26 April. I’m at the airport in Vancouver waiting for my flight to Tokyo. Alone.

It’s been such a rollercoaster getting to this point – recovering from hip replacement surgery last September, committing to a three-week Intrepid Travel tour through China, making plans to travel independently for two or three weeks in Japan before going to China, suddenly discovering I’m to do all of this alone with Don being unable to travel at the moment, all with no idea really if I’d be strong and fit enough physically for such an undertaking. Or strong and fit enough emotionally.

In my twenties and thirties I frequently travelled alone. I didn’t really know any other way, and never thought anything of it. If I wanted to go somewhere I did. It’s not that I never got nervous; I just didn’t let it stop me. I guess the same still holds true, but what’s clear now, after twenty years together, is how much I have come to depend on Don. He’s always there to pick up the slack. And now he isn’t. Clearly it’s time for me to relearn that I am capable.

Yesterday I felt as if I was being kicked out of the nest. It was a really scary feeling; a feeling of having to take a giant leap into the unknown, into a void, and hoping I’d learn to fly on the way down with no idea whether I would or not. Heck, even sprouting wings would be a start. Then I remembered Byron Katie’s most important question: Who would I be (how would I feel) without these thoughts? Simply asking the question was enough for the feeling to evaporate. And this morning at the airport as Don and I walked holding hands to the baggage drop-off I said I felt like a child holding hands with my dad. We both laughed, but it was revealing of a momentary sense of vulnerability, and of how much I rely on him.

In the last few weeks I’ve (somewhat) learned my way around a smart phone for the first time, activated an Instagram account that has lain dormant for years, learned my way around a new camera, done most of the research for my trip, engaged with people in Japan and China who I will meet with when I get there. Ha! I even got my laptop synched with our printer so I could do my own printing. This is how much I relied on Don. If I wanted something printed I’d send it to him and he’d print it for me. Seriously. Yesterday I achieved the monumental task of checking in online for my flight and printing out my boarding pass. All by myself. Yay me!

Now here I sit, a mixture of calm, nervous, and excited. I feel capable and strong, and in exactly in the right place. And that’s it! No matter what emotional turmoil I’ve been through over the past several months, I never doubted that this was meant to be. It’s no accident that I’m travelling alone even though neither of us would have consciously chosen it. Circumstances simply arose that way. Don and I both will no doubt discover much about who we are through being separated for seven weeks. It’s all good.

My mantras for this journey: Let it be easy, young strong fit and healthy, trust yourself, trust the unfolding. There’s so much to trusting the unfolding. It is about surrender. It is about making plans but not being attached to the outcome. It is about Life having it’s own plan and it’s own rules, and when I am in tune with that all will be well. It is about presence, and it is about listening with the heart.

I’m so excited! And that’s always an indication that I’m on the right path.

27 April. I’m writing this while on the Narita Express from the airport to Tokyo. The flight was uneventful and my passage through immigration and customs was smooth and relatively quick.

I found my way easily enough from the baggage carousel to machines selling tickets for the Narita Express. I knew they’d have an English option but I wasn’t sure what kind of cash I’d need so opted to stand in a line leading to a counter where I could buy a ticket from an actual person. I was fairly sure I was in the right line but decided to test out the translation app on my phone. I typed in “Can I buy a ticket for the Narita Express in this line?” I tapped the shoulder of a young man in front of me and showed him the Japanese characters. As he read them I read the English. Oh God! Oh no! Autocorrect had changed Narita to marital! I was asking a twentysomething kid about the marital express! No wonder he looked bewildered. Or was that embarrassment? At the time I was more concerned about correcting it so I could get an answer. But now every time I think of it I start laughing.

Anyway it was the right line, I got a ticket, and eventually arrived at the madness of Tokyo Station at rush hour. Here I had to find the right exit to get a taxi to my hotel. Amidst the crowds rushing in every direction, surrounded by a myriad of signs and directions and stairs and escalators, at first I just stood. Then I walked slowly, easing my way carefully through and around hundreds of swarming people. Eventually I found a map of the station. I stood staring at it. I could see where I was, and I could see the exit I needed, which was about as far away as you could get and still be in Tokyo Station. What I couldn’t figure out was how to get there. Suddenly there was a young man next to me asking if I needed help. What sweet serendipity.

So I got the help I needed, was delivered to my hotel, and made myself stay awake for a couple more hours to adjust to Japan time, then fell into bed.

I made it.

Photos: the opening shot is of the fabulous aquarium at Vancouver airport with liberal use of colour enhancement in Lightroom, and the closing shot is the first photo I took in Japan. It’s the entrance to Ōkunitama Shrine in Fuchu.

Next post: Much ado about Tokyo of course. It’s only day three and such a lot has happened: a fabulous guide-for-a-day, an “Ugly American”, a traditional wedding, and insane crowds. 

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2018.