Student’s journey overseas to discover a new world

Shibuya Crossing on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. This pedestrian crossing is one of Tokyo's most popular and busiest streets. Photo by Calindra Revier/The Guardsman
Shibuya Crossing on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. This pedestrian crossing is one of Tokyo’s most popular and busiest streets. Photo by Calindra Revier/The Guardsman

By Calindra Revier/The Guardsman

Luckily I had checked the weather in Tokyo the night before I left and packed a small sweater, because the air hung crisp and cold, threatening snow, when I arrived there.

The excitement I felt helped me ignore my body temperature, which had dropped rapidly.

But that is not where this story really starts.

For a year, I planned my trip to Thailand. I studied the guidebooks, I saved up money and I waited for my moment to escape this country and all of its culture I had grown accustomed to.

I quit my job and tried to convince friends to go with me on my journey because I was being told traveling alone through Asia was dangerous and foolish.

After being frustrated by the endless list of people who agreed and then backed out, I read a traveling blog by a woman who convinced me that I had no more excuses not to go.

Spending what little money I had left, I finally purchased a ticket for the flight from SFO to Tokyo, that connected through to Osaka and then Bangkok.

Instantly full of fear and excitement, I wondered if I had made the right decision.

I packed my backpack the night before I left and departed the day after finals.

This was to be my trip of discovering myself and trying to find a new perspective.

I was going to chase Buddhism to the source and attempt to claim some of its tranquility and mindfulness for my own.

The plan was simple, one month traveling from Bangkok to the south of Thailand and then north from there. Ten days were set aside for an intense, silent Buddhist retreat.

All the while, my main concern was staying alive and staying out of the political protests that had been going on for months.

Friends had warned me that people on both sides of the protest had died and that protesters had been beaten and maced. The country was on edge and no one knew what the outcome was going to be.

It seemed that tourism hadn’t been affected, so my fear about the protests was relatively low.

I had an 11-hour layover in Tokyo.

A dear friend of mine who lived in Japan for years mapped out and planned an amazing night for me in the Shibuya district.

The city was everything I had expected and more.

Its funny how it’s the little things you end up remembering. Complicated heated toilet seats that play music or someone helping you buy a train ticket.

It’s always the little things that end up staying with you.

After so much delicious food, all consumed in a few hours with an assortment of English-speaking friends I had met from at least six different countries, I said goodbye.

I finished my night alone at Ichiran ramen, a magical culinary experience I’d rather keep to myself then try and recreate for you.

Finding Tokyo familiar and welcoming beyond belief was surprising and yet comforting.

It was a beautiful place with kind and purposeful people made me confident that this was going to be the trip I had been waiting for all these years.

The streets were freezing, rainy and almost snowing as I boarded my train at 5:30 a.m. to Haneda Airport. I was ready for Thailand’s heat.

I only booked my first night in Thailand at a hostel in Bangkok. My romantic side told me it was more adventurous to travel that way.

In many ways it was.

I felt engaged at every moment of my trip, as if every step I took led me into a deeper unknown.

I was a fool on a mission for mystery and yet felt like this was the only way to travel to regain that human craving for the world in which I live.

I was right.

The heat on the streets of Thailand at almost midnight made the smells overwhelming and sweat drip down every part of my body.

As I stepped off the SKY train, I realized that I was lost.

Backpack on my back, I wandered the streets looking for my hostel, somewhat afraid but curious to see how it would all turn out.

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