Japan Day 19: Nagasaki »

Japan Bonus: Commandments of Traveling

11/25/14 | by Charlie [mail] | Categories: Travel

Well I'm headed back, and as I journey on again I thought maybe I'd compile some of my thoughts on traveling and getting the most out of everything. I don't know! Here they are:

Hostels are awesome: when you are traveling alone, hostels are the best way to meet people. Just come back from your day, get your nap in, and sit around from like 6-7. You'll usually find some friends for dinner, or come back for drinks after! Conversely, don't be that group in the hostel that's just there because it's cheap or something, make friends, be accessible. There was a group of 4 in my 12 person hostel that literally came in and we never saw again. No Fun!

Always say Yes / be easy going / convince people Yes: The nights we went out, I just committed to wandering the streets for at least an hour, because I've learned that no group of more than 4 people can ever agree on something. I dealt with this by forcing everyone to stop at 7-11 so I could get drinks while we "headed to that one place." Of course, it took an hour, then people didn't want to go, I suggested Karaoke, and we did that instead. EZ. Sometimes it's fun to re-arrange your plans a bit. Some Scots were heading one place in Tokyo, so I decided having friends would be more fun than whatever I had planned and went with them...or in Miyajima, why not have a random group of college girls guide you around. I moved slower, but it was fun!

One track trains are always a good choice. They just are. I've literally never met one I didn't like.

Related to that: plan variety. You will get tired of whatever it is you are doing. I was in Puerto Rico doing beach days and best choice I ever made was renting a car and taking four friends to hike the jungles. Of course I popped a tire and had to plan an elaborate cover up scheme...but see that never would have happened if I'd stayed on the beach. When I do towns rapidly like in Japan, find the out of the way village worth staying in (Kanazawa, Hallstatt, etc.), the change in feel is great.

Plan, and plan to not plan. This is controversial. Some people like to "show up" to a country and travel. If I'd done that (and I sort of did at the end), I wouldn't have had a place to stay this weekend. Instead, book hostels and hotels, the cancellation fee is nominal or nonexistent, and decide what you don't want to plan (day-to-day activities). If you meet someone, or something strikes your fancy, you can change plans. But if you don't have a place to stay, you'll spend more time trying to find one than exploring the city you are in.

Observe: Watch what people do and you'll fit in better and maybe learn a bit. I picked up how to use the bus systems in Japan, and how to put your shoes so that you are courteous (always flip them facing out). Did a bunch of people get off at the current subway stop? Should you be getting off or are they going somewhere different.

Security: Know where you are. In Japan, I frequently left my pack when I had it on a bench to take pictures of a garden or a park for a few minutes. The theft rate is like negative there. On the other hand, in some places, I sleep with my camera back in my bed, it's great for spooning and I don't have to trust the locker. Regardless, I always keep my passport, phone, and wallet in my pants (mainly so that I don't lose them) and I generally sleep with my pants under my pillow or at least in bed where I have part of my body on it.

Use your time. Every morning I screenshotted the train timetables to my next city. When I got to a mountain at sunset, I often found I wanted to stay for night, and I could easily reference when the last train was. Leave yourself some buffer, sometimes I made things traveling alone that would have been difficult to do in a group. And when you have down time, take another look at things. Has that hostel you really wanted in the next city freed up? What station are you transferring at? Sometimes you catch something you missed, or find something else you want to do that fits just perfectly. And don't make your connections too tight, even Japanese trains can be late, or though you're really good at traveling, sometimes street names look too similar.

Have Fun. Yeah, I spent most of a Saturday in Kyoto hungover and just wandered a shrine for two hours, so what? It often feels like I'm on grueling pace on Oregon Trail. So when opportunities to just chill with people at a hostel present themselves, I take them. Also, every week and a half or so, give yourself a day to do nothing. It happened in Europe a few times...you'll get homesick or extra tired and just want to watch TV and lay in bed. Do it! It's not a waste, it's making the rest of your trip more efficient.

Relax. Things will go wrong...but they almost always make a good story.

Remember the little things: I just needed a reason to fit this tidbit I forgot in. I was in a bathroom day two here, and the urinal had a TV screen above it. Nice ads, I thought. Unzipped and BOOM. Action fighting pee game where I shooting water at an AI. Was it based on my flow? Idk, I like to think so because I won. But that was so freaking Japanese. The little differences really make these trips fun.

Anyways, that's how I like to travel. Sorry about the poor formatting. Wrote this in a hurry because sadly this trip is coming to an end and I'm boarding a 787. Oh wait, nvm, I'm boarding a 787, things are still awesome. See you in SF!

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A collection of musings from my time at Yale along with some thoughts about my "Freshman year of life" in San Francisco.

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