Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gradibirthary Asia Trip

This year, Isaac and I will celebrate his graduation from EWU, our 5th anniversary, and my 30th birthday. (It's our Gradibirthary, get it?) His graduation in particular feels momentous, since he has been working hard on his bachelor's and master's for the last 6 years straight. It's hard to believe this season is drawing to a close - exciting and also scary.

So, to celebrate the blessings of 2016 (a bit prematurely, I suppose), we are taking a trip to Korea and Japan this spring! After a lot of dreaming and saving for an international trip, it finally seems like good timing.

Planning for this trip makes me think of the first and only time I traveled overseas for vacation (i.e. not for furlough, school, etc.). My dear friends Martha and Cassandra and I went to France, Italy, and Greece our junior year of college, 9 years ago. It's fun to reflect on the differences between that trip and this upcoming one. As a 20-year-old, I was willing to forgo almost all comfort for the sake of saving money. We picked cheap, red-eye flights and overnight trains (fighting to stay awake the following day); stayed in hostels crowded with noisy young backpackers and slept in beds that only sometimes had sheets; ate bread and fruit and had one real restaurant meal in each country (and one time carried a pizza with us from one city to the next, eating it over a few hot days. I still remember the slimy lukewarm taste of that thing). It was gritty, tough, tiring, the perfect adventure for that stage of life.

For this trip, though still on a limited budget, Isaac and I are booking private rooms with our very own bathrooms; we're planning to eat as much delicious food as possible; we have normal flights and arrival times, and at least 3 nights in each city. I get to travel with my sweetie to a country that played a significant role in his life. It's a new kind of trip for a new season.

But many things, I imagine, won't be too different between the two trips: Walking, walking, everywhere. Journaling, taking pictures, writing poetry. Limiting the touristy sites in favor of just wandering, finding local spots. Puzzling over train schedules. And, of course, there's the anxiety.

Traveling with Martha and Cassandra was the first time I discovered how much I try to control situations and how awful I can be when I feel out of control, an anxiety that's magnified by travel. The conflicts we had on our trip and the gentle but frank words from my friends helped me understand myself and the impact my need to have things my way has on others. Marriage has made that even more clear, and I anticipate that this trip will continue to test it.

On the first page of my journal in 2007, the day we left on our trip, I wrote, "I'm trying to talk myself out of nervousness and force myself to be laid-back." I've realized over time how ridiculous that approach is, how stuffing the fear doesn't work even a tiny bit. Though the anxiety may never go away, I'm learning to face it with grace and trust that God is taking care of me. It is freeing to go into our travels with a deeper awareness of my tendencies and a partner who reminds me that true comfort and security doesn't always look the way I expect, who's committed to working through the hard stuff with me and celebrating along the way.

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