, to have changed so much while everything around you is the same, I've come to appreciate where I am and the opportunities I've been able to take. I don't travel to escape. I always return home with a fresh perspective on my current situation in life. I'm thankful to have friends and family that care about me back home. 

I take photographs because I enjoy capturing my perspective and documenting places. Some people argue that stopping to take a photo takes away from experiencing the moment - I agree to some extent. Social media culture is alive and well - are we just taking photos to post it to our instagram for likes? If you didn't take a picture...did it really happen? And that is something I struggle with. While in Kyoto visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine with Brad (a friend a made in my hostel) he asked me "how many people do you think would be here if cameras and social media didn't exist?" and he told me no one would be there because no one is really there for the culture. I replied that the monks would be there (heh). I felt a pang of guilt that night, and proceeded to educate myself on the cultural significance of the gates. But I love taking photographs. For me, stopping to take a photograph doesn't take away from the moment, but adds my own unique experience to it. I can look through a few of my favorite shots and remember how I felt or what I was doing that moment - when I stopped to look at the monkeys in the monkey park and noticed how nice the lighting was (and the guy next to me did too and acknowledged me with a simple hello before we both proceeded to take photos). Or the awe I felt walking through Asakusa my first night, in disbelief that I was actually in Tokyo (and the fact that I could walk around at 10pm as a woman by myself and feel completely safe). Or how at peace I felt walking through Yoyogi Park to the Meiji Shrine, appreciating how beautiful the light was shining through the trees and how amazing it was to be walking through centuries of history. 

I remember one night in Osaka, sitting at the bar with Chad (another friend that I met in Kyoto), talking about photography. I was a pretty drunk at this point, but I still remember it. I remember telling him it's easy to say "I like photography", but explaining why is a whole different concept. I showed him the star trails and photo of the milky way I took at El Matador and told him that photography made me want to see more of the world and pushed me to do things I wouldn't normally do. Why else would I go to the beach at midnight? Photography (for me) is about perspective - about changing how you see the world, and I think that's a beautiful concept that can be applied to other things in life. 

Although this was a short 2 week trip, I experienced a lot. And I'm already itching to go on my next trip (I purchased my ticket for Taiwan and the Philippines shortly after returning from Japan). Can't stop, won't stop. 


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