My husband, Lance, and I try to travel outside of the country at least once a year. We’ve found that leaving home for a few days is a great way to start the year without distraction, and to return with new perspective.
God reinforced two lessons during this trip. The first is one that I am constantly relearning: to RELAX! The second is a fairly new concept to me. He showed me that our emotional reaction to situations does not control the outcome. It only affects how you feel while waiting for the outcome.
Whenever Lance and I travel we say an informal prayer asking for safe travels and good memories, but If I’m being honest, this is the first time I’ve actually had to mentally rely on this prayer. We literally bought our plane tickets two days prior to departure, leaving me no time for the OCD list-making that usually bogs me down. The only task I managed to complete was to make us two large snack bags for the flight.
FYI:Lance and I both packed light. 1 suitcase and 1 carry-on backpack each. This will become important later.
To get to Japan, we took a 10 hour overnight flight from Honolulu to Tokyo. If you know me, then you know I love sleep more than Oprah loves bread. I can literally sleep anywhere. On this flight, I spent about 20 minutes of the 10 hours listening to The Read podcast. The rest is a blur.
I underestimated how nice it would be to fly internationally on Hawaiian Airlines. Not only did they provide fleece blankets, they also included an eye mask and earplugs! As you can see, I used all of these items.
We left Oahu at 5:30 pm on December 21st and with the time difference, arrived in Tokyo at 10:50pm on the 22nd. As soon as we deplaned, we headed to customs with our backpacks, got our passports verified, and then picked up the suitcases.
Up until then, we both kept our passports in the top portion of our backpacks, so we would always know where they were (one of my OCD rules). For whatever reason, this time, we both put them in our pockets.
Lance found out that it would cost us about 32,000 Yen (285 dollars) to get to our hotel by taxi, so we obviously opted for the train. As a result, we needed to hurry through customs to make it to our hotel before the train stopped running. At this time, we had both of our backpacks and suitcases, so we were excited to get on the train and head to the hotel. All we had to do was purchase our monorail ticket and make a few transfers!
Because we had never ridden the train in Tokyo, Lance approached the information desk at the turnstile to verify we were going the right way. We got our currency exchanged and then headed to the first stop. We just barely made our first train. It was a pleasant enough ride.
About ten minutes later, we switched to our next train. This train was so packed, that I had to put my backpack in front of me like a baby carrier. We were literally butt to gut in there. I can tell you that Japanese trains are packed, but you have to experience it for yourself. I’ve been on trains in New York, Atlanta, and DC and have never experienced anything like this. I now understood why everyone was wearing a mask!
I smelled and felt everyone’s breath. I found out that I am also just the right height to smell everyone’s armpits. I was barely standing because I got smashed between my suitcase and the one other American on the train. My knee was bent for the entire ride.
Side note: A wimpy American guy let go of his suitcase during this mosh pit like train experience, and it got lost in front of him. For some reason, he wouldn’t ask for help. He just kept making this weird whining noise, while he was trying to reach it. I ended up grabbing it and pushing off the train with us when we got off.
On our third connection and were luckily able to find seats. As soon as I took my first deep breath, and got my arm around Lance, he looks at me and says “Babe. Where is my backpack?”, to which I replied, “What!?”
My husband jokes around so much that usually I would think he was joking, but the look on his face let me know that this was no joke. The last time I remembered seeing his bag was at the airport, about an hour ago. We had no idea where it was now.
Historically, in situations like this, I would immediately start panicking and jump into problem solving mode. The contents of the book bag included: a Macbook Pro, an Ipad, an external hard drive, prescription medicine, and our brand new camera. I immediately said, “We have to go back”, but Lance said we would go back tomorrow. I didn’t argue with him.
Some of the growth I’ve seen in my husband over the last year is that he is very good at trying to figure out the lesson in the midst of chaos. He reminded me on the train that everything in the backpack was “just stuff”. He had his passport, so he was thankful. We both just took a deep breath and said we would make calls from the hotel, and retrace our steps tomorrow.
Meanwhile, while we were running our mouths about the bag, we missed our stop, forcing ourselves to ride 25 more minutes until we could get off and go back the other way. When we get to our final connection, we found out the train wasn’t running anymore, and we would need to get a cab for the remainder of our trip.
As soon as we get off the train we’re directed to a taxi stand. If you know anything about Japan, you know that everything is done very efficiently, even down to how they wait for cabs. Outside, there was a single file line down the sidewalk. Of course, after living in Hawaii for a year, we were grossly underprepared for the 30-degree weather difference. I wrapped my fleece blanket around me and waited about 40 minutes in the cold. Finally, we got in a cab to go home.
Our hotel was located on the Air Force Base, but the only English word the cabbie could understand was “base” so there was a high percentage that he was driving us to the wrong one. Maybe we’d end up at the Marine Corps base, or maybe the Naval base. I honestly didn’t care. I just wanted to get in a warm shower.
Luckily we arrived to Yokota Air Base, where we quickly found out that only certain cabs are allowed on post. OF COURSE, HE WASN’T ONE OF THOSE CABS. But that was none of his business, so he dropped us off at the only open gate, and pulled off quickly.
We gave the gate guards our IDs and asked where the hotel was located? He gave a small chuckle (which is never a good sign) and says, “about 20 minutes that way”. They attempted to call the on-post taxi for us, with no response. So yes, we walked with our 2 suitcases and now 1 book bag from the gate, about a mile and a half to the hotel.
We finally checked into the hotel. Before going to bed, we developed our game plan. We would get a good night sleep, make some phone calls to the airport lost and founds in the morning, and head back to search for ourselves. The front desk of the hotel told us about a $20 shuttle that ran from the base to the airport, so there was hope!