Where have my blog posts disappeared to? Truthfully, I have no excuse for not writing sooner. Ever since we returned to Mexico on April 30th, we’ve been getting settled into our new place, and I haven’t found the time to write. Plus, I’ve been doing some non-profit consulting and grantwriting for some international organizations and this has kept me busier than normal. But I’m hoping to start communicating again more frequently. In fact, right after I send out this missive, I am going to start working on a blog post about our current digs in Morelia, Mexico and I promise to get it out this week. But for now, I want to tell you about our trip to Japan and Korea. What an amazing time we had!!! I want to go back so bad. I loved both places. This was my third visit to Japan and I think it’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited. Please put it on your bucket list. You won’t be sorry.
There were so many highlights during our month-long trip and I’m happy we went to Seoul. I really enjoyed getting new glasses and experiencing their coffee culture which was just mind-boggling.
Here are a few additional highlights of our trip.
- 1. Traveling on the bullet train in Japan, which went 199 miles an hour! The trains were clean, efficient, and always punctual.
- 2. Enjoying some of the best sushi and Japanese food I’ve ever had. It was plentiful, fresh and not expensive.
- 3. Staying at several traditional Japanese inn’s and experiencing true Japanese hospitality. I really enjoyed bathing in traditional Japanese baths, know as onsens.
4. Seeing amazing cherry blossoms in Kyoto, Gumna prefecture, and in many other places. They were spectacular.
5. Relaxing on the cruise, despite the daily average temperatures of just 42 degrees. Brrr. Despite the cold weather, the cruise was a blast. I even got to sing in the cruise choir! I practiced every day while on the ship and then 60 of us performed for 2,200 passangers. It was super inspirational.
Here are a few things I learned about myself and about life while on the wide open road.
- I loved the sense of freedom being on the road brought and I loved not knowing what our day-to-day life would be like. Although I was tired on many days because we walked so much, I never felt like i wanted to stay in one place for two long and I enjoyed moving around frequently. I never yearned to be back in Mexico.
- It’s easy traveling with the same person day-in and day-out if one leads (Andy) and one follows. It doesn’t work if both people want to lead. Someone has to take a back seat. This greatly reduces arguments. I’m happy being a follower.
- Crazy little things made my trip really enjoyable. Things I never thought about. One of my friends gave me three essential travel items before I left and I used them like crazy. 1) A small notebook with pages that can tear out. 2) An erasable pen 3) A portable charger for our many devices. What great gifts! I won’t leave home without these items ever again.
About Japan planning
- Japan had amazing on-line travel resources which made travel planning easy. There were tons of websites and blog posts we used to help us plan our visit. Purchasing a rail pass was probably one of the best decisions we made because it gave us a lot of flexibility and it allowed us to travel to many, many places. In the past several years, Japan has really upped their game and has made many more resources available in English for tourists. They also anticipate travelers needs so there are always people who speak English (and wear cool hats) available at train stations and major tourist sites to help people.
As my good friend Kara told me, “everything works out in Japan”. She was right. We never encountered any places that didn’t have our hotel reservation, the trains were always on time, and things just worked. I even needed to go to the emergency room one day to get two stitches in my leg, and this worked out just fine too.
Japan isn’t as expensive as one might think. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. Nice hotels were running $130-150 a night and a nice dinner for us both at a traditional Izakaya, was around $45. Want to enjoy a bowl of ramen for dinner? Shell out $6 and you will be in noodle heaven! Our trip was very affordable, not as cheap as Mexico, but not as costly as one might think.
A few thoughts on what I brought with me…
I packed really light because I didn’t want to be lugging around a ton of stuff and because Japanese hotel rooms are so small. I bought a few new things before I left, but not very many.
FYI, the companies I’m mentioning below didn’t pay me and I didn’t get free swag so don’t fret. I just really want to give them a shout-out because they made my trip way more pleasurable. I’m kind of a cheapskate and I don’t like to spend money on stuff, but paying for the items below was sound judgement and I had no regrets.
- I packed my stuff using ebags packing cubes. Packing cubes kept all of my clothes organized and they allowed me to bring more clothes with me. Best invention ever, seriously.
- I purchased two cute travel skirts that I wore over and over again. Both were from Royal Robbins and I got them at the Royal Robbins outlet in Berkeley, CA. You can also find these at REI. They were both great to walk in and they washed like a dream. I can’t recommend this line of travel skirts enough. One of my skirts is orange and the other is gray and I wish I had hundreds more to wear every day.
- I purchased a new pair of walking shoes (Mary Jane style) from SAS and I while they were a bit pricey, they were really great. I also walked using Sketchers which never let me down.
Finally, one thing Andy and I both realized during this trip is that we like not knowing where the wind might take us–we’re open to more exploring and luckily we’ve set up our fall schedule to have time to be open to new adventures. Our lease ends in Morelia, Mexico September 30th, so October and November is wide open.
We’re returning to Zihuatanejo for four months in December, but we’ve got eight weeks to explore more of Mexico, or perhaps even venture out through Central America. I want to go to El Salvador, Honduras and perhaps Nicaragua, so perhaps this might be a good time to do so. Who knows? We’ll start figuring this out soon.
Hope your summer is off to a peaceful start.