The Art of Wandering

The poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote: "The art of losing isn't hard to master."

This "art form" usually consists of things we don't actually want to lose--"stuff," money, time, friends, family, etc. But maybe losing isn't always a bad thing? 


Loss, losing and being lost are all concepts that have been on my mind a lot recently. "Losing" all my possessions except for the things that fit in my backpack was surprisingly easy. I've briefly wondered if I'm losing out on everything that will continue to happen in the States while I'm away, and I've spent a decent amount of time this week being legitimately lost in a city where absolutely nothing is familiar. But when I get past the immediate and sometimes uncomfortable feeling of "lack," the truth is I don't consider any of these instances of loss negative. 

I've also done a lot of wandering this past week. I wandered around the gardens of the Imperial Palace and into a major Kendo competition. I wandered to a hostel where I found some other fantastic travelers who have become my "best friends" for as long as I'm in Tokyo. I've wandered into restaurants and then back out of them when I decided a Bento Box from the supermarket would be a less stressful way to feed myself. I've wandered to gardens, temples, 9-story sex shops and to the Yodobashi, which is basically Best Buy overdosing on crack five times over. 

Today started as another day of relaxed yet anticipatory wandering. I jumped on a train and headed three hours east of Tokyo to the coast and the beaches; It's been a week since I left California and was craving sand, sun and salty air.


There was something enjoyable about riding a train for three hours through the less developed and very beautiful parts of Japan, but unfortunately when I got to the beach it was nothing to write home about (ironically here I am writing about it). There was sand and there was water, but you would be hard-pressed to find another tourist who would be willing to take a three hour train trip out there to see it. It was in a quiet rural part of the country and felt kind of forgotten and neglected. Only someone with my propensity for wandering anywhere and everywhere without a plan would actually find themselves there. But have you ever had the feeling that you are supposed to be someplace even though there is no logical reason why? That's how I felt about this place. I "knew" there was a reason I had found myself there. 

I spent some time walking up and down the one main road that ran along the beach, hoping I would come across a portion of the beach that was a little bit more alluring, but I found no such thing. So I stopped and and made myself comfortable on the most inspiring portion of sand I could find. I looked out at the ocean and let my mind empty. I didn't have a specific intention when traveling to the beach but upon arriving and settling, meditating felt as though it would be as good of an activity as any. What better place to simply just exist than a secluded beach in rural Japan that hadn't even attracted a single local on this particular afternoon? 

Then suddenly I was inexplicably brought to tears with indescribable and indecipherable emotion. Whether it was tears of happiness, fear, sadness, relief, confusion, ecstasy, or something else will remain forever a mystery, but I couldn't help but feel that they must have been related to the very strong pull I felt to this remote place that most certainly wouldn't make it onto any tourists "must see" list.

Katsuura , a major fishing port in southern Japan and the closest city to the above mentioned beach.

Katsuura, a major fishing port in southern Japan and the closest city to the above mentioned beach.

My meditation turned to contemplation about what had brought on these unexpected emotions. Maybe I was supposed to end up there to be reminded that it's ok to stay off the beaten path in both Tokyo and in life. Maybe it was to be reminded that beauty really does lie in the eye of the beholder. Maybe the unexplainable tears were the joy of realizing that by embarking on this exciting and terrifying adventure my dreams have finally started to become my reality. Maybe they came from the simultaneous feeling of infinite meekness and infinite power when trying to fully understand the power behind each person's individual existence, as I looked at the water and saw myself standing on the other coast 5,500 miles away just one week ago. Or maybe it was something only the cosmos and the deeper parts of my unexplored self could know and understand (for now).

Elizabeth Bishop wrote: "The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster."

Maybe losing some things--like ourselves in the adventure--isn't such a bad thing.