Greetings from Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. I am sat cross-legged on the tatami floor at a low table, with a steaming bowl of rice and some exotic vegetables I haven’t eaten in a while. The deep ofuro bath is full and waiting for me to hop in and ease my weary bones before retiring to my futon, but first I wanted to write a short note to you.
I came here for the first time 21 years ago when I was in my second year of university. I distinctly remembering stepping off the plane and realising, “Oh my gosh, they actually speak that language in the textbooks I have been carrying around for the past year.” It was a real shock, as was pretty much everything else I encountered during the year that followed in this mysterious land (often a shock in a good way!)
I lived with a Japanese family who spoke no English, a stone’s throw from a beautiful lake, surrounded by paddy fields and distant mountains. I had to cycle an hour each way to school each morning, and then each afternoon I’d drop a coin on my map to decide where to go, and head off there.
Intellectually it was probably one of the most challenging years of my life, but also fascinating, fun and a huge learning curve in so many ways. I completely fell in love with the city where I would eventually get engaged, and became a scholar of its beautiful language. I went on to spend another five years or so living in Japan, and it always feels like coming home.
Today, when I stepped off the bullet train at Kyoto Station after a whirlwind 24 hours in Tokyo, I breathed deeply and exhaled. I have spent today cycling round feeling 10 years younger, settling into the district where I am staying in a cute little Japanese house, in the shadow of the Eastern Mountains.
It reminded me that sometimes things the things we really love, and are actually really good at, somehow get lost along the way as life gets busy and other stuff takes over. It’s easy to put off that trip, or that art class, or whatever it is that will reconnect you to that passion, but the truth is it’s actually quite easy to go online and book it – whatever ‘it’ is for you. And even if money is a challenge, there’s always a version of it that you can invite back into you life, to reignite that fire in your belly.
November has been such a busy month here at Do What You Love. I squeezed in trip planning here and there whenever I had five minutes, but really hadn’t really thought that much about coming here until I arrived. The important thing was booking the plane ticket, and the house reservation, and then not backing out. And now I’m here, with five days of exploration ahead! (You can follow along @bethkempton on Instagram for sneak peeks into the life of this beautiful city)
This week I challenge you to think of one thing you used to love doing, or were really good at – whether as a child or just earlier in your adult life – and find a way to reconnect with it. You never know what might be sparked!
Right, my ofuro is waiting.