Complaints about Permanent Vacations

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August 5th 2017
Published: August 5th 2017
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Kyoto SunsetKyoto SunsetKyoto Sunset

Sunset seen from Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Vacations, like sunsets, were designed to be temporary. A continuously lit neon sky, filled with rainbow colors from end to end, certainly creates emotions too intense for endless consumption. While no gourmand refuses a piece of rich, creamy chocolate at the end of a delicious meal, even the most dedicated sweet lover would assuredly tire of an endless diet of cocoa flavored goodness.

Like a spoiled debutante complaining about not having enough closet space for her shoe collection or an overindulged teen bemoaning his sore fingers after playing video games all day, there is an obvious danger in complaining about being on endless vacation. No one really wants to hear your lament. If only we all had such troubles.

However, I have to admit that as we begin our 7th year of continuous travel, we do catch ourselves complaining once in a while. We have now lived in 85 cities in 40 countries. If this trip were a cat, it would surely have exhausted seven or eight of its 9 lives. While hardly a day goes by when something doesn't happen to make us pinch ourselves to make sure we aren't dreaming, we do find ourselves, at times, questioning the sanity of living a life of constant change.

After 18 months of circling Europe and the Mediterranean fringes of Africa and Asia, we needed a little break. It was time to go home. Time to see relatives face to face and perhaps ask a doctor for a professional opinion about our actual state of health. After a steady diet of buses, trams, subways and taxis, we thought it a good idea to spend a little time behind the wheel of our own car. Maybe a month without rice or pasta. Time to have a few french fries with our meal.

It was wonderful to see everyone. Some looked a little older and some looked a lot thinner. We had full blown conversations with babies who we used to just laugh with. We remembered how good gravy tastes on mashed potatoes. We excitedly met future family members and saw people we shouldn't have been away from this long. It was good to be home. We had been gone so long we forgot how much we had missed.

Despite what we see on the nightly news, America seemed pretty much the same. Maybe a little fatter than I remembered it. Gas was cheaper and the supermarkets had more choices. Houses were bigger than I remembered and the traffic was a little worse. Televisions now look more like movie screens, but cars are as big as ever. The ability to drive came back to us quicker than we thought it would. The guy in my new drivers license picture definitely looked older. The doctor said we didn't seem too much worse for all the wear. It was odd to understand every conversation around us.

It wasn't long and we were on our way again. The month passed much too quickly. We loved Europe and are sure we will go back soon. But this time we wanted to try a different direction. Somewhere with a unique culture and a way of life that, while similar, is so much different. Time to cross a different ocean. A little less pasta and a lot more rice. It was time to take on Japan.

We arrived in Kyoto late in the night. The cab driver had white gloves and a dapper hat. He bowed when we paid him. He didn't want a tip. Is this a real place? Our apartment is small. We only have one burner to cook with. The shower room is designed for water to spray outside the tub. The washing machine and air conditioner have no buttons in English. I hit my head every time I walk through a doorway. We love it.

The weather is insane, jungle, center of the sun hot. The thermometer says 95, but it feels like 105. You sweat through your shirt walking to the bus that takes you everywhere. The city is huge and everything of interest seems to be spread out to the farthest reaches of town. Beautiful green hills surround the town and some of the most beautiful temples and shrines are located in them.

The streets are unbelievably clean. No litter is found anywhere. No one smokes on the street. People wait in line and are polite. Bus drivers bow to the passengers when they have shift changes. Old people do not stand on buses when young people are sitting down. People keep their conversations quiet. It is remarkable.

Kyoto is said to be the cultural capital of Japan, but it is much more. More than 1600 shrines are located here and the old style wooden houses, called Machiya, can be found in many areas, especially around the Gion neighborhood in the center. However, the train station and some of the department stores in downtown are as modern as any we have seen. The shopping area has any designer brand you could desire. Many Japanese tourists dress in beautiful kimonos and pose in front of the must see sites, but others are dressed stylishly in the most modern fashions. The past seems perfectly preserved within the very modern present.

We have spent our days touring the city from one end to the other. Temples, markets, shrines and bamboo forests have all been destinations. Walks along beautiful rivers during the day and through narrow, lantern-lit alleys in the nights will be long remembered. Memories of hours spent huddled in an 800 year old temple during a blinding afternoon rainstorm when it didn't seem possible the air could hold that much water, will be with us for a while.

