Last July, I took a trip to Japan. Going there had been one of my dreams for a very long time, since I learned the language at university.
After a traumatic event involving the death of a loved one, I felt utterly lost. I was also in one of those high stress jobs and with the two combined, I gradually lost a lot of my former confidence. My mental health had taken such a huge hit that traveling had become very difficult in places I hadn’t been to already. I still made the trip to go see my long-distance boyfriend at the time, but going to unknown places was more difficult. I became less and less able to handle any stressful situation outside of work because I was very focused in using the remnants of my mental energy to handle work situations – I was a teacher in France, things can get pretty rowdy out there. Check out #Pasdevague on Twitter, you would be surprised to see how badly teachers can be treated by students, admin, or even colleagues.
Anyway, one day, I took a trip to Rome with said boyfriend and it went badly because of our collective issues. We were then on a break for a total of one terrible week, then patched things up. Don’t worry, he’s ready to become my husband now.
During that week, I decided that I needed to seriously take care of my health because it had come to the point that I was jeopardizing my relationships with people I loved because I couldn’t stand anything anymore – but mostly myself.
Self-loathing is a scary and efficient prisoner.
And during that week, I decided this was it. I decided to do things I was afraid to do. One of them was going to Japan with a friend “because why the hell not, it’s my dream after all”.
In other words, the trip which helped me officially regain my confidence back stemmed from one of my lowest days.
Of course, my trip to Japan was riddled with issues. Still, worth it!
I was so happy to leave that I posted the usual plane and clouds photos on Facebook, but then I arrived in Helsinki and we got blocked, due to technical issues: the plane never left Tokyo to come get us. In those cases, never forget to ask for your rights, and if you have to take a flight the day after, they usually give you access to a hotel room. So, we enjoyed Helsinki for a day, which was enough. It was a very cute city and there is certainly some history going on there. I personally think it would be a great place to live in, but visiting it can be done quite quickly. We got lost in the city, got some nice cocktails and left the day after.
We arrived more than two days late. (Got a refund in the end, after the trip.)
Let’s get all the negative parts of this trip out of the way: we got lost numerous times, the transportation system can be exhausting to understand especially in Tokyo, it was hot to the extent that resin food in restaurants displays were melting, I got bitten by god knows what and was strongly allergic to it, I stayed in a sauna so long that my head was spinning, I had water retention that made me look like a bloated Michelin dude for a month after that and I really missed vegetables after a while.
Again, well worth it! The positive parts of this trip massively overcame the negatives.
I discovered Tokyo, the city that never sleeps. I got to meet tons of different people and speak in Japanese, something I had dreamed to do. I visited many, many temples, prayed, got a great fortune that I still keep in my wallet to this day. I felt the importance of temples in Japanese people’s everyday lives.
I was on camera for an interview in Shibuya and probably ridiculed myself forever. I was amazed by the number of vending machines with drinks in the middle of streets you were technically not allowed to drink in. I got to see the Golden Gai district. I drank a pink peach beer in the tube, which is a big no no, because I was afraid it would go bad. I made wonderful friends in Kyoto, in the best guesthouse I have ever had the pleasure to go to. I discovered the urban legend strong lemonade is and how addictive it is. I cooked Japanese food for a barbecue the guesthouse was holding, got to catch noodles in a bamboo tube and eat them, and have some wonderful wagyu beef. I got to eat a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit in this place every morning. I witnessed a tea ceremony and got to talk to an expert. I went crazy in the Pokemon center in Osaka, so much so that I got free goodies. All of this, despite a big storm which made trains run very late!
And oh, the food. It was marvelous. Some pictures will say more than a million words.
This whole trip taught me that the more you’re afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, the more you should do it. I needed a break AND a confidence boost. Fortunately, I got both!
Somewhere along the way I realized that only I can make myself happy. Stressing over a situation will in no way change it. This realization pushed me to keep going. In the beginning I would still worry and spend time stressing over every situation that was outside of my comfort zone, and now my anxiety doesn’t get the best of me.
The best way I found to reduce the impact it had on me is to try my hardest to step outside of my comfort zone whenever I can.
The best of the best feel fear, so will you! The goal is to not let it paralyze you, but instead, use it as a driving force to take you towards new possibilities.
When we learn how to accept and embrace our fear of the unknown, we open ourselves up to opportunities and great potentialities to emerge.
Kira is a writer and a teacher. She writes fiction, articles about mental health, travel, video games, teaching, and will show off her photos if you let her. She’s a jack of all trades, hoping to help the ones who stopped seeing the beauty of this world.