It is funny how life works out. Some people say time is like a river, because we never touch the same water twice; and like our memories, that water stains the rocks leaving an imprint of it, as do our experiences, which leaves an imprint within us. And at times, we leave one behind. Sometimes the place that you thought you were destined to go, or have always dreamed of, is not really where you end up. But it is not where you end up that makes you who you are, but rather the journey that it takes for you to get there that defines who you are. Just as your journey, your experiences, decisions, and the people you cross paths with are just some of your defining moments in life. It does not matter if it is the good, the bad, or the ugly, but the experiences and memories you share with them that teach you a lot.
No matter how much we try and tell ourselves that we are ready for the world, the world always seems to present a new challenge to us. To not see the world with one eye, but with two in order to see all the colors of the rainbow. To not assume, so that you do not make an “ASS out of U & ME, hence the word assume.” These are lessons no book, no movie, no song can teach, but only you yourself can learn by constantly challenging yourself and breaking out of your comfort zones. I have had a very blessed life, to have traveled to more than twenty different countries, living in five of them. For a twenty-four-year-old, I always remind myself, that my travels are a gift, and that my travels have made me into the person that I am today.
For as long as I can remember, I ventured alone everywhere, once nearly giving my parents a heart attack by escaping from my stroller and exploring Disneyland by myself. My parents grew accustomed to my routine, and with age, they never held me back from where I wanted to go. They showed me the ropes of traveling and helped me to explore new horizons that I never knew existed.
Being a foreigner born and raised in Japan, is definitely a big part of who I am. Taking in the manners of the Japanese culture, mixed with the traditions of my Indian background, I was a hybrid. It had its ups and downs in the sense that I would always be a foreigner in Japan and a NRI (Non-Resident Indian), and for a long time, I looked for a place where I could call home. It is a difficult question when people ask me where my home is, because despite me being born and raised in Japan, I always had this inkling that my home is somewhere else in the world. Therefore, I considered myself as an international nomad, feeling most at home on the road oddly, or so I thought in my late teens.
For instance, I would have never thought that I would end up going to university in Switzerland, as opposed to everyone else in my class who either went to North American universities or to their respective countries for higher education. I, on the other hand, made my decision with pure intuition, not knowing what was waiting for me there. My family and friends were rather shocked when I told them, “I am going to Switzerland for university to study hotel management.” My old man, who was incredibly wise, with very few words asked me only one question: “Are you sure that this is what you want to do?” Without hesitation I replied, “Yes, this is where I am meant to go.” He gave me a hug, and said, “alright, let’s get you there.”
And so I began my journey to Zurich, having zero to no knowledge about the country. No expectations of what was there, and there I was, going to spend the next few years of my life. I idiotically carried a French-English dictionary, thinking that was the language spoken there. Within minutes of landing I realized I was in the German-speaking side of the country. An hour after landing and walking around, I soaked in this foreign culture, one I had no idea about, and had never experienced. The architecture, the sounds, the way of life grabbed me, and for some reason, felt at home in a place I knew nothing about; in this place where I had only just arrived.
My university was nestled away in the beautiful mountains of Canton Graubunden in a city called Chur. The first thing I fell in love with the most was the perfect balance of nature and city. I had come from a city with 38 million inhabitants to one with 38 thousand people, and I loved it. Having your own space, with pure peace and quiet was an incredible luxury coming from a city like Tokyo. I used to look out my window and tell myself what a gift this was, to have this peace and beauty. But with time I left, and lived in Spain, the UK, and briefly in the US, and I had fallen in love with all those places in their own unique ways.
Which brings me to the quote in Herman Hesse’s book about how Vasudeva, a simple man, understood and related to the river having many voices and significant messages to divulge to any who might listen. Having lived in a concrete jungle my whole life taught me to appreciate the beauty of nature. It was in the mountains behind my school where I felt that I truly understood and found myself. Who would have ever guessed, that a city boy from half way around the world, would find his solace in the mountains of Switzerland. I never would have ever thought that I would end up in Switzerland for university, but that was my journey, and it taught me to appreciate the small things.
Such was the case when I saw a beautiful sunrise, an impending cloud that carried the rain, a body of water that calmly lay still, or the powerful roar that thunder carried and the powerful vibration I felt within every time I heard it. That this world, no matter which corner of it you end up in, that you will always find and learn something new, and that you will never go home the same person. That is the beauty of travel that allows individuals to seek who they truly are. I sit back and think about home, and I came to the conclusion that home is everywhere. That home is what you choose it to be and bring to it, and not defined by where you began, but rather who you become.