Category Archives: japan

How I Afford To Travel The World

Probably the number one question I get asked when it comes to my travels is, “How do you afford it?!” Since I work seasonal employment, it’s not exactly the most profitable field, and therefore I shouldn’t be traveling as much as I do. But, the answer lies in the details. As a former travel agent, I have a few tricks of the trade that have helped me throughout the years and as I travel more, I have gained a few tricks of my own. 

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. I scour websites like Momondo and Skyscanner and STA travel and Student Universe, and I’m not picky. When I bought my ticket to Japan, I originally had no idea of where I wanted to go. I used the “Take Me Anywhere” feature on Momondo, and found my $378 round trip ticket to Tokyo. I didn’t really have any interest in going to Japan, but at a price like that, I couldn’t say no.

Being flexible allows more doors to open and better flights to pop up. If you have one particular place in mind, chances of finding the “perfect” flight at a stellar price are pretty slim. But, if you go into it with no expectations of where you’re going, there are some absolutely phenomenal flights out there to places that are super up and coming.

Save. Everything. Since I work seasonal jobs, my bills are almost non-existent. Most of my contracts offer me food and housing, so I can save nearly everything I make instead of having to pay for rent and utilities and car insurance and car payments and and and…While this isn’t the case for a lot of people, when I worked a “normal 9-5”, I was putting 20-25% of my paychecks away for future travels.

Because I’m committed to traveling as much as I can, I was willing to sacrifice a few nights out with friends or going out to dinner or splurging on a new outfit if it meant that I could take a helicopter ride in Iceland or order an extra bottle of wine in Venice or stay in the hotel that I had been looking at for years online. While 25% is steep, you can always adjust that to whatever you’re comfortable with.

I have a Round-The-World trip planned for this September and just about everything I’m making is going towards tickets, hostels, excursions, food, drinks, etc. It’s sometimes hard to debate with yourself as to whether saving is worth it when there are so many things going on right now, but it always pans out well. 

Be Diligent. Once you’ve found an area or a location that has captured your heart, and clouded all your daydreams, sign up for fare alerts, check up on the price when you can, and check fare predictors. (Skyscanner and Student Universe both have pretty reliable ones.) Word of Caution: a lot of these third-party sites that offer lower rates usually use cookies, and if they see that you’re checking the same flight over and over, they’re likely to raise the price solely because they know you’re interested. To avoid this, turn off your cookies while browsing or browse in private mode. 

Travel on Tuesdays. If you’re traveling internationally, try to book your flight for a Tuesday and search for your flight Tuesday or Wednesday. Airlines tend to lower their prices to match competition on Monday nights, so you’re going to find cheaper flights on these days. Try to avoid searching for flights on weekends, as the prices are usually inflated. As for traveling on Tuesday, fares are usually less expensive than say, Sunday afternoon. 

Book Your Trip During The Shoulder Seasons. Shoulder seasons are the month(s) before and after peak travel times; think April, September, October. While you might miss out on the best weather, shoulder seasons are much cheaper both airfare wise and expenses during your stay. Hotels and exclusions are usually less too. And shoulder seasons tend to have less crowds, which is always a plus. 

Think Outside The Box When It Comes To Lodging. Hotels. They can be so, so expensive. Think about staying in hostels, Airbnb’s, or couch surfing. If you’re dead set on staying in hotels, try hotels.com, they have a fantastic rewards program where for every 9 nights you book through them, you get 1 night free. Which adds up so quickly. Plus, once you sign up, they “unlock secret prices”, which is usually $5-25 off the listed price. 

Pack Light. Luggage fees are getting more and more exorbitant. Airlines like Spirit and Frontier make a large majority of their profit from fees and last time inchecked, luggage fees for Frontier were upwards of $65. That’s as much as a ticket! Try to pack what you can into a carry-on and your personal item, not only are you saving on luggage fees but you’re also saving yourself from having to schlep around a ton of luggage. 

