The Retreat

In a few days I'll be leaving the cabbage fields, virgin forests and shrines of the Irago peninsula, where the nearest convience store is a thirty minute bike ride away and the few local restaurants change their schedules on a whim. It gets dark early and there are no street lamps. Many people would probably find it too quiet, but it's felt like the perfect stop between urban jaunts. To me, the past few weeks represent The Calm Before I Go to China. 

When was the last time I watched the sun set and saw the stars at night? When have I ever not had to worry about locking up my things? (An aside: there is even less security here than in the cheapest hostels I've stayed in during my travels. I was worried when I first arrived, until I noticed that V kept his DSLR and laptop in plain sight from the door, which all but faces the main road).  

I've embraced the bland-smelling eco soap that we use for everything, the minimal electricity use and limited wi-fi access, and relished not shaving my legs or wearing makeup. Instead of checking my email and social media accounts before lights out, my new ritual is a mug of herbal tea and a good novel. Although I miss certain foods like brie and tacos, obasan's home cooking has led me to embrace the simple deliciousness of miso soup and a bowl of freshly made rice. I feel better, calmer, more productive.

Of the questions people ask me about travel, the most common are whether it gets lonely on the road or if it's hard to acclimate to a different culture. And my answer is that no matter how many thousands of miles you are away from your geographic comfort zone, it's just as easy to slip into a new one somewhere else. Getting there is usually the hard part.