Patience is a Virtue

Patience is a virtue.

Or, so they say. Me and my husband were pretty hopeful that the release of vaccines would mean the world going back to a modicum of normalcy, and while that has slowly been the case, it has not been the case regarding international travel. Two days ago, the United States issued a level four travel advisory for Japan. Not that it mattered. Japan’s borders have been closed and I suspect they won’t open anytime soon.

This makes me sad, but I fully understand. It will probably be another 1-2 years before our trip happens.

I can still dream about my visit, though. We already changed up our original itinerary. Originally, we were going to stay a few days in Tokyo, then travel to Hakone, then onward to Kyoto. It was an itinerary that I solely put together without any substantive input from my husband. At first, he told me he only wanted to do two things: visit a maid café and go to Akihabara. With those two things in consideration, I quickly filled the itinerary with things I wanted to do.

Well, the thing with making plans so early is that they quickly change, and there is nothing wrong with that! Suddenly, he wanted to go to Super Nintendo World. At first, I was hesitant because why would you go to another country to spend a day at a theme park? But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be an opportunity wasted if we didn’t. I quickly re-planned our itinerary. We are now spending two days in Tokyo, then spending a day in Kyoto, and then two days in Osaka before traveling back to Tokyo for a night before returning to the States. Truth be told, I wanted to go to Osaka to visit the Cup O Noodles Museum, so I get to do one more thing.

Our plan will probably morph and change many times. I think my major hurdle is to not be discouraged by negativity. As I research, there are so many people that judge how other’s travel.

“Don’t go to X. Why spend money to go to X? You might as well have just stayed at home!”

“Don’t travel to another country just to do what you could have here!”

I know many of you have read comments or opinions like that. People feel like it is their job to judge how you want to spend your time and money in another country you’ve never been to.

I know there is a lot of truth to their opinions. Why would you spend thousands of dollars to stay in your comfort zone? Are you truly “experiencing” the country if you’re “comfortable”. I’ve pondered that quite a bit.

When planning the first iteration of our trip, I was heavily affected by the “you must do things out of your comfort zone to fully experience Japan” and you “must avoid all tourist traps” mentality. For some reason, I really cared about how someone else thought I should spend my trip. I was really hung up on the thought that I wasn’t experiencing Japan if I didn’t go to some super local izakaya and communed with the locals. I wasn’t experiencing Japan if I didn’t find some off-the-beaten path place to stay.

“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

The pandemic has brought me to the two strongest warriors, Time and Patience. While waiting and contemplating my trip over the last few months, I realized that time has changed my view. Where I was once plagued by the burden of someone else’s ideals, I am now free of that burden.

The simple fact that I will be getting on a 15-hour flight to a country and culture I adore is enough.

I was originally against going to Universal Studios/Super Nintendo World because of this notion that someone else planted in my head. The only reason I didn’t want to go was because someone convinced me that you don’t go to another country to do something you can do in your own country. Reflecting on that statement, I realize how stupid it is. True, we can visit Universal Studios here in the States, but the experience won’t be the same. The merch won’t be the same. Trying to navigate and communicate won’t be the same. It will be its own, unique experience and that doesn’t make it lesser.

There is a lot of pressure to plan “the perfect trip”. After all, you invest so much time and money to making it happen that it is only natural. The pandemic has taught me that life has a way of throwing you curve balls. This trip is not going to be any different. I have to expect that things aren’t going to go smoothly. I’m going to have to practice patience and be able to roll with the punches.

Throwing away other people’s ideals, I asked myself what I really want from this trip.

Memories.

I want memories. I want to remember being happy. Will I get that trying so hard to be different? I don’t think so. Will I be happy doing touristy things and running into other gaijin? Absolutely.

Every experience will be new to us from entering a konbini to riding a bullet train (shinkansen).

Our trip will be packed with new experiences regardless of how hard we try to make it conform to someone else’s standard of what a trip should be. I, for one, am looking forward to the maid café. I’m totally looking forward to making my very own custom Cup O Noodles. I’m looking forward to buying a ridiculously expensive watch at Super Nintendo World to track my progress as we hit blocks. Yes, I want to see Sky Tree. Yes, I want to see Tokyo Tower. Yes, I want to cross Shibuya Crossing. I don’t care that they’re cliché or touristy. Simply being there is enough.

Now, I have to sit with Time and Patience for a little longer. I am sure our plans will change with time as we find new things we want to do and I am perfectly fine with that.

The Hopeful Journey to Japan 2022

Hello, my fellow bloggers and readers!

This week, I should have been in Japan. It’s amazing how fast things in the world can change. On this day last year, my workplace sent me home with a VOIP phone and said, “Don’t come back until it is safe.”

I worked from home for three months.

Luckily, this prompted me to NOT buy our plane tickets. I knew that our trip would be indefinitely postponed, as it should be. I take this pandemic very seriously. I want everyone to be healthy and safe and I want to do my part to ensure that. A trip can always be rescheduled.

