Rachel and I are very strong-willed, independent people – neither of us is with the other because we have to be, or because we’ve suppressed or tamped down our own identities in favor of the other. This works great for things like being able to find things to do that we are looking forward to, but it also means we argue. We argue a lot, although who knows if the percentage is more or less than any other couples out there.
This is a very intense trip – 24 days of travel, with a half-dozen points to “hit” in a single day in many cases, and a lot of walking, arranging and preparation in a country where neither of us can be considered meaningfully competent in the native language. That means in many cases, it’s just the two of us, in a strange place, with our different styles.
Just like the hardest part of a mountain climb might not be the walking but keeping your entire party together and in check, the difficulty of three weeks of intense activity is our notable (and delightful) differences working together to achieve a fulfilling, enjoyable trip.
This is not the first large-scale project we’ve tackled together – the documentary we shot and produced was equally a case of finding strengths and working over differences to get a great end-project together. We got through that and the result was, in my opinion, something really special.
This is the same – the list we’re checking off and the quality of those items has been utterly terrific. We pulled into Kyoto with a new world of experiences to have, and a lost bag on the bullet train. After we worked through this problem, we went shopping – for candy, for a replacement part for my Fitbit, and along the way we stopped off for odd donuts and a gift for our host. Together, we touch all these things, and together we bring out the best in each other.
We discussed an interesting aspect to all this for myself – I’ve really wanted to come here for 20 years, and so I’d kind of built up this whole pile of expectations and list items inside my mind, parallel to the life I lived, and when we got here, it was a huge jumbly emotion pile for me as I was reconciling these half-buried dream-points with the realistic logistics of going from place to place and getting a chance to experience everything we’re finding, both planned and unplanned. It means that occasionally, I’ve crashed, and occasionally, I’ve wanted to do things way beyond a realistic way to push a person. If Rachel wasn’t here, also providing input and support, I suspect I’d spend half the trip never sleeping and half the rest of the time passed out face-down in a nice place I’d rented, getting nothing out of it. I’m more balanced with the two of us together on it, and the friction we get working together produces a fine experience, indeed.
I’ve written this little side-bar because there’s a real propensity in travel diaries like this to focus on the best, the greatest, the smoothest moments. There’s rough moments! But when the dust settles and you realize you couldn’t imagine anyone else standing there in the middle of a strange land and a million new potential paths and experiences – it’s all worth it.