I just took my bag down from the overhead compartment of a train and my umbrella switfly propelled out, both hitting and waking up a sleeping Japanese man.
"Gomen-nassai! Sumimasen! Okinamayaki! GYOZA!"
After mumbling every Japanese phrase I could remember (note: via the links above, you can tell that they didn't all translate to, “oh my god, I’m SO sorry, I am a terrible human being and clumsy as f*ck”), I sulked into my seat, a little frustrated at the fact that I was on this train to Tokyo alone.
The rest of the day hadn’t gone very well. To start, I missed an event that I committed to because my phone died while I was sleeping, though I’m sure that the three craft beers I had the night before didn’t help. There’s also the whole “my friends are instigators, even when I don’t want to drink” thing, and I end up at a bar, a club, and then another bar that I had gone to the week before - one that was so intriguing to others, that others made me go back. This bar is special, though. And I'll definitely be back (just not the night before a morning event).
I’ve learned the rules of this place, and I feel like I should state them:
Go inside the bar because you see a Mexican flag. This bar must be great!
Meet the bartender, who will promptly tell you that, so sorry, they’re closed.
Look with understanding eyes at the bartender. Kindly beg, “can we just have one drink?”
The bartender will, smile, open his arms, and welcome you. (Rules 2 and 3 apply when the bar is empty or full. Always follow them.)
Have a drink, make friends with the bartender, put on the luchador mask. Leave tipsy.
Miss an important event.
Well, rule six only applies to me. Last night.
This photo wasn't even from the night I'm talking about, but the previous one with (another) Michael. We will return to greet our favorite bartender again soon.
I was headed to Tokyo from Kyoto and originally was supposed to take a later train, after the event. But...well, you can read.
If you don’t know this about me, my inability to navigate simple Google directions is truly remarkable.
I’m never the person you follow. Unless you want to have a beer at a luchador bar at 3 AM.
I’ll always find you a cool, secret, hidden spot. Why? Because it’s hidden for a reason, and I’m always lost. See? There is a plus side to this! However, if you’re trying to catch a subway or a train or a bus and Uber is not an option, your fate may be ill with me.
“I can do this!”
I thought to myself, as I boarded the subway going the opposite direction of where I was trying to get.
I knew the trains left about every half hour, but the more time I wasted, the more I got annoyed. This fact is always proven to me, so I expect it, but nonetheless, it does get frustrating. Luckily, one of my best friends, Michael, is on this Japanese adventure month with me. I texted him in a panicked frenzy.
“I GOT ON THE WRONG TRAIN. AGAIN. ALWAYS. WHY.”
He calmly and immediately texted back.
Just three little letters, yet I knew it was sincere. Because he knows me. This does always happen. And he knew the exact station I was coming from, the train I was trying to get on, the deep, engrained trait about not knowing where the hell I am, ever, that I possess. As I paid to get back on the subway going to the opposite direction to then switch to another subway to then get to the train to get to the city that I was trying to meet Michael in, he texted me train times.
“Hikari474 departs 15:58”
“Hikari 528 at 16:32”
“They are on the :32 and :58 :)”
“Next one is track 12”
*cue me reading these messages but not having enough time to respond and SPRINTING to track 11 to make the :58*
Me: “I MADE IT ON the :58!”
Him: “18:40 is your arrival time :)”
Who is this amazing human and how did I get so lucky to be able to travel with him?
These are clearly things I should be able (and am actually capable of) doing, but fail pretty hard at sometimes. Thanks for the help, M.
The things I just wrote about that happened over the past few days somehow made sense in my mind as a group of related forces and made me start thinking. (This is a two hour train ride, and I’m alone, so there’s plenty of time for that.)
The fact that I’m in Japan is amazing. The fact that I’ve traveled all over the world for over a year now is incredible. The places and things I’ve done are *insert synonym for the previous adjectives*. But it really doesn’t matter where you are if you don’t have people who you love, that love you back, that seem to just get it.
Somehow, Remote Year figured that out and now runs a pretty cool business that relies on it.
Because if I were alone, traveling, missing trains and eating ramen once a day, I’d be just that: alone.
While there’s definitely nothing wrong with solo-travel and I do believe it’s good for you every once in a while to get away (#metime), it’s not truly sustainable for someone like me. Every side trip I’ve done alone is fun, crazy, relaxing, and lost as hell. But when I needed someone to laugh with me at the fact that it took me 45 minutes to get somewhere that I could’ve gotten to in five, I’ve got those people at my fingertips. Literally.
As I sit on this train, alone, still apologizing to my Japanese man friend (*awkward, very deep but sincere bow while sitting which makes it even more awkward*) I’m chatting with four people via whatsapp about my pure embarrassment and shame. All of those people are from my little Remote Year fam. And whether I’ve known them 5 years or 5 days, we’ve all got this weird, understanding bond with each other. Traveling with these people, I’ve never really felt alone. Even when I’m alone, I’m not. And I have these amazing humans to thank for it.
As I've said in many blogs before, traveling is amazing, but definitely not easy.
Who you’re traveling with makes all the difference.
And while I’m sure I’ll enjoy Tokyo, I know I’ll love it even more because I’ll be hanging with Michael (if I can figure out how to meet up with him once I get to the station…) and Dana and her dad and brother because now they’re my dad and brother too. (#newfam). They’ll also probably help me navigate the streets a tad better than I can do myself. But I know that if they choose not to, I know that the least I can do is find us a bar to wear luchador masks at.
Professional writer, designer, and do-it-aller. Remote Year citizen/alum. Currently living in San Francisco and probably trying to avoid the terrifying amounts of pigeons.