Kyoto & Nara

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It was tough to quit my first career job. I walked into our Executive Partners office, sweating and word vomiting the opposite of what I had rehearsed in my head. I am thankful I was able to do this in person and tell her that I got more than I had hoped for, but I still needed to make sure I was living to my potential. She understood and I admire her more for it. The first thing she told me was how lucky I was to be able to travel with my life partner.

Until then, I was counting all my other blessings: the ability to be able to take time away, supportive friends and family, and the privilege of nothing to lose. BUT, I have never spent this much time with one person. Tariq and I have been c o n s t a n t l y near each other for over two months now and I won’t glorify this: it’s challenging and grounding at the same time.

Living together taught me a lot about myself and now, without the distraction of work or obligations, I am learning the bare bones version of my spouse. We appreciate and seek out time with new and old friends on this trip but I am astonished that we have held most of our sanity together. We’ve learned from each others travel styles and strive to grow in the same direction.

Stepping off the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto, I already knew Kyoto was going to become my favorite city. There is no doubt that we look like tourists. We’re a cheesy, classic movie scene directed by a novice: a couple steps off the train, marvels in awe with their mouth agape, camera swaddled around their neck, and glancing left and right. I would try to blend in but looking foolish has been enjoyable.

Without the glare from neon signs and the advertisements you typically see in Osaka or Tokyo, you get a chance to notice the smaller details woven into life in Japan. Kyoto is sprawling with European influenced cafes and shops. Meals in Kyoto felt less rushed because restaurants have larger spaces to accommodate leisurely meals. Through Nishiki Market street, you get a similar vibe to the better known Tsujiki Market in Tokyo, but it’s slower and leads you forks in the road with more shops and eateries. Everything is also slightly less expensive. Tariq's favorite hobby is to Zillow homes everywhere he visits and apparently, Kyoto is very doable. Too bad it’s hard to get a visa to live in Japan!

We spent a lot of time meditating on our long walks to and through temples and shrines in Kyoto and Nara. The crisp air and quiet paths, where all you can hear is the gravel crackle beneath your feet, is something to seek out. Behind the temples and zen gardens, you can often find low key hiking trails through bamboo groves and towering trees.

The days have been inspiring, sublime, and tiring.  No one talks about how it’s difficult to sleep when your bed and surroundings change every few days. Though logical, a lack of sleep isn't instagramable and therefore, largely forgotten. I use the meditation app Headspace more than Yelp now; it works like hypnosis for me. I think this is the “slump” and I can’t wait to be over this. Seoul is next.

Photos: Kyoto (Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Bal Department Store, Nishiki Market, Gion District, Fushimi Inari and hidden bamboo path, Hiking behind Nazenji Temple) // Nara (Todai Ji Temple, Great Buddah Hall, Nara Park)