As I stared at the lid and wondered what waited for me inside, I remained a bit dazed at the prospect that I was across the world from my family. Chopsticks near my right hand and a tall glass of water near my left hand, I lifted the lid of the Bento Box and my eyes opened. I was no longer in the comforts of Houston, TX; rather I had just checked in to my hotel in Kyoto, Japan. Spring Break 2017 was definitely going to be an adventure and little did I know how much it would impact my life as an educator.
Just before Thanksgiving break, two impassioned (and persuasive) teachers approached me about serving as a chaperone as the student tour of Japan had grown in popularity and they needed another adult. What’s important to know at this point is that I can be a real homebody. I love to be outside, i love to see friends and go out to eat. Yet the solidarity and predictability of home also has an allure – especially during the few breaks in the school year for a high school principal. So I said I would have to check with my wife and kids. Secretly, I figured they would be my “out” and offer me “cover” to not be able to go. Aw shucks, I would say. Right? Wrong. My wife, my daughter and my son all said I would be silly to not go. I protested that the food would be tough for me to handle (I’m not picky, rather I’m boring – ha!). Again, they took away that excuse and every other one I tried (long flight, family time, currency exchange rates, etc.). Where I was wrong in how they might respond, I can now say that they were so right in knowing that I needed to do this adventure and I needed to do it now.
I won’t go in to all the shrines we saw, the temples we visited, and the lovely vistas we soaked up. Suffice to say that Japan is incredibly clean, safe, polite, and they could not have been better hosts. Our 23 students were spectacular in the questions they asked, the foods they tried, & the manner in which they represented themselves, their school, and, in some ways, the United States. I could not have been more proud. And while it was an educational tour for them, I have not been able to temper my enthusiasm for how much learning I did on the other side of the globe.
This trip completely pushed me out of my comfort zone. And yet I tried my absolute hardest to completely embrace the adventure. I tried every type of food placed in front of me – sushi, tempura, whitefish, natto, flounder, swordfish, lots of rice, and many more dishes I can’t even remember. And while I feel I can fairly say that Japan has a lot to learn about breakfast, I did feel much better as a result of the food being so fresh. I did not use a fork for the entire week and resisted Cokes as well (thankfully coffee is a staple everywhere for that caffeine fix).
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that, upon further reflection, I have realized that when you take a risk, and push yourself in to new arenas of learning, you can surprise yourself. And when we allow ourselves to genuinely trust others then our worlds really open up. I trusted my family, I trusted the adult chaperones, and I trusted the kids on the trip.
Next year the same chaperones are headed to Greece and they’ve asked me to tag along again. I don’t know if it will work out however I know that whatever the outcome it has nothing to do with fear or anxiety. The walls of international travel have crumbled for me and I’m excited by what my future experiential learning may include.
Finally, I did resist American Fast Food throughout our travels in Japan – until we reached the terminal at the Airport heading home. Then I had a Big Mac, Fries & a large Coke. And it was glorious.
What have you learned from your travels?