And the photos I took along the way
(For those who aren’t in the know, I completed a years long dream of traveling around the world. I flew from Los Angeles to Denmark, rode trains from Denmark to Germany, and then flew from Germany to Japan, all in 23 days. I took over 3,500 photos and panoramas along the way)
“Are you nervous?” she asked.
“I was, and I thought that I would be up until I got through security. But really, ever since I left work last night I’ve felt fine.”
And I did feel fine, one bag in hand, as I stepped out to the curb at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and walked through the automatic doors, past the check-in stands, (Pro-tip, cause now I’m a pro, don’t ever check bags. It’s the greatest time saver you’ll ever experience on a long trip), through security in less than ten minutes (I showed up two hours early FOR TEN FUCKING MINUTES OF SECURITY?!?!), checked in a beer (one beer for each airport), boarded my super gay plane, and I was off. With the roaring of two jet engines, g-forces pushing me into my airline seat, Los Angeles International Airport and the backdrop of the city behind it rushing past at hundreds of miles per hours; my dream had become a reality.
Dreams get such a bad rap, in my opinion. They're dismissed so easily. They are considered unattainable by so many. Many other times dreams can be looked upon so enviously or jealously when the dreams are someone else's. I’m lucky. At least, I’m lucky every now and then. For instance, when I woke up one morning and said to myself, “Flying around the world would be amazing, let’s try to make this happen!”, I didn’t automatically snub myself by saying, “Not possible because of work, or money, or family, or children, or stress, blah blah blah.” I don’t have a lot of the ties that bind others. So right from fruition, this dream was, at the very least, attainable.
But that’s another thing that a lot of non-dreamers seem to have trouble comprehending. Dreaming isn’t easy. At least, I've never found it to be easy. We don’t just build up lofty dreams and goals out of thin air. There are usually sparks that have been embedded in our psyche for sometime, and a small experience or a large event can ignite that spark into a dream, a fascination with what can be, an obsession with what will happen, a love for the mental visions that fill our cranium until we're left researching, planning, saving, and lusting after that ignited dream. And even then it's not like that glorious little bit of DNA in our body that makes us dream makes any of the dreaming any easier. All of that fascination, all of that obsession, all of that love; it all takes time and concentration. Not easy, especially in a world where we're over stimulated on a day-to-day basis; when we're told over and over again that our dreams are there for us in our work life or hidden away in our credit card limit. And so each step of the dreaming process has a hurdle, each little thought is met with fear, ideas of inadequacy and trepidation. It can be the hardest thing for someone to ignite a dream, and then bring it to fruition.
All that I needed for my dream. Now, "Let's do this."
The Futility of Communicating Dreams
If you're on my list of friends on Facebook, then you've already experienced a good chunk of my 23 day trip. My apologies for the duplicate photos. You have my permission to skip this blog post entirely. As I've stated before, I try to keep things fresh in these posts. But this trip was a bit different in that I wanted to tell a story, mainly through Facebook, about my trip through the photos that I'd taken. I didn't get hung up so much on which photo was a better angle or had a nicer framing, and tried to pay more attention to how the photos expressed the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing where and when I took the photo. I’ve vacillated between a few iterations of this post. Eventually I decided that I couldn’t really narrate the trip properly here on my own blog. I feel like my initial plan was for the story to be told through the photos that I took while I was traveling, and that was a viable idea when a conversation was able to be had through the comments of Facebook. This page wouldn't be able to keep up with that, so I figured instead to create a bit of a hybrid.
I’ve decided upon this format; a mix of small descriptions of where I was when the photos were taken and small libraries of the photos themselves for you to enjoy. And if this doesn’t do a well enough job of conveying the wide range of emotions that overwhelmed me while I was flying and hiking and backpacking around the northern hemisphere, then instead of reading and viewing this and being all judgemental, I’d advise that you look into buying your own damn airplane tickets, maybe a nice backpack, and do a little dreaming of your own, Judgy McJudgypants.
Around the World in 23 Days
“Oh hi, Lars! Marianne! Wait, where was customs? No one stamped my passport? Can I go back and get it stamped??”
It will always and forever bother me that when I entered Copenhagen (Actually spelled København) no one stamped my passport. My first steps into Europe and I was already sad about something. And then the first thing I felt I needed to do was reassure Lars and Marianne that I wasn’t voting for Trump. Stahhhhp, Chad, stahhhhp! Enjoy Denmark!! Oh wait! first, answer the phone call from your boss. Because of course that has to happen.
Okay, NOW go enjoy Copenhagen.
