Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun Day Nine: A Trip's End


My alarm sounded and I wanted to hear anything, ANYTHING, but my alarm. It was time to get up and was my final time getting out of my bed at the Sotetsu Fresa. I did have time to go to 7-11 one last time and sadly the 60 year old woman wasn't there and Daydream Believer wasn't playing for once but I got the same two donuts and same energy drink I had every morning prior.

I had packed the previous night and when check out time came I walked towards another hotel where the bus would take me to the airport. Fittingly enough it was raining which was a great representation of the inner sadness I was feeling. Also, the weather had been great every other day so it was at least polite for the weather to not rain until I was leaving.

Waiting for the shuttle I kept having to get up and do a little victory fist pump or the like. As sad as I was I was also elated because this had been a booming success and I knew this wouldn't be the final time I'd be doing one of these. I began thinking of where I could go next, how could I make it more difficult, but then I started to have to think on what this post would look like and I came back down to earth, or at least my seat, and I became lost in deep, deep thought.

That was then. I write this now somewhere over the Pacific between Russia and Alaska. I've had many hours to reflect on what has happened these past 168 hours. Just a week ago I wanted to cancel, quit, because I knew this would be too difficult and when I landed and saw the sheer gigantic nature of Tokyo I wanted to go home, but that wasn't an option as transferring international plane tickets is out of my price range, but slowly things became easier and I learned to cope.

As covered in day eight I learned to go to a place before I actually needed to go. This did two things; it allowed me to see the lay of the land and it also minimized my need to interact with people. I do this at home too because I try to reduce the chance of needing to talk to a person. In Tokyo in made sense because I couldn't talk to them, well I could but I probably wouldn't be understood. Which that brings me to another point.

By day seven this trip had shifted from a great challenge to a glorious experience. What happened? Over the social encounters I had I learned that NOTHING was expected of me. Being American, and blond, I sort of stuck out and the locals knew I wasn't from there and they assumed, rightly of course, that I don't speak a lick of Japanese. Because of this nothing was ever expected. In Amsterdam, because I look the part, and most people speak English interactions and responses were expected, but up until the Australian on the street corner and the American at the game I had not really spoken at all and there was a great sense of security in this. I mean, when I walked into a cafe or restaurant the worker would switch a menu to either one in English or the primary one would be a picture menu and all I had to do was point and that was that. This made the experience, once I got past the culture shock, an easy one. 

Another thing I learned is that routines set in quickly. I was amazed at how fast routines set in. I know I say in presentations, "whatever happens first always has to happen" but living in the same city for 20+ years it's hard to have a new experience and to experience it anew, and to feel the anxiety on worrying that I wouldn't be doing the same thing again and again, was great.

So now I'm eight hours from landing in Detroit. The trip isn't over, exactly, yet, but the darkness I see out the window into the dimly lit skies over the Pacific is a good interpretation of the life this trip has left. And what a trip it has been. It's rare for me to use the words, "life changing" but this trip was. The words and thoughts I had in room 1311 (seriously, I never got over being on the 13th floor) were some of my deepest yet and I liken this experience to that I had when I was writing, and then a year later finished, Finding Kansas in Kisumu, Kenya. Traveling does something to me. I always knew, somehow, that if one truly wants to know who they are they just experience other cultures. Maybe this is true, maybe it isn't, but I don't think anyone can deny that the depth of knowledge I learned about myself, and in turn related that towards the Asperger's, was by pure chance.

So what's next? I don't know. After two of these Aspie Traveler things done I wonder if this is book material. It's fresh, it's unique, and if it is then that means I get to do this all over again somewhere else and that brings a smile to my face. No seriously, it does and the person to my left just looked at me oddly as to why I suddenly burst out with an almost audible smile. But where would I go? How can this be refined to be better? In reality was Tokyo difficult being a major tourist destination? Would a small town in Norway prove difficult? Or what about a smaller island in the middle of nowhere Pacific?

To close I'm elated about the way this turned out. Tokyo was an awesome place that I never once felt scared once (except the whole earthquake thing) and I don't know if I've been in a more friendly place. They say some things can be lost in translation but since I don't speak Japanese I could only take things at the physical social level, which I've struggled with my entire life, but I got a good read on it and it encounters I smiled, I gave a slight bow, and nothing can be lost in translation with the greater confidence and understanding I have of myself.

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