I’m an Indian-American dude working for the Tourism Bureau in a small fishing town in northern Japan, so my every day is pretty surreal. But I think what’s even more surreal is how ordinary the strangeness of my existence here has become for me. When my friends ask me, “How’s Japan?” it’s difficult to frame my experience here in a way that’s relatable for people back home. Life here is fundamentally different, and I think the best way to understand it is to come see it for yourself. That’s why I was so excited to have Josh and Rasild, two of my best friends from college, visit me here last week.
It’s been three and a half years since I graduated from UMass, but the friends I made there are like an extension of my family. The better part of my time after graduation has been spent living thousands of miles away from home. Yet somehow, when I see these guys, even if it’s for the first time in many months, it doesn’t feel like the days we spent chilling in my dorm room playing Super Smash Bros. and chowing down on late-night Dominos were all that long ago.
The five days my friends were in Kesennuma, we didn’t spend much time doing typical tourist stuff. Instead, we hit up my favorite spots to eat and hang out, met up with local friends and chilled. It might not be much different from what we would have been doing back home, but it’s crazy that we can be doing these things together, all these years after college in a place that none of us had ever heard of back then.
We stopped by at G’Pal, an English Conversation Cafe run by my friend Miyuki-san.
When Miyuki-san found out that Josh is a musician, she asked him to perform something
Recently, I’ve been thinking about what drives people to travel. What is it that draws us out of our comfort zones and propels us to go and discover new frontiers? Is it the thrill of exploration? Finding new foods, new flavors, new aromas? Is it the wonder of encountering a profoundly beautiful place? Is it cultural experiences, or the excitement of being somewhere far away? Or perhaps it’s the people we encounter along the way, whose lifestyles ignite our imaginations and inspire us to open our hearts to the world. For me, travel is a combination of all of the above.
Yet at its core, I think the essence of why we travel is much simpler. Whether or not we are conscious of it, I think we are all searching for a place that feels like home. A place that feels like home not because it is familiar, but rather, in spite of the fact that everything is new. I think that we travel to be reminded that the qualities human beings use to differentiate ourselves from one another are superficial, while the qualities present within us all are immutable and everlasting. We travel to be reminded of the fact that although there may be borders to cross, if we are capable of crossing the borders we’ve drawn in our hearts, we can be at home regardless of where we are in the world.