As a little girl I often found myself dreading family vacation trips to Florida and those long car rides across state to Grandma’s house. Traveling was something I found absolutely no interest in I enjoyed where I lived and saw no purpose in going elsewhere. Knowing that, it might come as a surprise to hear that I applied and was accepted to be a Japan Ambassador my freshmen year of highschool. I was honored to be given the opportunity to travel to the most amazing country for fourteen incredible days, Let me tell you, traveling on an international flight with comfortable seats and free food is a whole lot better than being squished in the back on my mom’s minivan with my two younger brothers.
But, preparing for a trip across the world is not all fun and games Packing is a girl’s worst nightmare when you are only allowed one fifty pound suitcase.
Oh, thejoys of fitting two weeks worth of clothes plus all other necessities into a suitcase that was on its last leg Being someone who has no interest in traveling, this trip was sort of a step in the wrong direction for me but ended up having the most positive outcome My homestay experience was something that I will never forget, Everything from the exterior to the interior was just so different.
The house had only one heat source and that, oddly enough, was the living room table. Underneath was a heater built in, we all gathered and stuck our legs under the table to keep warm.
Just unique things like that were so cool to experience. It is a taboo to wear your shoes or have bare feet in the house One must wear slippers at all time. It was so different coming in the house, taking off your shoes and instantly putting on your “house shoes.” As if things weren’t different enough the first night there, I experienced something I will never forget.
As I lay on my bed tossing and turning, in the hopes it will somehow warm my ice cold body, I debate on if I should go back to the table or not, to warm up Instantly I forget about how numb my toes are and how bad the goose bumps on my back are. I now find myself panicking, pictures on the walls are shaking ready to fall of, the alarm clock on my nightstand rumbled right to the concrete floor. What was going on? Is Japan at war? I honestly debated the possibility because what else could it be? At this point the whole house was shaking, even more than I was in my bed before all of this happened. My homestay mother came into my room to inform me all of this nonsense was nothing but a mild earthquake, It was just something so different for me as a Minnesotan to experience. Something, most of us will never get the chance to experience.
It was frightening and thrilling all at the same time But, let me tell you From experiencing a real life earthquake to toilets that had more buttons than a TV. remote to even tasting food that looked like it was still alive, Japan was amazing My charismatic homestay family were the most humble people I have ever met They treated me like I was treated like complete royaltyt It was nearly impossible to go somewhere without them buying me some sort of gift, whether it was Japanese candy, (which by the way is to die for) or handcrafted eighty dollar Japanese dining platest I made friendships with them that will last a lifetime and learned so much from experiencing a new culture and by taking in all of their unique customs. Before experiencing the amazing journey I took across the world, I never found myself thankful for the life I was given. But, there is something about taking steps in someone else’s shoes that really makes you thankful for what you have.
Who would’ve ever guessed I would come home so grateful for my one button toilet and my heated house? Seeing people having so little and being so grateful makes you really take a step back and think twice, Before Japan I was someone who completely dreaded thirty minute car rides across town. But after the trip I have visited a total of five other countries I am constantly finding myself itching for somewhere new to go and am open to things I would never even imagine doing a few years ago I guess the saying, “you never know until you try” fits best, because you don’t. Who would’ve ever guessed that those horrendous car rides to grandma’s house would turn into something I now consider a passion.