Circa July 2012
Weeks back, I traveled to Tokyo.
A couple of things to put in to perspective with this trip: it was done on a whim and completely impulsive, I had absolutely no plans or ideas of what to do coming into the trip, I went by myself, and I only knew a total of two words in Japanese (both of which only began and ended social communication). On what seemed to be the requirements of setting myself up for a bad way to spend my vacation days, ended up being the largest determinants to why my 4-day 3-night trip to Tokyo was an amazing experience.
The idea of venturing alone gets thrown around so frequently within conversations of travel, and I had yet to truly experience it on my own. I’ve always had my father, who happens to be a flight attendant, hold my hand and walk me through the processes of traveling as well as what to see and do in the area. I took it upon myself to let go; I wanted to make absolutely every mistake I could. I wanted to take the training wheels off, so that when I fell, every scrape, bruise, and scab was a memory of my travel experience that I would wear with pride. Here are just a couple of things I picked up from traveling and exploring alone:
Don’t be afraid to communicate
Though there may be a lack of speech within interaction, there are tons of ways to communicate. I am pretty sure I became the best charades player because of it. Language barriers don’t stop people from interacting, fear of that language barrier does.
Smiling is universal
Whether it be asking for help, ordering food, or asking what train station to get off at, you can’t avoid the fact that you eventually have to speak to someone. Traveling alone can be, for lack of a better word, lonely. During times of communication, you’ll get your most genuine interactions when you smile. So just do it.
Take every turn that interests you
My primary goal in traveling alone was to get lost. When trying to find places, I stopped focusing on what routes I should’ve taken and started focusing on the directions that felt right. When you’re exploring let your eyes, feet, or stomach guide you and things will fall in to line.
Try your hardest to not ask for directions
You know when you play a video game that’s too difficult and all you want to use are the cheat codes, and when you end up using them it ruins the game – same concept. Getting answers blocks your curiosity and shortens the learning process; There is no such thing as the right way to get anywhere. A wrong turn could be your best decision. There’s nothing wrong with struggle it only builds character, and tells an even better story of your trip. Quit taking short-cuts and take the scenic route its only for the better.
Travel is a passion of mine and a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that I decided I was #GoingSolo to Tokyo. Soon after this trip, I actually decided to leave my previous job (not solely due to this trip) and travel solo for two entire months. I've gathered some amazing life stories, but most importantly a better lens on life. Each country, each city, each dish, and each person you meet comes with a lesson that you wouldn't learn otherwise. You start to understand that though we live within different country boundaries and may speak a different language, that we have more things in common than we don't. If you're thinking about traveling on your own, just do it, you’ll thank me later.
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