I was born in Ohio and lived there for the first 22 years of my life. Growing up I did a fair amount of traveling. For many years in the summer my father’s side of the family would spend two weeks in a beach house in Hilton Head, South Carolina. My grandparents lived in Indiana so I spent frequent summers or holidays up there. After my father moved to Florida I wracked up thousands of miles flying down to visit him; once he and I took a trip to New Orleans together. I took family trips to Tennessee and Michigan and Colorado. During college I took several solo trips to Chicago and New York City, as well as a crazy weekend drive with friends down to Virginia. My travels were mostly contained within the Midwest and East Coast, and I never left the country.
The Christmas before I moved to Hawaii, I acquired my first passport. I was determined to see the world. I hadn’t realized how much of a challenge it is to travel when you live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I took a short trip to Portland nearly a year later, but I never managed to leave the country.
This past Christmas, my first Christmas truly away from home, my father decided that money would make the best gift. I briefly considered spending the money on something practical, but quickly discarded that idea in favor of travel (practicality is not my strong suit). Back in high school I’d planned an extended trip to Quebec that had fallen through, and so that became my first choice of places to visit, since I was already fairly familiar with it. Unfortunately traveling to Canada from Honolulu is not nearly as convenient as it would have been had I still lived in Ohio. At 10 hours minimum for a flight (and no hope of direct connection) I’d be spending an entire day, at least, just in transit. So I began looking at prices and flight time for the western part of Canada, but nothing really stuck out to me. In my mind Canada is this rural place, moose and geese and lakes and snow. I prefer skyscrapers and subways.
And then I remembered Japan.
I was in middle school when I a friend of mine introduced me to anime, lending me a stack of videos which I promptly copied on my brother’s dual-VCR hookup. Soon my friend was giving cassette tapes of her favorite Japanese bands. This was in the days before Cartoon Network, or at least the days when my family didn’t have cable, so my exposure was mostly second hand. A group of us set up a lending library of sorts, swapping tapes and movies, some of them third or fourth generation with hand written labels. It wasn’t anything real devoted or underground like some die-hard fans, it was just among friends (although one might argue that waiting 14 hours for an mp3 to download over dial-up might qualify as devotion). But the glimpse of a foreign culture was enticing. I fell in love with the culture of cuteness, with the flashing lights and speeding trains of Tokyo, and decided that someday, somehow, I would visit Japan. Of course at that time, it was only a far off dream. Just like Hawaii had been.
A flight from Cincinnati to Tokyo is roughly 15 hours, typically connecting in Chicago. Even a nonstop flight out of Chicago takes nearly 13 hours. On the other hand, a flight from Honolulu to Tokyo is only 8 1/2 hours, and even shorter on the way back.
If you’re going to leave the country, why not leave the continent? I’d already flown four thousand miles. Why not keep going? Why not fly four thousand more?
I leave in five days. I promise to write.