I hate crying in public, but I don’t hate it as much as I used to. However, in this particular instance I was embarrassed and inconsolable. Five weeks into my Asian adventure and two months into my marriage, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop in Tokyo crying sloppy tears into my cappuccino. My husband and I just endured over a month of Southeast Asian heat which left us sticky and breathless and disconnected. We planned this trip intentionally during our first months of marriage to experience a new relationship within a new culture. We knew the trip would be difficult at times, but what we knew still caught us by surprise.
In just under 35 days, we breezed our way through eight cities and finally arrived in Tokyo. Japan was significantly different than the other countries on our itinerary. The weather changed from horribly hot to damp and drizzly, the food from spicy and bright to savory and bland. Our arrival in Japan reflected a major transition in our trip and spurred a shift in me. I began to feel the hail storm of emotions marking my frustration and selfishness that I had been withholding for the past few weeks.
In this ultra-sleek Tokyo cafe, I wrote down my feelings, my intentions for the trip, and ultimately my expectations for my husband, my marriage, and my life. My explorations on paper all pointed to one core value I hold on to tightly—to live a life with a deep sense of purpose and service to others. Apparently, running around in Asia—eating, adventuring, sweating, sightseeing—was not fulfilling the purpose-filled vision I have for my life. While I felt alive and inspired by the newness of my surroundings, I also felt dirty and selfish. For the past month, I was merely a consumer. I wasn’t contributing to anything outside of myself. And the busyness and physical discomfort I endured on the trip left me inadequate to love, serve, and be intentional with others or even myself.
After I finished my salty cappuccino and ran out of space in my journal, I met my husband at a bar that overlooked the famous Shibuya crossing. We sat near a window, so we could watch the hordes of orderly people scurry across the intersection, and he graciously read my writing from earlier in the day. We talked about how intentionality during travel is hard to achieve because it looks different than in everyday life. We aren’t making, producing, or gathering as usual. Instead, we are observing, consuming, and experiencing. From the exterior, these behaviors can look selfish, like they lack purpose. But if we allow these experiences to give birth to something new, it will give us a broader and more soulful vision for life. We also discussed not shying away from the physical discomfort we may experience abroad. Within the tension of discomfort we have the option to choose between a life-giving experience or an ordinary vacation.
Six months later, I am sitting on the patio of my home in Denver, reminiscing about the two months we spent in Asia. I remember it more fondly than I experienced it. Isn’t it funny how even the mundane seems more glamorous in our memories? I don’t often dwell on the difficulty I endured during my time abroad. But I am grateful for the lessons it brought: a patience and willingness to take the time to examine my life even if it’s over a tear-filled cappuccino.
Kristyn is making her author’s debut this issue and has recently relocated from Santa Barbara, CA to Denver, CO. She refuses to pick a favorite book but can declare her favorite band is Death Cab for Cutie. She uses creativity to find beauty in the simple and ordinary. She wanted to make it known that her golden retriever, Cheyenne, is her best friend, her husband is accepting.