We were hypnotised by the deafening sound of hundreds of cicadas as we sat alone in an ancient Buddhist cemetery outside a stunning mountainside temple that we surprisingly had all to our selves one afternoon. We
Gion MatsuriGion MatsuriGion Matsuri

Kyoto Festival
found ourselves stunned by the beauty of our first sighting of a Geisha as we sat alongside a tiny stream that runs past ancient wooden houses. Her tiny steps and flowing kimono made her appear to float as she made her way quickly and silently across a tiny ornate bridge nearby.

We made our way to Arashiyama bamboo forest early one morning to avoid the crush of tourists that descend every afternoon. Our effort was rewarded as we listened to the early morning wind pass through the giant shoots that towered 100 feet above us. We loved the taste of the shaved ice we enjoyed in the shade of the tiny alleyway outside an ornate Shinto shrine. The ice cream and sweet bean paste additions were unexpected but delicious.

We loved our time at home. It was wonderful to visit loved ones. It is them that makes home what is. We didn't miss America as much as we thought we would. It will always be home, but as we start our 7th year of our journey, we realize how much we enjoy our time discovering new places. We still have not cured our wanderlust. As always, we have found a few things to complain about. But nobody wants to hear about that.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26



A Maiko in the Rain

Gion Shirakawa
Kiyomizu-dera PagodaKiyomizu-dera Pagoda
Kiyomizu-dera Pagoda

Temple in Kyoto
Higashiyama Higashiyama

Small park in Kyoto

Temple in Kyoto

6th August 2017

A photographers dream location...
I look forward to reading about your adventures in East Asia.
6th August 2017

Kyoto is a wonderful location for some nice photos. I can not even imagine what it would be like during cherry blossom season or the fall color change. Perhaps a return visit is necessary! Thanks for reading, Bob!
6th August 2017

Happy seven years on the road!
It was interesting reading your summary of how different/same you found the US after all this time travelling. Kyoto takes on a dreamy quality through your words and photos...made me really want to know what your 'complaints' were :) Looking forward to more blogs from Japan
6th August 2017

Lucky 7...
We are just starting our 7th so hopefully it will be lucky for us! This was the longest we have ever been away from home. It definitely gave us a different perspective. The U.S. will always be home, but we did see things that could use some outside input from places we have travelled. We are off to an even bigger city in just a couple of days (guess which one?). Wish us luck and thanks so much for commenting!
8th August 2017
Kinkaku-ji Temple- Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji Temple view
Nice Click & beautiful view!
8th August 2017
Kinkaku-ji Temple- Kyoto

Thanks for the nice compliment. It's a beautiful place, but very crowded!
10th August 2017
Fushimi Inari Taisha- Kyoto

Lovely photo
Thanks for the blog. It was nice reading it. Emma and I went to Kyoto a few years ago and we liked it there. Japan really is a fascinating place. I hope we will be able to go back there some day. Especially Kyoto I'd like to visit again and see more of. /Ake
11th August 2017
Fushimi Inari Taisha- Kyoto

Lovely Kyoto...
We enjoyed Kyoto. It is a fascinating mix of modern and ancient. Definitely worth an extra visit. We are enjoying Japan. It is exotic and chaotic but still preserves some peacefulness. Thanks for reading and commenting, Ake!
29th August 2017

Thriving on change
We understand you wanderlust and the need to see life through varying perspectives. Touching base is good also. Your summary was excellent. Japan is on our short list so we really enjoyed this one. Spectacular photos as always. Continue to enjoy life on the road.
29th August 2017

Kyoto was very nice. Japan is an interesting place and definitely different than anywhere else we have travelled. Being home was nice. We had been away for too long. I think we feel closer to settling than we ever have. Thanks for reading and the nice compliments. As always we really appreciate them!
3rd September 2017

Your talent for descriptions and making us want to be along with you are immeasurable ! I so enjoyed reading both recent transcripts from Japan. What a beautiful country, not only the ancient but the modern, too. Fascinating ! Obviously, the people are brilliant engineers judging by the tales of the buildings, highways, some elevated by- ways etc. The photographs you take are magnificent ! I seriously hope you are considering compiling this past seven years, plus what's to come, into a book. It would be a hit, for sure. I found your words about returning home for a visit, what you missed most, and what had changed most, quite interesting ! I look forward to more. What's next ?
4th September 2017

Thank you for all the kind compliments. Japan is indeed beautiful and very unique. Pondering Tokyo as an engineering feat is mind boggling indeed! We have one more stop on our visit to Japan and hope to enjoy it as much as our first two. We have made photo books of our first 6 years. They came out very nice and will be good for memories in the future. Thank you for reading and commenting. We really appreciate it!

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