Your life is your very own epic voyage
From when I was a young girl I had a huge fascination for Japan and everything Japanese. And even though I love traveling the world and exploring new cultures it would take until my late twenties until together with my son I would finally travel to Japan for the first time ever. We had 3 weeks, little money and all that was left to do was to make a plan – the perfect plan – of what to see and do. Easier said than done. We wanted to see it all and I soon realized that we would be miserable and stressed out on this trip if I wanted to squeeze everything in. So I came up with what I call the Cornerstones Principle:
Define your Cornerstones & let your trip unfold
We asked ourselves what aspects of Japan we really wanted to see and experience and how we wanted to travel and I came up with these seven things, our personal Cornerstones for our Japan trip:
- Mountains and Countryside
- Japan by the Sea
- City Life
- Past and Traditions
- Making new Friends
- Traveling by Train
These are just Cornerstones so everything else would be entirely free and flexible. I can’t stress enough how important it is to leave room for development. Don’t get caught up in planning your whole trip meticulously – the whole point of travel is to let things happen! However, after defining our voyage’s Cornerstones the whole trip basically unfolded before our eyes without me having much more to do or to organize. Before, possibilities were endless. Without knowing our Cornerstones, whatever option we would pick we would feel we might miss out on something else.
Your Cornerstones help you prioritize
After arriving in Tokio we spent a good couple of days exploring the city and its buzzing neighborhoods (Cornerstone 3: City Life). In our charming hostel we met other travelers who would recommend us great places outside of Tokio, of which two destinations were in the countryside. We opted for the one that featured more mountains (Cornerstone 1: Mountains and countryside) and soon we packed our bags and off we went! My son loves trains and there’s not much better for train enthusiasts than Japanese trains. The convenient JR Railway Pass allowed us to travel freely via train during our whole three weeks (Cornerstone 6: Train Travel). We got to try out Japanese hot springs, stayed in a traditional guesthouse, went for fantastic hikes and experienced Japanese countryside life.
Going with the flow
And we met a Spanish girl who used to work as a flamenco dancer in a Spanish theme park (no joke, that place really exists) near the coast of Honshu. She would rave about the beautiful scenery there (seaside hello!) and she convinced us to contact her friend, who was still living there at the time. What an opportunity! Her lovely friend Ana not only invited my son and me to stay with her but she offered to take us around in her car (Cornerstone 5: Make new friends) – she turned out to be the best company we could have hoped for! We visited Japan’s biggest Shinto shrine, hung out by the sea (Cornerstone 2: Japan by the sea), took part in a traditional matsuri (religious folk festival) and watched our new friend dance flamenco in front of a Japanese audience (Cornerstone 7: Surprises!)
An outline for a trip and for your life
Our whole trip turned out to be even more fantastic and memorable than we could have ever imagined. I could fill a book with all the incredible and wonderful people and things we were lucky to encounter. Furthermore it was easy to navigate through all the possibilities that were thrown at us because we knew our Cornerstones. We knew what was important to us. We also knew that we wouldn’t get to see and do everything in those three weeks but that was fine.
This is how I outline every trip to this day: I define my Cornerstones and I pick a couple of things and activities that will help me experience them. But this isn’t just about planning a trip.
In life, too, we are constantly confronted with a multitude of possibilities and varieties of those possibilities. Kids or career and can you have both? Move far away for this job or stay where friends and family are? The people around you provide you with well-meant advice. They tell you what they would do if they were you but:
What would you do if you were you?
They are not you, only you are you. Only you can know or find out what is important for you in life.
Your life is your epic voyage
Think of your life like it was an epic voyage. You have limited time and maybe limited resources or certain constraints. Make it a fun exercise by asking yourself: “What is really important to me?” Write down the answer(s) and there you go – this is the basis of your Cornerstones.
This is also why we moved on a boat. I’m lucky to have a partner who has the same Cornerstones in life as I do:
- family and kids and plenty of time with them
- travel and explore the world, live life adventurously
- inspire others
In my coaching this is therefore one of the first things we are working on: Finding out about your vision and defining your Cornerstones. Your Cornerstones are your compass in confusing times when you aren’t sure in which direction you are going. Knowing your Cornerstones will make you live, love and lead more successfully!
You would like to know what your Cornerstones are? Contact me: email@example.com