During the remaining days of our trip, there was a certain buoyancy that permeated our collective mood. A comforting sense of promise enveloped us, knowing that home, family, friends, as well as our dog were intently waiting for us. The fact that our trip had gone so well–and most importantly, that we remained safe and well the entire time–made us giddy. We rode this wave of pride and accomplishment all the way home.
Before really calling it quits, we first had to conquer a crazy theme park in Kuala Lumpur called Sunway Lagoon. This was a special request from Merle, which we honored. We are rockin’ the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge above, one of the park’s highlights.
Months later, what I remember most about Sunway Lagoon was the prescence of so many Saudi Arabian tourists, something we rarely see in our hometown. It amazed me to see women in 95 degree heat, 100% humidity not only fully covered but actually wading and splashing around in their gowns. Over the course of two months in Malaysia, I came to understand and appreciate the modesty of Muslim women. In my newfound awareness, I can see without confusion or fear their own expression of beauty and culture. I feel thankful for their difference.
Switching gears has become relatively easy for us after 10 months of travel. After that last stop in KL, we jetted to Tokyo for two nights. This was a definitely a shift, but we were ready for something entirely new.
It was thrilling to still be technically in Asia yet experience what seemed to be a completely different planet. Isolated culturally and physically for hundreds of years, even today Japan retains its fascinating, unique identity, as seen in everything from the endearingly respectful, meticulous quirks of its people to its delectable cuisine, not to mention its peculiarly innovative toilets and pervasive individual style quotient.
Dipping our toes into Tokyo for a couple days, specifically the stylish, effervescent neighborhood of Shibuya, was a smashing conclusion to our journey. Those busy final hours reflected our journey as a whole, a time filled with interesting people watching, eye popping visuals, stimulating cultural expressions, and absolutely fabulous food.
The food we ate during those two days in Tokyo encompassed some of the most memorable flavors of our entire trip. Of course, the sushi was out of this world. Merle ate more fish eggs than there are stars in the sky. Udon with intensely marbled “wagyu” beef, ramen like none other… We are still dreaming of the food in Tokyo.
While we were there, we had no concrete plan, other than to walk around and absorb a bit of the local culture. Immediately, we noticed that Tokyo is an extremely bike friendly city. From painfully hip 20-somethings to crisply dressed housewives toting their similarly dressed kids, everyone seemed to be riding a bike. Merle and Mathilda delighted in the vending machine we came across, an innovation that has become practically a symbol of Japanese consumerism. We all agreed we need more of those back home. Tokyo is not Tokyo without the crazy dude who beckons, rather yells, at pedestrians to come into the shop he represents. And I just could not get over the multitude of parasols. Obviously serving as a form of skin protection, the parasol doubles as a beguiling fashion statement. More street murals, enchanting Shinto shrines, and the occasional kimono. We LOVED Tokyo!
Some of the joy of travel involves not only the planning and trip itself, but also the return home. The kids lithe, spritely steps down the concourse to our 27th flight (our second to last) reveal their unmistakable anticipation for the end of the road.
Seeing Grandma at baggage claim was awesome. WE MADE IT!
It is time to close this chapter so another may begin. We return not so much changed, but perhaps enhanced, expanded, and opened in a way only traveling outside of one’s borders can instill. New neural pathways have been created, awakening our children’s minds to the concrete reality of lands and people other than their own. The seed of wanderlust has been planted. Already, they desire to see more, mostly because they know now it is all truly out there somewhere, an actual possibility. Our family narrative has taken a leap into the realm of fantastic. We are happy with less, sweat a little less (literally and figuratively), and love even more. The bonds to our home, our world, and each other have deepened with clarity and appreciation. I will remain forever grateful for this amazing time of our lives.