After nine months of travelling, I’m happy to say that I don’t feel the travel burnout and I haven’t lost my mind! My mood did change quite a bit once we hit Japan.
If you are new to this site and would like to read the rest of my monthly highlights during my year of travelling, you can find them here.
Remember last month when I mentioned that I was starting to feel drained from travelling in New Zealand? Well, that travel burnout was me having enough of New Zealand and needing to be back in Asia. I know, it’s weird…I think I needed to eat some real Asian food and experience some culture.
Japan was such an incredible experience
Honestly, Japan was just another Asian country to visit in my eyes before this trip, and I didn’t have a lot of expectations. But then I get to Japan, and I was like whoa… it’s like I didn’t realize how much influence I have on the Japanese culture.
Being in Japan made many things “click” in my mind and helped me to understand why I am the way I am. Of all places during our travels, I was not expecting to have a deeper understanding of the factors that shaped me. Seriously. I was just looking forward to eating all the green tea desserts I can find and racing around Tokyo in a go-kart as Mario.
I’ll save my love for Japan later and dive into my monthly summary instead.
Month 9 | Summary of the nomadic life
Dates Travelled: March 19, 2018 – April 18, 2018
Budget: We are over budget for Japan, especially in the food category. In fact, I increased our daily food budget in Japan by 50%, and yet we are still over the extra spend. To be honest, we did not try very hard to stay within our budget. We could have stuck to budget by eating from convenience stores, but food was not something we wanted to restrict ourselves on.
Plus, we only have a few more months before heading home, so we know that this splurge is not a budget killer. In a way, planning to visit Japan (one of the most expensive places to visit!) closer to the end of our yearlong travels worked out for us because it would have sucked to miss out on an experience because of budget constraints.
I’ll be honest; I was pretty nervous about travelling to Japan because it has a reputation for being expensive. But we didn’t break the bank, and I felt that most things we paid in Japan were reasonable. We did find ways to save money on transportation though by getting around using the regular trains and buses.
Places Visited: Rotorua, Whitianga, Auckland, Tokyo, Yokohama, Fujiyoshida, Takayama, Kyoto, Kinosaki, Nara.
Yup, we moved A LOT in Japan and yet I didn’t feel drained despite losing sleep and being out for 10+ hours EVERY DAY.
Items lost/What I wished I packed
We forgot our food again at one of our guesthouses in Auckland – it was a banana and some snacks. Boo. We almost lost another viewfinder eye cup on our second camera (it fell in the middle of the road in front of Mt. Fuji!). That gave us insight on how we lost the first viewfinder eye cup at least. I also almost lost my Japan train pass when I dropped it in the middle of the train tracks! Right in the cracks of course, with a train just meters in front of me. Luckily, it wasn’t moving so I made a mad dash to grab my train pass and scurried away.
This one belongs more in a “stupid mistake” section, but since I don’t have one, I’ll leave it here. I didn’t bother to retrieve my train ticket to Kinosaki at a fare counter in Kyoto. Don’t know what was going on in my head but I didn’t think I needed the ticket anymore (so stupid!). Thanks to my mistake, we had to repurchase a new ticket, which costs 2,590 yen.
Transportation during month nine of long-term travel
- Flight from Auckland to Bangkok
- Flew from Bangkok to Osaka
- Flight from Osaka to Tokyo
- Train ride from Tokyo to Yokohoma
- Bus ride from Yokohama to Yamanashi
- Bus ride from Yamanashi to Takayama
- Another bus ride from Takayama to Kyoto
- Train ride from Kyoto to Nara
- Train ride from Kyoto Kinosaki
- Bus ride from Kyoto to Hiroshima
What I miss
- My first dog who passed away earlier this year. I named him after an unpopular Japanese anime character that is still commonly seen in Japan. He would have been 78 (in human years) this year.
- I miss hot weather. On our bus route to Takayama, I nearly had a heart attack when I saw snow in Japan when we stopped at a small town in the mountains. I only packed summer/spring gear! Thank goodness there was no snow in Takayama, although it was super cold!
Scariest moments: Driving at up to 60km/hr on the highway in Tokyo in a go-kart was quite frightening for me, especially when the stupid boys were doing turns like they were part of Initial D.
There were a few.
Funny moment #1: G saying “I don’t understand” in Japanese when he meant to say “I understand” to a policeman. We couldn’t get why the policeman kept explaining the same thing over and over again until we later consulted a dictionary.
Funny moment #2: Listening to another tourist ask a cashier “Is that chicken? Pock pock pock pock” and started flapping his arms like a bird HAHA!
Funny moment #3: My conversation with my friend about our real-life Tokyo Go-Kart seat belts went something like this…
Me: Ugh… these seat belts are so annoying
Friend: Oh crap, I forgot to put on my seatbelt!
Me: *Doubles in laughter*
Friend: *Looks around for seatbelt* Oh CRAP! There aren’t any seatbelts! Ah well
Me: *Triples in nervous laughter*
Memorable Moments: almost every moment in Japan was a memorable moment. There were significant moments like go-karting around Tokyo, seeing Mount Fuji and feeding the deer at Nara. Then there are the little moments, like the acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from the Japanese.
