I have mentioned in previous posts my long history with road trips, which will play a part in this, but this is more about travel in general. By the time I was 14 I had been to quite a few states, and into Canada a few times. Although a foreign country, Canada is very similar to the US. I like to say the only difference between southern Ontario and northern Michigan are the license plates. However, when you’re younger its pretty cool to go to a place with different money and everything is posted in English and French. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 1998 that I truly experienced a unique travel experience.
When I was in middle school we had a new student one year: Yotaro Mori. He was from Japan and his father had been transferred over for work. I was lucky enough to become friends with Yotaro and we spent a lot of time golfing and showing him around Michigan. Unfortunately after one year, Yotaro and his parents moved back to Japan. The next summer, he invited myself and another friend of ours to Japan. So, at 14 I got on a flight to Tokyo and it was incredible.
Everything was different. Sure there were similar companies and I recognized the shape of signs, but the wording was completely foreign. This was so far from everything I had ever seen in my life, and I loved it. Each meal was new, each location was new, they even drove on the other side of the road.
I will say this was all made possible because of our hosts. Yotaro and his parents took us out to a spa-resort in the region of Mt Fuji, which in itself was amazing. Mrs. Mori was a trained chef and created some amazing homemade meals, as well as took us on a bus tour of downtown Tokyo. I still remember a lot of what I did on that trip, and will carry it with me always.
Ever since that trip though, I have always approached each trip with a want to explore. Whenever I travel I rarely schedule anything. I have places I want to see and things I want to try, but my main goal is exploring. I would rather spend a day wandering around the city finding restaurants, cafes, bars and shops on my own. If I am going to Paris I am definitely seeing the Eiffel Tower, but I am not scheduling out my day. I have enough schedules to keep track of when I am not on vacation.
Some of my best times were had just wandering around (similar to a Walkabout, but with more purpose). I found my favorite pub in Sydney and Cairns Australia that way, and some of the best places I have eaten in Vancouver and New Zealand. But travel also energizes and inspires me. When I travel somewhere I am constantly looking at things, especially when I travel overseas.
A good example is Australia and New Zealand. A lot of what they have is familiar, whether its the exact same or very similar. However, when you look closer you realize the differences, some good, some bad. Either way, discovering the methods and thought-processes used across the globe always makes me more creative and more open to trying new approaches to my day-to-day tasks, both in my professional and personal life.