That being said, the world is making moves. There is a vaccine out and hopefully, soon, we’ll start to see the world heal from this mess. I don’t expect it to happen overnight. It took a year to get here, it may take a year to dig out from it. That being said, I am hopeful that this time next year, we will be able to travel to Japan.

I’m excited.

I bought new luggage. I was on the fence, but my co-worker confirmed my logic. Luggage doesn’t go bad and I’m sure to take trips before Japan, so I invested in some new luggage. The plan is to use carry-on only. It’s going to be a seven-day trip, but the plan is to stay in places that have laundry facilities available so we don’t have to pack as many clothes. I’ve done a lot of blog reading and the advice is all the same. Travel light. Use packing cubes.

I also bought a new camera.

Here’s the deal. Did I NEED a new camera? No. Did I want a new camera? Yes. I do have a Canon T3i Rebel, but it’s heavy, bulky, and not very travel-friendly. Not to mention, it isn’t exactly current. Long story short, the camera on my phone has better specs. I’ve had my eye on an entry-level mirrorless, but I could never bring myself to make the purchase. It’s a large investment and I could never pull the trigger. For the most part, I wanted a mirrorless because of the smaller size, but also, the ability to vlog with it. I don’t plan on vlogging a lot, but the ability to turn a screen around into selfie mode would make the camera more useable than a DSLR. Especially in Japan, I want to be able to record myself and I can’t do that with the T3i.

Yesterday, for no particular reason, I purchased a Canon M50 and I am in love. It’s A LOT smaller than the DSLR, so it fits my hands a lot better. I still have a lot of accessories to buy. I need a camera bag, a selfie stick, and maybe another lens. The good news is, I have a lot of time to wait for sales. Here, you can see it fits in the palm of my hand and is so light. It’s almost equivalent to a point-and-shoot with the ability of the DSLR.

Canon EOS M50

On the same note, my husband and I put off renewing our passports because of the pandemic. I’m happy to say that we’re both going to apply for those soon so we’ll be ready. Once they make the announcement that travel restrictions for the US are lifted, I’m buying those tickets.

The goal is to go during sakura season which is the end of March/early April. This is probably my one condition to go to Japan. I want to be there when all of the cherry blossoms are in bloom. If travel restrictions aren’t lifted by then, sadly, I’ll have to wait another year or compromise on the time of travel.

The current itinerary is to travel to arrive in Tokyo on a Sunday. Then, on Tuesday, we plan on traveling to Hakone on a shinkansen (bullet train). We’ll spend one night there and then travel on the shinkansen again to Kyoto. We’ll travel back to Tokyo on Friday, spend one more night in Tokyo, and then fly back to the States on Saturday. This will allow us to enjoy the big city, relax in a town with a view of Mount Fuji, and then revel in the old-world beauty of Kyoto.

I am super pumped and I truly hope that we’ll be able to travel to Japan in 2022! I’ll keep everyone updated!

Magnolia Market: Worth It?

I recently took a day trip to Waco, Texas with some long-time friends to visit Magnolia Market at the Silos. You will have to forgive the lack of photographic evidence.

If you are unfamiliar with the Magnolia Market, you need to look no further than HGTV. Magnolia Market is the brainchild of Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of the show, Fixer Upper.

Personally, I am not a super fan of the show. I’ve picked up a few episodes while waiting on my physical therapy appointments as the hospital always had HGTV on their televisions. I was well aware of who they are and what they do. They own a construction company where he takes care of the renovating, and she takes care of the design elements. They are both very personable on their show and entertaining.

I have lived in Texas most of my life. I was born on Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas and lived there until fifth grade. I lived a year in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then finished my middle through high school years in Grand Prairie, Texas. After I graduated high school, I lived on various military posts as an active duty soldier, and as an Army spouse. In the end, I always came back home to Texas.

Waco was always just a pit stop on I-35 to me. Anytime I traveled south, we stopped in Waco. Traveling south from the Dallas metroplex, Waco just happened to be the perfect stop to stretch your legs and grab lunch. For some of you, you only know Waco by the more recent scandals at Baylor University or their moments of college sports glory. For others, the only time you’ve ever heard of Waco was the Branch Davidian raid back in the early 90s. And, then, let us not forget the biker gang brawl/shootout with over 200 involved and a few deaths at Twin Peaks. Waco has had it rough. With the exception of the University and its immediate surrounding area, parts of Waco look frozen in the 80s.

Then, Fixer Upper happened in 2013. Joanna started building her merchandising empire, and slowly, Waco started coming back alive.

What to Expect

I went on a Saturday. Big mistake. When we arrived just shortly after Magnolia Market opened for the day, the line wrapped around the building. It reminded me of Six Flags except there wasn’t a cool ride at the end of your wait. My friends who visited twice during the week told me that there was little to no wait on both of their visits during the week, so you may want to consider that in your plans.

Harp Design Co.

My friends had also taken the tour (yes, they have tours), so they knew of other shops we could visit that was associated with the show while waiting for the line to Magnolia Market to die down. We hopped over to Harp Design Co. to check out their merchandise. If you are a fan of wood pieces, this would be the place for you. The shop was decorated in beautiful seasonal pieces for the fall. This would be a great place to pick up a gift for the outdoorsy decorator in your life. Very beautiful cutting boards, plate chargers, and other wood pieces. If you want a custom $2,000 table, this is the place for you.

