Alone In Japan - What I Learned From
My First Solo Trip Ever
Fuck it all as I clicked with my right index finger on my Enter button on the keyboard.
What did I just get myself into?
Holy shit, I am… actually going to Japan.
My excitement is all over the place. I had ordered myself an Osprey backpack, some new clothes etc. Mind you, my everyday life till that day looks like this: wake up, brush your teeth, play a video game, eat lunch, back to playing games or some sort of entertainment like movies, eat dinner, sleep, repeat.
Boring, right? That’s my fucking comfort zone, everyone. Yup, I wasn’t happy with how my life is going. That’s why fuck it, I’m going to Japan. Everyone tried to talk me out of it. “Won’t you be scared? Fucking terrified. “Lonely?” Already am… “What if you get robbed?” I don’t know. “What if you get lost?” What if, what if, what if… The truth is I was proud of myself to make my own decision for the first time in my life to do something adventurous and risky.
My trip to Japan wasn’t what I expected…
Oh boy, on that first day landing in Japan… things already started to go wrong.
It was after 1 AM. The trains stopped running. Fuck me. I should’ve known. Where I am from (New York City), trains run 24/7. Whatever, I thought. I’ll just sleep at the airport. Wait a minute… where is my Japan Rail Pass?! I had just received it back home via FedEx ordering online. JR Pass is an unlimited use of JR trains for one, two or three weeks in my case and it cost me around $500. Yeah, I know. It’s expensive, but it actually saved me more money than paying per ride.
I looked through my 50 L backpack. It wasn’t there… Oh my god. I checked my pockets. Nope. Checking my backpack again. Did I just lose it?! It was the most stressful moment in my life. How am I going to get around in Japan without JR pass? After 40 minutes of panicking and re-checking my backpack, I was defeated. I’ve just lost my $500 train ticket, I thought. Since it was around 2:30 AM, I tried to forget by sleeping on the airport bench seating.
I woke up. It was 7 AM. The trains are back up running.
What to do next? I was more calm. Getting some sleep helped. I was trying to remember where I put my JR pass last time. I thoroughly checked my backpack again. And…
There it is! Phew, I found it in the secret (hard to find) compartment. Doh me. Lesson learned?
Don't Freak Out
Off on the train with no destination in mind on where to go. I ended up spending half of my day at the train station looking for WiFi so that I could book a room. Eventually, I found myself in a small area in Japan wandering through streets in the rain trying to find accommodation. Yeah… Try to book ahead of the time when you have reliable WiFi.
Looking back and being honest with myself, I actually see that I felt lonelier than I cared to admit at the time. I went for days without making conversation with anybody. Maybe it is because I am deaf and nobody wants to put in effort communicating with me. Or maybe I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt like it was the world is against me, because of who I am but I didn’t even know who I am.
But I was thinking, why can’t I just enjoy it? It’s a whole new experience. I mean, It’s Japan! I’ve heard about Japan in so long, and I’ve watched so many anime shows and movies about it. I’ve just done something so crazy, something that I never thought I’d do. It was absolutely beautiful and I did felt exciting, but I just didn’t feel like I was enjoying all the moments I had at all.
One day, I was climbing up to the peak of one of the Japan islands called Miyajima. It was early in the morning and there weren’t many tourists around. It was so quiet that I started to observe the surrounding more. The birds flying around, the leaves being blown by the wind. I have never enjoyed a single moment as much as I did on that small hike to the peak. Without any distraction, I started to be aware of what I am doing, where I am at, and the purpose of why I am there. I guess this is me living in the moment at its finest.
Then I realized I had learned it’s okay to feel loneliness. I forced myself to get out there and talk to some people. It was a growing pain that I needed. Since then, I have been to 15 more countries and 5 more solo trips. I have seen and done incredible things that I would never have thought I’d ever do. I meticulously plan out my trips and leave open-ended plans for certain locations that I think I may change plans for. I have learned confidence and have become that person who “has never met a stranger”. And it all started with that train wreck of a trip.
To those who want to experience solo travel, do it! I think it is a great life lesson being able to put yourself out there and feel vulnerable. You may not realize it but once you put yourself out there traveling alone, challenging yourself, and go against your fears and negativity, you have become a better version of yourself. You will make a decision faster and better. You will learn to rely on yourself and not others. You will learn the value of trusting a stranger. You will learn how to entertain yourself, to be alone but yet connected. You will learn to observe the world around you, seeing the value in little things. And in the end, you will learn that the fear of the unknown and the risk involved that you’d experienced being taking the leap are all lies. You are no longer stuck by your own fear. You are now truly…
It was the best one month of my life and helped shape me into the person I am today. That was the way I learned more about myself.