This fourteen-part series is based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of how we fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.

Empty chairs, August 2017

East gardens of Imperial Palace, Chiyoda

Va∙ca∙tion /vāˈkāsh(ə)n,vəˈkāsh(ə)n/ An extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling; holiday; getaway.

Others were in a frenzy at the security checkpoint in iah, but not us. Three hours before departure the five of us passed through in only a few seconds because our screening was simple: each of us carried only one small backpack for the two weeks in asia. All the computers and roller bags and keys and jackets and purses on the x-ray belt reminded me how different our preparations must have been from most people around us who have so much more. The pets and the baggage some of these people carried made it a struggle for them to move much less get through screening at the checkpoint, imagine what they have at home?

I'm very thankful that we planned well, happy that we are focused on the essentials to keep our lives lightweight on the road. We’ve distilled our possessions to the point that packing for Asia made it obvious that we needed very little to sustain everything we normally do: us three, a few articles of clothing, a camera and a way to communicate with the family. That’s all we brought for the two weeks nearly 10,000 miles from Washington.

Ironically, as we simplify our lives relating to others has become more complicated because they don't always understand why we reduce. The less we have the more explaining we do. And some kind of explanation is always required, like when we tell people we have no furniture at home, or why we travel with so little, or when we struggle to explain that our trip is not a vacation.

Our trips are always a learning process: preparations start with a packing strategy to maximize portability; next is locale research to find highlights; then cultural reading to help us understand what to expect on the ground, which was especially useful since none of us has been to Japan or Indonesia.

This time the idea behind our approach was to ease our movement and to respect the culture at our destinations so we could integrate ourselves the best we could while overseas. But this is exactly the same basic process we used moving to Washington, the same kind of planning we do for any major event. And if that’s the case, how could we call any trip a vacation?

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