Sweden & Bornholm
I didn't expect much from the train rides through Sweden, but I was so wrong. When I arrived in Ystad I was met with such a wonderful reception of kind people and a beautiful city. I'd go back to Sweden just to visit Ystad again. But soon it was time to move on to Bornholm.
Pro-tip: Bornholm is bigger than you think it is. I don’t know which map key I was looking at, or if I was getting kilometers confused with miles, or what, but I thought that Bornholm was going to be tiny, and it turned out to be an hour bus ride from Ronne to Nexø. Plan accordingly! Also, if you’re going for climbing, make sure to plan for transportation and plan for sport climbing. There is a nice little brewery and steakhouse in Svanake, with the same name, Svanake Brewery. Also, as much as I loved my AirBnB, right on the ocean with a lovely view and cute balcony, stay away from the south-western side of the island, because it smells like a rancid piss pot that’s been sitting in the sun at an Insane Clown Posse concert. I feel like I’m a pretty tough person, but I couldn’t take that smell.
Back to København
What do you do when you’re climbing plans on a Danish island fell through, but you nicely recovered with 14 miles of bike riding through farm towns and beautiful coastline? Well, you get your ass back to Copenhagen because you obviously didn’t plan enough for this fucking trip. Not to worry, because Copenhagen still has a ton of stuff to make up for your shitty planning skills. Like, old friends, live concerts, and a theme park that inspired Walt Disney when he was thinking about building a small park in Southern California.
Hamburg was probably my low point of the trip. When you’re going to be alone for 3 weeks, and when you’re in unfamiliar territory, you’re going to have some missteps. This was the first time that I really felt like I was over my head, that I hadn’t planned properly, that I needed to regroup a bit and rethink how I’d managed the trip. I found myself realizing I needed to pay a bit more attention to my scheduling, and also relax a bit and really take the time to wander. I needed to not feel as though it was a requirement to get to every single destination that I thought I could, and that it was okay to let the trip be more fluid. My first night in Hamburg was stressed, and I felt sad for not really enjoying Hamburg and Reeperbahn. After a good nights rest, and a very generous AirBnB host that let me stay another night, I found myself wandering through Hamburg and enjoying a music and beer festival in the rain, amazing architecture and artwork, and a new outlook for letting the highs and lows of the trip not define the trip, but to frame it, allowing me to really take in what mattered. The people, the places, the food and beer, the countries I had the privilege to be in.
In my new vacation outlook and comfort, I soon found myself in Berlin. The scope of Berlin was huge, as it’s much more spread out than I’d expected. I also felt like I suddenly had less time than I needed in this city as well. My trip to Stone Brewing Berlin and the incredibly striking and hard to stomach Sachsenhausen Museum were definitely worth the visit, but there was so much more that I didn’t get the chance to even think about. My AirBnB host was particularly helpful, friendly, and saddened by my short visit. “You didn’t even get to go to downtown!!” he shouted at me! I didn’t know what to expect from Germany, and I wasn’t initially as taken as I thought I would be. But I wanted to change that first impression so badly once I got there. I wanted to love Germany as much as I’d imagined I would. I don’t think I LET that happen. I’ll just have to revisit the country in the future. Berlin again, and southern Germany, are now on the list.
I’m not sure what can be said about Tokyo that probably doesn’t fit into a cliché Tokyo tourist pamphlet, but I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that wasn’t as accurately described as unique, beautiful, fun, and awe-inspiring. From the moment I landed in Narita Airport, and was riding the train back to Tokyo, I couldn’t stop staring at the landscape of Japan. The grey rain clouds that hung over the railway made the green foliage a deeper hue of green than I’m usually accustomed to in the deep browns and yellows of Southern California desert. The traditional homes of Japan struck me as respectful of tradition and yet appreciating of modern technology. And then when you ride into Tokyo, your jaw drops. The buildings, the people, the energy of crazy unique cultures all sparring for their chance to hop on the nearest train. Whether it’s the business men staring at the cosplayers staring at their iPhones while ignoring the foreigners that are taking photos of every crazy thing they see in every single direction, they’re all vying for more Tokyo, all of the time. It’s an amazing place to be, and one of my favorite places. Until you get out of Tokyo, that is. . . .
Take the energy of Tokyo, take all of the beauty of Japan, and then the wonderful people who you seem to meet in every home, restaurant, and store in Japan, and just bring it all down 2 or 3 levels of intensity. Still there, but a bit more palatable and easier to experience. There’s no shortage of amazing views, traditional Japanese homes and shrines, or amazing food and drink. The only thing I regret is not going further north.
