I had been journaling like crazy these past few weeks and I could not understand why. I never journal. Here I was, in one of the most ancient and beautiful countries and yet, this aura of gloom lingered above my head.
I started running. I didn’t even know where to go but I was running. Desperately trying to find waterfalls, hikes, nature, anything and everything that I thought would cure this feeling. This was unlike anything I have ever experienced while traveling and I hated it. Soon enough, I found myself in Kyoto, Japan. A new city with the same sadness and anxiety.
On my fifth day, I sat alone in a quiet park, reflecting. There were three occurrences replaying in my head:
The man who waited 45 minutes to ensure that I didn’t miss my train, despite watching his pass several times.
The woman who noticed my sadness and gifted homemade origami swans.
The elderly woman who bowed when I assisted her across a busy street.
Then it clicked. The underlying similarity between these moments was genuine, human connection. Somehow, amongst the bustling crowds and passing faces I had lost this sense of unity with the world around me. I had become just another tourist lost in a sea of faces and it blinded me.
Right away I stopped making plans but more importantly, I stopped running. I erased everything on my list of “must see and must do” and started chasing the journey. Talking to strangers, residing with hosts, and even hitchhiking.
I suppose that while I was trying to see this beautiful picture of Japan, I neglected a most fundamental detail-- the people. Since then, love and gratitude has been pouring back into my heart. Although now it takes three times as long to reach a destination, it’s worth it. The people I meet along the way make the view that much better. In exchange for unimaginable kindness, I now I find myself doing what so many others have done before me: regifting whatever souvenirs I have on my back-- keychains, sweets, and sometimes even the clothes on my back.
I’m nearing three full months on my pursuit of pure and total happiness with every month teaching me something different. If there’s one thing I learned from my time in Japan it’s this:
The beauty of this world feeds my heart, but human connection feeds my soul.