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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Wowk


Updated: Jan 11, 2019

Plotting a trip is a lot like planning ahead for life. First, you dream. You find inspiration–from friends, family, social media, or other vagabonds you meet along your journeys. Then, you research; you gather intel from sources online and offline about the best sights, sites, bites, and–hopefully–hidden gems. Armed with recommendations, you start booking flights, Airbnbs, side excursions, and restaurant reservations. Plan. Purchase. Then sit back, and wait. Countdown the days, criss-cross the calendar when they’ve passed, and make lists for what you’ll pack, how you’ll pack it, how you’ll later repack it because you can’t get the zipper to close…

Sounds similar to how we journey through life, doesn’t it? We dream–of collegiate athletic prowess; of entrepreneurial success; of a house, a yard, of 2.5 kids; of following our passions; of making a difference. We find inspiration in mentors and role models. We research the best career paths, the best school districts, the best return on our investments. Plan. Purchase. Then sit back, and wait. Countdown the days to a Christmas bonus. Criss-cross the calendar on the way to retirement.

In travel plans, and life, you know the moves you want to make. You build an itinerary. You anticipate. And you hope for the best. You hope that when the trip comes to life–and when your life comes to fruition–it resembles the vision you had in your head.

Reality is: you win some, you lose some.

These thoughts crossed my mind as week one in Japan rounded to week two. So far, we had visited the bustling cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, stopped for a side trek to Hiroshima, and then ferried over to the island of Miyajima. Keeping pace with the country’s reputation for precision and punctuality, our trip–and our plans–ran accordingly. Now, on our six hour train journey from Miyajima to Nagano, I had found some time to reflect.

As I lapsed into a daydream, our train chased through tunnels–once in a while breaking into the sunlight, as if coming up for air before diving back down in the abyss.

During these mind-wanders, I deduced my perception of Japanese culture to three words:

Precision. Humility. Resiliency.

I also deduced that planning–both in travel and in life–could learn a few things from the Japanese way of life. Precision, we’ve talked about. We dream, research, plan, and purchase. But what about humility and resiliency? When plans go wrong, as they often do, do you light up with aggravation or rage? Or do you chuckle at your first world problem, reflect on what went wrong, and muster the courage to try a different approach?

Japanese people are humble, kind, and disciplined. They show their warmth towards foreigners through openness and patience, especially when you’re lost. *smirk* They’re resilient; a quiet force. Through tsunamis, earthquakes, and world wars… Surely you’ve heard the Japanese proverb: “Fall down seven times, get up eight”?

Precision, humility, and resiliency. Each a leg of a stool–one that would topple if you removed a piece of the equation.

And so as the train churned towards Nagano, I would bear in mind that for the remainder of my time in Japan, and as frequently as I could remember when I returned back to New York, that in travel and in life, the best laid plans can and will go awry. The difference between winning and losing lies in a humble approach towards failure–and a persistent resiliency to always try again.

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