After a night in a capsule hotel (think futuristic space station), an introduction to fancy toilets/bidets with various “ass” settings, a traditional tea ceremony, gangs of wild deer roaming the streets of Nara, and more shrines and temples than you can shake a Dharmachakra at in Kyoto, my adventures in Japan continue. Off we go to Osaka, land of neon billboards, and Tokyo, for a mysterious ramen bar experience….
After a ten-and-a-half-hour flight from LAX, I arrive at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan. Suddenly, I am in a whole new world: the signs are all in mysterious Japanese characters, the P.A. announcements are equally exotic to my ears, and for once my white skin is a minority. I stop at a bathroom in the airport and find myself staring at a hole in the floor. What the hell, I think. I said I wanted an adventure. And thus begins my trip to Japan.
I took this solo road trip during Christmas week for two reasons. One: I’ve been struggling with depression for the last couple of months and feeling lost and alone, so I thought I might as well head out to the desert in a place where I really was lost and alone. And two: I figured this would be a good time to unplug, decompress and try to recover from burnout. This trip made me see that while you don’t always get what you want, you seem to get what you need.
Earlier this year, a friend of mine told me that I was welcome to stay at his place in Cleveland when he was out of town. My immediate reaction was: "Why on earth would I want to go to Cleveland?" Cut to six months later...I was itching for a change of scenery, so I thought, "Why not go to Cleveland?" As is my nature, the minute I purchased my non-refundable plane ticket, the thought "This is a huge mistake" went racing through my mind like a drunk driver.
At 8:31 a.m., the high-speed train left the station and traveled 285 miles to Paris' Gare du Nord railway station in just over two hours. Despite the group of eight or so English gents in ugly Christmas sweaters indulging in beer before noon surrounding me, the trip was smooth sailing, and before I knew it I had arrived in the City of Lights.
When I stepped out of the train onto the platform, I stood there for a minute while everyone rushed past me and just absorbed the fact that I was actually, finally, incredibly in Paris.
When my dream finally came true and I purchased a plane ticket to Europe, I almost peed myself with excitement.
My trip started with the TSA confiscating my very dangerous weapon—a tube of fennel-flavored toothpaste—which I encouraged the security agent with the faded enamel to use as I flashed her my own pearly whites. I knew right then and there that nothing was going to discourage or prevent me from having a fantastic time.