|If you right click my photos and select "open in new tab" you can see them in their original size which looks much better.|
Going to another country is definitely a learning experience for many reasons. Not just because of the trip either. You learn a lot about yourself in the process too. For instance, I learned that I am much more of a Southerner than I thought. If you are from the U.S. you have probably heard of "Southern hospitality." I never believed much in that, I just figured it was on a case by case basis and my case was not one of them. But when I was living in my share house in Japan I always wanted to show good hospitality to my roommates around me as if they were guests. I don't know what it was. I always wanted to cook for them, or share things with them, or just include them in any activity I was participating in. It was like an automatic reflex that I couldn't shake. On one of my last days I cooked stuffed bell peppers for my share mates and it just hit me that southern hospitality seems to run in the blood and I was no exception to the rule. I don't know, it's hard to explain but that's the way I felt.
Oddly enough you also learn a lot about your country while being abroad. You learn how that country views yours, what they like, what they don't, where the popular spots for foreigners to visit are (spoiler: it's LA and New York) and much more. It's like crossing the street and looking at your house from your neighbors point of view. It's a different perspective... seriously try it. Getting that point of view opens your eyes to your home country in a way.
Sort of on that same point, you also learn a whole lot about your culture. Especially if you go to Asia. I really don't think there is a more contrary culture to ours on this planet than Asian cultures. It's not something you can really explain in a single blog post, but it's something that makes you view your culture differently. At the risk of sounding like a cynic, it makes you really hate a lot of things about your culture. Especially when comparing it to Japanese culture. Now don't get me wrong, Japanese culture has it's downsides as well and no one is perfect. But there are a lot of things I like about the Japanese.
For instance, McDonald's. When was the last time you have gone into a McDonald's and the cashier is bright and smiling, the place is perfectly spotless, the cooks run when the frier beeps, and if more than two people line up someone from the back drops what they are doing and grabs an open cash register? When was the last time you stood in line for 2 minutes or less on a busy day at the grocery store? How about being led to where you need to go by a complete stranger without even asking? All of this stuff and more is completely normal for Japan. So normal in fact that this stuff goes basically unnoticed as being courteous or good service. My first 2 days back in the U.S. I got rude service from multiple cashiers, stood in a line for countless minutes at Wal-Mart, and witnessed a guy yelling and cussing at a store clerk because he didn't have enough money on his bank card for something he wanted. To me that paints a bit of a picture in my mind about our cultures flaws. Again, don't get me wrong, Japanese culture has many flaws. I can't deny them, and some of them stem from their mentality to constantly please.
With my cynical talk out of the way, I really did miss the U.S. The minute I saw U.S. soil from the plane, I couldn't help but smile. That very soil is the soil I played in as a child and for all it's flaws, this country is where I am from and one that I love. That's really something else you learn while abroad. Simply how much you love your home country. It doesn't mean that you will have to live there forever. But it makes you appreciate all it has to offer you.
I already miss Japan though. I really loved that place, I loved their traditions, their women of course, and their way of thinking. It just makes sense to me. I think many foreigners have a hard time adjusting to their mind set, and I can honestly say it's a bit hard at some points, but it just clicks. There are so many things they do and say that just make you think, "Why the hell don't we do it like that in the U.S.?" That country has a certain appeal for me that I can't place my finger on, but is strong enough to call to me like the scent of a breakfast that smells so good it wakes you up from a dead sleep. The place is amazing I can't stress that enough. You have to see it for yourself.
As far as the trip itself goes though, for many reasons it was a horrible experience. It really had nothing to do with Japan. It would have been the same if I had gone to Bangladesh, Mexico, or the next town over. My trip just sucked horribly.
However, there was one thing I was hoping for from my trip and it was something happened by complete accident. You see, I went to Japan with three cameras. My Nikon J1 to record my blogs, my Nikon D5000 for still photos, and my Honeywell Pentax 35mm film camera with ONE roll of film. The challenge I set for myself was to take that one roll of film and capture at least one moment that I was completely proud of. I will show you in another post that photo and I will tell you the story behind it as well.
Seriously though, if you get nothing from my blog at all, I hope you understand that travel is important. This is our world, all of ours. Yours, mine, your neighbors, your dog's... It's everyone's world. So get out there and see what your world has to offer you. If you need a suggestion on where to start, I suggest Japan. If nothing else go for the food!