We are wrapping up our visit to Japan as well as, this is hard to believe, the first leg of our three-part adventure.
Up to this point, our trip has been more exciting and interesting than I ever imagined. We have had a few glitches here and there, but overall, our travels and the time we are spending together have been amazing. We have been moving for nine weeks now so part of me is looking forward to settling down in Romania and slowing the pace down a bit. Another part of me will miss the peripatetic nature of our days.
Pulling off a trip like this involves a great deal of planning. There is the long-term planning, like purchasing airline tickets and making sure all the dates match up so that you haven’t bought tickets to fly from Osaka when you are actually in Tokyo. And there are also lots of short-term and micro decisions that have to be made quickly, like “Where are we going to eat at the end of a long day when the kids are starving and we forgot to eat lunch and now none of the restaurants are open” kind of decisions.
And if it weren’t for Sujata taking the lead and applying her unbridled enthusiasm and deft decision making to both the macro and micro level decisions, this part of the trip would not have been half as enjoyable.
You really have to see her in action to appreciate Sujata’s global trip planning abilities. Some of her skills, I’ve noticed, come from old-fashioned hard work. She reads the Lonely Planet guides inside and out, researches blog posts on the places we are going and picks up enough of the language to get by (or, at least in Japan, will mumble Japanese-sounding palaver in response to questions that she cannot understand). Other skills are more instinctual–she can sniff out the best places for lunch or dinner, she can wind our way through byzantine-like alleys, lead us through throngs of shoppers in some of Japan’s most intensely crowded malls and she seems to have a sixth sense for finding the Japan Railways stations.
That said, it’s not all fun and games. In Japan, for instance, Sujata’s enthusiasm for sightseeing sometimes turned into a kind of manic pursuit to visit Guinness Book of World Records numbers of shrines and temples in a single day. At the end of one particularly long day of shrine-seeing, feeling dehydrated and so exhausted that I could barely pick up my feet, I accused her of leading us on a Baatan Death March. That phrase has stuck and it’s been recycled and woven into our daily life so that “Baatan Death March” has become a code word for, “I need to sit and rest,” or “I need water,” or “Where is the nearest bar?
If I were in charge of the trip, we’d be getting on the wrong trains and airplanes, showing up for a hotel stay in Battanbang when we had a room reserved in Phnom Penh, wandering around in circles while I tried to find the nearest vegetarian restraunt on Google Maps and I’m sure we would have lost the children at least a couple of times. The only time anything like that has happened was in Japan when we got on the wrong Shinkansen in Tokyo. Even that, though, was my fault.
Sujata is a successful physician, but if you are planning a trip abroad and you are looking for your own personal tripadvisor, she is available upon request.