Something no one can prepare you for is the loneliness you might feel when traveling abroad. As an introverted person, I’ve always enjoyed my alone time. It is when I feel my most creative and most at peace, but I think what being here has taught me thus far is there is a difference between being alone and being lonely.
Mostly, you spend a lot of time by yourself, even if you know people from your program. Everyone is exploring and doing things at their own pace. That’s part of the beauty of this experience, learning to really take your time and absorb the happenings around you. It’s funny how when you’re completely out of comforts to fall back on, you start to open up. I haven’t quite yet reached the stage of chattering or going up to people, but I’ve become more receptive to the world around me.
Whenever I miss sago palms or my friends who’ll graduate before I return, I try to clear my mind a bit by sitting somewhere beautiful. Most days in Hirakata, that involves just standing in the campus courtyard for a few seconds and recognizing what aspects of my environment are different and what things are strangely familiar. On one day when I was particularly lonesome, I took a trip to Kyoto to see Kiyomizu-dera which is about an hour or so away by train.
The way the light passed through the shuttle car’s windows, the way the sun is always warm no more how far away you feel, I think these little aspects that remind me of home keep me grounded. After all, I want to enjoy the time I have in this new place. I wonder about how long it will be until this city starts to feel familiar too, and how long before it will be until I’m on the plane again and one day thinking about Hirakata as somewhere I once came to love.
I followed the wind of people up the mountainside. I heard so many languages, some familiar and some not. The sun was obscured in the strings of periwinkle rain clouds waiting to become heavier as the temperature dropped. The condensation of perspiration collected in the beak of my mask as I carried on further. From where I stood, I could see the city where thousands of people bushed passed one another, where light caught on any glass surface it could before sizzling out into the darkness.
You start to feel a part of it sometimes. Like you’re one of those tiny people in ant-sized cars and your problems evaporate into the thinning night air.