Unfortunately, even though my trip to the southern end of Japan included Shin-Yokohama’s (I know that’s not THAT far south) wonderful Ramen Museum and the almighty Kyoto, bearer of iconic Japanese hilltop shrines, bamboo forests, and geisha districts, my trip was grounded by the impossible to conceive weight of Hiroshima. I had felt that it would be educational and interesting to visit the location of the first nuclear bombing, even after how tough it had been to stroll the basements and ruins of Sachsenhausen. It turned out to be that and more. I would suggest that anyone willing to visit a location as emotionally charged and historically important as Hiroshima spend a day or more in this amazing city, rebuilt from the ashes of one of the most devastating acts of violence in the history of humanity. I don’t really feel that there’s any way to describe it that really feels as raw and shocking as it was when I hopped off the train less than 600 feet from the nuclear blast hypocenter. After I visited, I found out about a book that's available titled Hiroshima by John Hersey. Hiroshima was written as an entire New Yorker edition, that was shortly thereafter published as a book. It’s a brutal look into six surviving nuclear blast victims, what they experienced the day of the bombing, and in the second edition how the bombing impacted their lives over the next 40 years. I would definitely suggest reading this if you have a heart and a mind and are generally human in form.
Back to Tokyo
And with Copenhagen, Sweden & Ystad, Bornholm, Hamburg, Berlin, Tokyo, Tochigi, Naka, Ushiku, Hitachi, Kyoto, and Hiroshima behind me, my travels took me back to Tokyo for one last night before my departure from Nippon back to the United States. My literal trip around the world, was drawing ever closer to its end. Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes once said that Sunday's were awful, because they leave you worrying about the upcoming Monday. As much as I tried not to let the approaching end to my trip weigh upon me, I still found my last days in Tokyo slightly melancholy. Thankfully, I have amazing friends that helped me through it.
Nevertheless, in a small burst of emotion I found myself writing this. . . and I feel that it still resonates:
That feeling where you can't leave
You won't leave
You'll fight and rip and tear to stay
But your foot crosses the threshold to leave. . .
Snap back to reality. . .
The flight back to Los Angeles was quiet and uneventful. I had first dreamt up this trip to be a flight around the world. From LA, to Europe, to Asia, back to LA. Here I was, completing that dream, staring out of the airplane window at the city that I call my home, and listening to the girl next to me freak out about how her iPhone was dead but she needed to call her father once they were on the ground. "Welcome back.", I thought to myself.
To say that I circumnavigated the world (even if I did later realize that it was just across the northern hemisphere. No small feat, thank you very much) is something I had thought would be a high point of my trip. A badge of honor I could display proudly in the pages of my life's accomplishments. But it turned out that Shepherd Book, per usual, is a very wise man.
Kaylee: How come you don't care where you're going?
Shepherd Book: 'Cause how you get there is the worthier part.
Without any thought, my trip had immediately turned into not "getting around the world", but more about "how I got there". It was an amazing trip, filled with long-lost friends and new ones to boot. Picturesque views of city and mountain, sky and ocean. Bullet trains and ferries, bikes and hikes. There was brewery after brewery after brewery after brewery after brewery after brewery after brewery and every single location I was in offered amazing food. I never coasted through any part of my trip as though I was just sight-seeing and taking tourist photos, and I still look back fondly and know that I absorbed the culture of the countries I visited. I was able to learn and love the new locations I visited and hopefully respect and honor the cultures that graciously allowed me to do so. To quote myself. . .
I can't express through words the love and affection I feel towards the friends I saw, met, and made along my 23 day trip. I've found it hard to describe my feelings about the people and places I visited, although I'm sure most of the people I've spoken to about the trip will gladly tell you that I tried.
Hopefully these photos properly conveyed the wonder, happiness, empathy, and other strong emotions I felt across my journey. Hopefully these photos will help everyone feel a bit of what I experienced and inspire some to go on their own adventures.
To immediately contradict myself, I'm going to give my shout out for this post to the friends I saw, met, and made along my 23 day trip. I've tried to think of a way that really conveys how appreciative I am of all of the people who I met along my travels, but nothing has really seemed to bear the weight of how important and meaningful it was to see each and every one of you. Whether I was being allowed to crash on a couch, or getting to know you as an AirBnB host, or meeting you on a train through Berlin, or listening to prog metal and discussing barrel aged beers in Tokyo, yelling, "Skål" in Denmark or, "Prost!" in Hamburg, or meeting new family members in Tochigi, riding bikes after maybe a few beers in Copenhagen, or one after the other of amazing people I've seen and met in much too short of a time.
This couldn't have happened without you
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you so much
You made the trip what it was
It couldn't have happened without you
If you ever need a place to stay or a tour guide through Southern California, I'm your guy