Time and encounter; a story from traveling through Japan // Wakako

Time and encounter; a story from traveling through Japan // Wakako

I am so grateful to be able to share my stories from the travel, as the "act of traveling" always brings up new questions. Our time in Japan this summer brought a welcoming wave of new thoughts that landed gently for me. This particular story, emerged while I was still in Japan, and I enjoyed reflecting on the time as I finished the edit once we returned home. I hope it brings something meaningful to you today. - Wakako

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Full transcript below // 

This year has been an exciting mix of travels and our time in Topanga. An unexpected theme often emerges through each travel - new ideas, insights, or a refreshing way of looking at the world. These lessons are powerful enough to impact my life and possibly alter my future. I have no idea what those lessons are going to be beforehand. So when we travel, I have no way to prepare for the kind of changes that might happen upon our return. When I left our home in Topanga last month to spend three weeks in Japan, I said goodbye to the version of myself to welcome the inevitable changes I knew would flood during and after the travel.

I hold so many moments on the road dear to my heart. 

When I drafted this story, I finished spending the first two weeks of our time in Japan in Yakushima, Tokyo, and a few other places in between. The time during the travel always has a way to warp differently than at home. In one way, our two weeks felt like we had been on the road forever, leaving the impression of the longest two weeks in life, yet each night, I went to sleep, thinking how quickly the day had flown by. Even the concept of “time,” which we consider “fixed,” transforms and stretches into this unknown element. 

While we were staying in Yakushima, I was doing one of three things. Working remotely with BK, adventuring with kids and Frido, or sitting still to soak up the mystery of the natural world. The nature on the remote island was so powerful that I felt I could find all the answers to my pondering questions. On one of the nights, I was sitting outside by myself, looking out to the ocean. The full moon was near, and the storm was approaching the island, so heavy clouds with pouring rain moved in and out very quickly throughout the day and night. One moment, I saw a patch of shimmering waves lit by the nearly full moon, only to find myself in a pitch dark with a cloud above me. The world I was sitting in was changing rapidly. I wondered how being a fish in this water would have felt under these changing light conditions. This moment happened after Frido and I discussed our weekly rhythm for a new school year starting once we returned home. We homeschool as a family, so creating some structure in our schedule is necessary and essential to function as a family unit. But when I witnessed the ever-changing ocean, I could not hold myself from questioning, “Are humans the only animals who force fit such a rigid framework with the nature of time”? 

All animals and plants experience seasonal shifts and rhythm of the day in relation to the sun, moon, and the universe. But I also imagine them having the flexibility to adapt to the micro changes accordingly instead of having such limited expectations of what each moment should look and feel like. I thought to myself, “How strange we humans are.” 

Another beautiful element of the trip was the gift of encounters. The Japanese word “出会い” loosely translates to English as “a chance encounter.” When I recall everyone I met during our stay in Japan, both planned and spontaneous, the memories of everyone’s face make me smile. I candidly shared so many life stories and had an opportunity to listen to everyone’s stories that were told with their open hearts, sometimes very unexpectedly. Each story had a meaning and inspired me deeply in its unique way. After finishing our last business meeting in Tokyo, I told Frido that these encounters are everything in life. So many incredible lessons are embedded in each meeting if I can give myself a proper space and time to reflect and appreciate. And when I consider any meeting I participate in in my life this way, there is no such thing as a “chance encounter.” Each meeting is a gift rather than an accident, a checklist, or a chore. I simply need to be awake enough to receive the gift when it is presented to me. 

The journey to be a true journey, I can’t force on an efficiency. It’s not about the most convenient way to move from point A to B but curiosity to sit through open-ended time in hands, welcome serendipitous thoughts… and occasionally be okay to get lost. Perhaps because the act of “traveling somewhere” instead of staying at home is fundamentally an inefficient act, to begin with, “travel” often turns into a memorable journey rather than everyday repetition at home. 

Now that our family is entering a brand new season to stay much closer to home, I want to intentionally give myself way more permission to be incredibly inefficient in life whenever possible. I want to find a way to relate to time differently, and I want to be able to listen to my intuition as well as whispers from the world with a sense of wonder, have time and space to internalize and synthesize all of these inputs, and imagine “what can be.” And I want to be fully present while doing so. 6

I don’t know if the version of me who was preparing for this trip a month ago was quite ready for such an inefficiency in life (lol), but here we are. I am grateful for the beauty of here and now. 




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