I never thought that I’d be sharing a holiday with a typhoon. It was like having a crazy distant relative crash your wedding out of sheer boredom.
This happened on my recent solo holiday in Japan. The day Typhoon Mindulle landed in Tokyo was the day that I was supposed to be flying off to southern Japan.
The morning of the typhoon, the weather was still mild. It made me positive that my flight would go as per scheduled. Only when I started watching the LIVE weather report that I became worried.
I saw umbrellas getting blown off in pedestrian crossings. Cars had been abandoned in the middle of a street, with their owners nowhere to be found.
What piqued my attention, however, was the weather chart. Each time it appeared, it would show a storm icon ☁ over Tokyo and a sun icon ☀️ over southern Japan. Why wasn’t I in southern Japan already?
Determined, I packed up my luggage and took a local train to the Narita airport.
That was a bad move.
While on the train, I learnt that my flight had been cancelled. After weighing over the options of going back to Tokyo or continuing my journey to the airport, I decided to go for the latter. I thought it’d be easier to change my flight there than calling the airline hotline.
The closer I was to the airport, though, the worse the weather became. One stop away from the airport, my train gave in to Mother Nature — it stopped moving. Five minutes. Ten. Thirty. When was this train ever going to move?
Sitting on the train carriage, I could feel it rocking back and forth. It reminded me of an earthquake-inspired theme park ride that I used to take as a kid, just that this was the real deal.
Not having experienced something like this before, I wasn’t sure whether I should stay put or step out of the train carriage. It was then that I started noticing what other passengers were doing.
One Japanese uncle left his luggage on the train carriage and bought bread from the station’s bakery (which would sell out within an hour’s time).
The Japanese lady beside me remained napping in her corner seat, with ears plugged to her music.
The young girl across me remained glued to her smartphone. No furious typing was in sight.
Then, I spotted three Korean tourists with their luggage: a young man, a young woman and an old lady (who was possibly their mother). They were shuffling on their seats, as if a rat was scuttling below them.
How were the locals so calm, while foreigners like myself were panicking?
For most of the locals, this wouldn’t be their first typhoon experience. With the situation being familiar, they would be more mentally prepared for stress than outsiders like myself.
If the locals weren’t panicking, I shouldn’t be panicking. With that being said, how should I then go about finding my own peace in this chaos?
Part of making sense of the turmoil involved surrendering to it. This meant accepting that I had no control over it. As human beings, we tend to believe that we have power over more things than we actually do. So, when things go out of control, we become frustrated, even more so when we’re desperate for those things.
In my case, Mother Nature had yanked control out of me, and I had no choice but to bow down to her.
Surrendering by itself, however, did not provide me with a closure, given that I was doing it with resentment. I had to take the additional step of embracing the current situation. This was an easier step for me, given that my body was already screaming for food and bladder relief! Never had I been so relieved to find toilets and vending machines in a train station.
Six hours later, we finally got onto another train and left the station for the airport. A day of my holiday had been wasted, but what made it up was the invaluable lesson of calmness that I received.
P.S. I did make it to southern Japan two days later 😀