Another memorable moment was feeling self-conscious about walking around with Pikachu (you know… because I’m a grown adult and all!).
Defining Moments: This whole month was a series of many defining moments. There were so many childhood memories that came to my mind while in Japan. We’ve also decided while in Japan that we’re coming back in 2019. Yup, we love it that much.
There is also a defining moment for my little dog – she just doesn’t know it yet. She’ll soon learn about my idea of dressing her up like a real-life teddy bear muahahah.
Yucky Moments: The yucky moments weren’t that bad, but these were probably the “worst.” Dealing with SO MANY bugs in one of our crappy hostels in New Zealand. Also, guys walking around in their boxers in hostels. Dudes, please keep your hairy chest and man boobs hidden under a shirt…
Thoughts and feelings during month nine of the nomadic life
I’ve stopped paying attention to flight lengths and guestimate how long it will take to get from one place to the next
Hmm, how long would it take to fly from New Zealand to Japan? *Looks at a map right as we are about to board* 10 hours sounds about right.
Nope…. Our flight alone from Bangkok was 12+ hours! For reference, a direct flight from Toronto to Hong Kong is 15 hours! Luckily, I’m a sucker for in-flight movies and binged watched all the latest and greatest.
Our luggage is getting lighter and lighter
Our suitcases weighed a 19kg and 12kg. Talk about minimalism at its finest.
I had no time to feel excitement for Japan when I was in New Zealand
It’s a strange feeling not to feel like I’m bouncing off the walls with excitement for a trip because I’m still on a trip and enjoying my time.
Our daily conversations in Japan went something like this:
Me: I’d want to live here for a year
G: … You say that in every country we visit
Seriously… currently wondering how I can live in Japan for a year. Meeting people who live in Japan for a few years is giving me so many ideas.
I sometimes can’t eat huge portions of pork without thinking of pigs
Remember in month six when I mentioned that pigs keep me up at night? Well, I never told you why… but I’ll tell you now. We lived next to a pig slaughterhouse, where we would hear their last cries in the still of the night. I couldn’t touch pork for months after that experience. But then I had a pork wonton and Xiao lun bao and thought I was ok. But then when I had don katsu, I could not stop thinking about the pigs. It also didn’t help that I met the CUTEST pigs in New Zealand and made the mistake of petting a pig. It’s weird to feel the skin of a live pig because the only other time I’ve touched the pig’s skin was when I used to buy pork belly for cooking.
Some Europeans think I’m Japanese
They say Konichiwa (hello in Japanese) and then bow to me. Cracks me up every time.
Learnings during month nine of the nomadic life
We didn’t get any stamps in our passport from Australia or New Zealand. BOO! I was trying to fill my passport with stamps.
Make sure to check your travel insurance for proper coverage
That information became important as we started to plan our return date to Canada!
Waking up early to go to a touristy place is worth it to avoid the crowds
Don’t try to catch a train that’s about to leave while dragging luggage
Just don’t. Be patient and take the next one.
It’s hard to get around Japan with English in the smaller cities
Sometimes we ask a question and we think the bus driver said what we wanted to hear (because we have no idea what they just said) and we just… get on the bus and hope for the best lol. The best-case scenario is that we arrive at our destination. The worst case scenario is that we get a cheap tour of the city HAHA.
Hostels aren’t just for 20 something olds
There are people of all ages.
It blows my mind when I meet rude tourists in Japan
Japanese people are super super super polite, and it was shocking that some tourists could not be more well behaved, even for a minute! One, in particular, went as far as asking a local to MOVE while the latter was praying at a temple!
Photography progress and thoughts during month nine of the nomadic life
I don’t think my photography skills improved much this month. I also struggled to take photos in Japan because there’s always a tourist in my picture. It’s SO HARD to take pictures when there are so many people.
I’m not good at taking photos when there are too many crowds
You can’t control the weather
We wanted to take that classic shot of Mount Fuji on a clear day. We checked the weather forecast and made sure to plan our trip so that we’d arrive in time to see a clear view. The sky was clear as water when we got on the ten-minute train ride. And yet by the time we arrived at the top of the viewing location, a cloud had already covered the mountain, with no signs of passing through.
Our camera sensor got dusty – leaving specs that show up in all our photos
It’s annoying. UGHHH.
I was OBSESSED with photographing cherry blossoms
I found it very very hard to take a good photo because there were SO MANY PEOPLE everywhere we went!
The problem was that I couldn’t find any cherry blossom trees that a) had no clouds in the background, b) were still in bloom or c) was not on a sidewalk next to a busy road.
I was about to lose all hope of taking photos with cherry blossom trees until we arrived at Fujiyoshida near Mount Fuji.
All we needed was a bridge with no crowds…
I wanted to experiment with cherry blossom shots, but I needed a model
G is always my guinea pig for my test shots.
We get good photos almost every time we hand it to a Japanese person
Surprise, surprise. I am impressed.
What’s next for our tenth month of the nomadic life
We are spending another week or so in Japan before we finally make it to Taiwan!
Read Next: Month ten of our long-term travels in Taiwan