Hello! I’m Aaron Kardell. In this Sunday newsletter, I pick one random topic weekly to go deep on and have some disparate quick hits at the end.
I’m not a planner. Except when I am – I’m really a planner.
It’s not my natural inclination to build project plans or write detailed requirements. I prefer to partner with others where that’s their strong suit.
However, there are times – professionally and personally – when something flips, and I turn on planning mode. If I’m in that mindset, I get really detailed. Usually, it happens when there isn’t someone else in that role, and it’s obvious it’s needed.
It happens much more often for us as a family. I usually assume the role of the planner on most things. So any time we travel, I plan out every detail.
On our last international trip (to Australia), we engaged with a travel agent, which is rare for us. It was nice to have a break from planning in a busy season and just show up. But it left me wondering a few times why “we” prioritized what we did that day.
On a lot of trips I like to have some of the critical points sketched out ahead of time – especially if we are traveling between cities or switching hotels. And then have highlighted activities we know we want to do and an idea of which day we might do them but have the flexibility to change along the way.
We are traveling in Japan, and I wanted to avoid engaging a travel agent for this trip. I also have a lot of flexible time on our schedule. Yesterday that stressed me out. I felt like I didn’t have good enough plans for our family. “We only have four days in Tokyo, and I better maximize our family’s time & enjoyment!” Also, I’m a way more adventurous eater than my daughter, and I felt a bit constrained that we couldn’t just experience new things.
And yet, yesterday couldn’t have been more perfect.
It was pouring rain, which threw off our desire to do too much outdoors.
One of our earlier activities was rushing by train and subway to make an 11:30am reservation at Savoy, which we were able to book last minute. (Side note: we heard multiple times how important it is to be on time for reservations in Japan. It’s shameful to be late.) Numerous people had pointed to Savoy as having the world’s best Naples-style pizza. Who knew that was in Japan? It was every bit as good as people had proclaimed it to be.
We were then a 25-minute walk from Tokyo Tower, and despite the rain, we decided to walk there. On the way, we decided to take in a view of the city from its observation tower.
We then returned to the hotel to decompress, still fighting off jet lag. I was once again stressed about planning for the family. I tried to figure out Tabelog, the Japanese version of Yelp. I found a good choice one train stop away – a fusion of Japanese and Western styles that would accommodate my daughter’s picky food choices and my desire to expand my horizons.
We journeyed out. After 20 minutes of walking, plus a train stop and fumbling through trying to read restaurant signage, we made it there. The restaurant didn’t have much seating but offered to seat us in a smoking section. We declined.
As we looked for a place to eat over the next 30 minutes, a comedy of errors ensued. One place was full. A couple were closed for the day. Another didn’t have an English menu. Finally, we were desperate. We saw a restaurant with pictures of its food that seemed decent, and we decided – we’re eating here.
After we sat down, we quickly learned no one spoke English and there were no English menus. And there were no picture menus either. But we continued because we were embarrassed and we also didn’t want to keep walking around. We were going to make this work.
Through many awkward interactions, our server recommended I download the DeepL app. Using it, I could turn on a camera in the app, point it to Japanese words on the menu, and get it immediately translated.
It took me almost 15 minutes to “read” through everything on the menu for my family. We all found something we wanted. I could be nominally more adventurous and get wagyu-covered onigiri balls. And Adeline could have french fries. But the hidden gem was when Eli ordered a pizza we didn’t realize would be so unique. It had a unique crust and an egg over easy on top. And despite having “the world’s best pizza” earlier in the day, he proclaimed that this was delicious (“oi-shii”) and the best pizza he had had.
This is one of many reasons I love international travel with the family. My kids' horizons are expanding (even while eating french fries), and they’re learning to live outside their comfort zones.
We had so many laughs together as a family that night. And that is the biggest reason I love traveling with them. To create memories.
And that’s when I realized… Sometimes it’s ok to stop planning and live in the moment. You might just have one of the best nights of your life.
This Week’s Quick Hits
What’s the most unique thing you’ve encountered so far with your own or others use of ChatGPT? I’m curious.
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Pîžżã wäš gøōd :)
Traveling with my daughter, showing her the world. different ways of life, eating, culture, history, customs... literally my favorite thing in life. And, despite being an over-anxious planner in regular life, I find a freer schedule, more spontaneity, unexpected moments, are always the best parts of any travel experience. I love this post so much. Enjoy!