Little Shop on Bosque

Little Shop on Bosque is the original location of Magnolia Market. At one point, they closed it only to reopen it in 2018 as their slightly-damaged/last chance location. You can pick up items as a good discount. It is a very small shop, but because it was not a part of the main location, traffic to this shop is lighter.

JDH Iron Designs

After our visit to Harp and Little Shop, we headed over to JDH Iron Designs‘ trailer. They’re in the process of finishing out a store front, so be expecting that soon. Jimmy Don was sitting in his truck taking care of a phone call. The very, very nice lady running the trailer (I don’t want to assume it was his wife, but I think it was) flagged him down and brought him over. My friends had purchased some pieces earlier in the week and wanted to get them autographed. Jimmy Don was very friendly and posed for pictures and signed all of the pieces my friends purchased. He took the time to tell his story and answer some questions. Just really good people, so if you go, and you get a chance to visit with Jimmy Don, you should! The metal work speaks for itself. They create some really nice pieces.

Magnolia Market

We went out for lunch and headed back to Magnolia Market around 2:00 p.m. There was still a line, but significantly shorter than first thing in the morning. I think it took us maybe 20 minutes to get in, but they did provide covered shade. The store is very upscale and nice. I ended up picking up Joanna’s two cookbooks, a t-shirt, an enamel pin, a postcard, and a fridge magnet so I could take advantage of their special. If you spent $100, you got a free Chip’s Backroads soy candle. Yes, I got suckered into spending a whole lot more money than I intended! The candle smells great, though!

Magnolia Press Coffee Co.

After we were done shopping at Magnolia Market, I grabbed an iced sugar-free vanilla latte from Magnolia Press Coffee Co. It was okay. Nothing to write home about, but if you’re on the grounds and need a pick me up, it is priced comparable to Starbucks, so no surprises to the wallet!

Closed Attractions

As of late September, their summer construction was still in full swing. Currently, Magnolia Market is expanding and improving their grounds. Due to the construction, the food trucks, lawn area, and Seed & Supply store were closed. I recommend visiting Magnolia Market‘s website before visiting to grab an update on attraction availability.

Worth It?

Unfortunately, you’re not going to get a straight answer from me, because I feel that a single answer in this situation is not exactly fair.

Do you have out-of-town/state guests? If the answer is yes, this would be a perfect place to get some retail therapy, grab a bite to eat, and learn a little bit about Waco. They do have tours that you can take out-of-towners on and get the scoop about Fixer Upper and the houses that they worked on. The Silos District really is the perfect size to make it an all-day affair without too much travel.

Are you a fan of Chip & Joanna’s work? If the answer is yes, you will also enjoy your time at Magnolia Market. The merchandise is very much in line with Joanna’s style. If you’re also a fan of the custom metal and wood work that Joanna uses, you can visit those shops as well. If you are not into farm style shabby chic, you might find Magnolia Market a wasted trip. Their home merchandise is very much in line with shabby chic. Think lots of soft colors, embellishments like tassels and scallops, LOTS of “word” decorations (think “family” wall hangings, and motivational sayings), and wood accents. If that isn’t your bag, baby, Magnolia Market is not the place for you. I suggest browsing their website and determining whether the trip is worth it for you. Part of the enjoyment is finding something to buy, but that may be difficult if you aren’t into shabby chic.

Do tourist traps bother you? If the answer is yes, you will probably not enjoy Magnolia Market. It is definitely a tourist trap. As a family friend told me, “They are VERY proud of their brand.” In other words, expect to pay more just because it is part of the Magnolia branding. We had lines. Now, take into consideration that occupancy was being monitored due to COVID and their on-going construction. My friends did tell me that lines were much shorter or non-existent right at opening during the work week.

For me, it was an enjoyable day trip, but not because it was Magnolia Market. It was because I was with out-of-state friends who let me tag along and spending time with them made the experience enjoyable. As a person who is not a huge fan of the show or interior decorating, it was just okay. Without the company of friends, I would have been rather “meh” about the whole experience. I don’t have $2,000 to spend on a table, or $200 on a basket that looks like a paper bag you get from the Piggly Wiggly, or $60 on a wooden serving plank that I would literally never use. It honestly just made me feel bad about myself and the fact that I suck at interior decorating and as much as I would love that clean, polished looking home, I would rather have a new mirrorless camera. To each their own, right?

That being said, I would still like to return to try the bakery (the line was around the building) and maybe see the final product once construction is complete. Despite it not “being my thing”, I did not feel like it was wasted time. I can check it off my bucket list and move on.

Also, I apologize for the lack of pictures. Since I was with friends, I didn’t want to be rushed in taking the perfect pictures. It was also so packed that there wasn’t any way I could get good, clean photos without random people in them. If I do go back when construction is complete, hopefully, I will have that new mirrorless camera I was talking about and I can do a revisit post with the proper photography. Thanks for being understanding!