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Life Lessons from a Traveling 16-Year-Old

How Journeying Halfway Across the World Changed My Life

Not everything needs to make sense. 

Traveling may seem daunting to some. There are so many unknowns like: Will I get lost? Am I going to be able to communicate properly? Will I even like the experience? Questions like this can be paralyzing to people, and that's why they stay stuck inside their heads, never to go off and just live a better life by embracing what they don't know. To me, the unknown is a calling to adventure. It's a thrill to go experience amazing things, broaden my mind, and learn about myself and the world. Recently I took my longest trip ever to Japan. The lessons I learned were life-changing.

Lesson #1: The world is tiny.

It's extremely difficult to grasp just how far away the other side of the world is, and yes it is a long distance... on paper. However, my journey there passed by in a flash. Sure, flying a total of 15 hours, and waiting another 8 in an airport may seem like a long time, but spent the right way, that time can "fly" by. Keeping busy and distracting yourself with a great book (shout out to John Green's amazing new Turtles all the Way Down for keeping me sucked in for 12 straight hours,) or some good music can be all it takes. The way I put it, I looked down for a few minutes and wound up in another dimension. Traveling is amazing, and it just keeps getting easier and easier.

Lesson #2: Embrace everything new.

Just say yes! It's so easy to get stuck in your own ways. Don't get me wrong I'm big fan of having a routine, but limiting yourself to what you know is well... limiting. For example, the basics of living is different in Japan. The vast majority of houses don't have central heating, so when I first arrived at the house I would be staying in for the first few days I was simply shocked. It was colder inside than it was out. However, it wasn't as bad as it sounds. Optimistic me found the good in that situation. On the bright side, curling into a ball under really warm blankets never felt so great, and neither did a steamy hot shower. I can't remember a morning in my life where I felt so refreshed. Just that one small thing set the mood for my entire trip. I may not have known what's going on, but I could simply let it happen and enjoy it all.

Lesson #3: Smile more!

Nothing is better than service with a smile, right? No matter what the store, restaurant, or owl cafe (yes that's a thing) you're visiting, the employees in Japan will always greet you with a smile and a bow. As little as I knew of the language, the pride people took in their work was crystal clear. It made me realize how much time people back home spend being glum like they have every reason to be. Positivity is something I strive for in my life because I know how lucky I am to be living the life I have. Japanese people work a lot because it's part of their culture. To me, as an outsider that doesn't seem like a very exciting life, but seeing how positive they can be while they work only inspired me to be more cheerful. If they can be that happy working then I surely can. 

On my trip I gained a whole lot more than an understanding of what the typical Japanese life is like. I learned about living a positive life open to new adventures, and to embrace change. The trip taught me to embrace the hard workload to get where I want to be. Traveling to Japan gave me a whole new thirst for travel because if just one trip can teach me so much, then imagine how much there is to learn out there! I'm 16-years-old and just getting started. There's a beautiful long road ahead.

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