Don’t Be Intimidated By All-Inclusive. I have to admit, I was not at all keen on the idea of any trip I took to have the words “all inclusive” anywhere near them. I felt like it was cheating, or there had to be some sort of catch. But, when I found an all-inclusive trip on Living Social to La Fortuna, Costa Rica for $250, I was intrigued. It included lodging, food, drinks, and an excursion (I went ATV’ing on a volcano 💁) and it was so worth it. I didn’t have to worry about constantly having money with me, and I was still able to leave the lodge and walk around the town and get a sense of the local culture. 

Honestly, traveling is as much of a priority as you make it. If you’re bound and determined to see as much of the world as possible, you want to make it happen and you’ll do what it takes to see it come to fruition. If you’re okay with a vacation a year, that’s awesome too, we all have different priorities and it’s your life to live. 

I travel as much as I do because it’s probably my number one priority. It’s what I’m always thinking about, it’s what I save for, it’s my therapy and my escape. I’m so very lucky to have such an incredible and supportive family who lets my wanderlust take over and they’re there for me every step of the way. 

Travel is as achievable as you want it to be. Go forth, my dears. 

What To Pack: A Month in Japan Edition

I decided one day that I needed something, anything to distract me from the seasonal lifestyle. I’ve been jumping job to job to job with no break for over 2 years; mind you, I’m not complaining in the slightest. I work in the most beautiful locations, I meet incredible people and I have some of the most amazing experiences, but I just hadn’t had over a week of in 2 years: I needed a vacation.

I searched for the cheapest flight to anywhere in the world and I managed, somehow, to find a round-trip ticket from LAX to Tokyo for $378. How? I got so very lucky. And once I found that fare, I kept a close eye on it until I was ready to buy. Here are the sites I normally scour to find great deals. I had never really had an interest in traveling to Asia whatsoever, but I can’t turn down that price tag.

So I left my job in Lake Tahoe when my contract ended, and I knew that I would be alone in Japan for a month, what the hell was I going to bring?

My itinerary was a rough outline at best. I had plans on stopping to see two friends and I knew I was flying into Tokyo, but other than that, I had no idea what I would do. With that in mind, I stated doing some research. My friend, Miranda lived in Tokamachi, which is in the Northern region of mainland Japan. As it was November/December, it would be cold, if not snowing. My other friend, Moose, lived outside of Hiroshima in Ube, which is in the Southern region of mainland Japan, a warmer climate.

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So I needed to pack for all seasons. Neat.

I was using my High Sierra Appalachian 75 L bag that I had gotten on a season’s end clearance. I knew it could hold as much as I needed to but I didn’t want to over pack in case I was to find something I wanted to bring home.

In my bag I ended up packing:

  • 3 pairs of pants (2 black leggings, 1 pair of jeans)
  • 5 shirts (1 long sleeved, 1 t shirt, 1 “nice” shirt, 2 tank tops)
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • Toiletries (dry shampoo, mascara, moisturizer, deodorant)
  • So many socks. So many.
  • Eno Hammock with straps (in case money ran low and I needed somewhere to sleep)
  • Leather-bound journal (which I wrote in every single day, really helped me remember small details that I may have otherwise forgotten.)

As I traveled through the country, I tried not to buy too many souvenirs until my last day because I knew I would have to carry everything on my back. It was the perfect weight for me personally, I think at it’s heavies it was 28 pounds, but I knew I could go heavier if I needed to.

Japan is still one of the most diverse and culturally rich places I’ve ever been to and I know that I’ll go back someday, I hope this packing list helped!

Narita, Japan

The most beautiful thing about travel, to me, is that it lends itself to you in such transformative ways. It opens these doors that you didn’t know existed, not only in the literal sense but in your mind and your soul. It allows you to have moments of complete and total clarity, unclouded by the chaos that surrounds you.

I just spent the last month in Japan, traveling the country alone and taking in as much of the sights and sounds and culture as physically possible.

On my first full day in Japan, I was anxious to see. I was anxious to get out and explore, so I asked the front desk where the closest shrine was and they pointed me in the direction of Shinso-Ji Temple in Narita, a 4 minute walk from where I stayed.

Since my body wasn’t used to the time change yet, I was at the temple at around 6:30 in the morning and I recommend going at that time to anyone.

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It is so peaceful and gives off such serenity that I was taken aback. I was alone, walking amongst these buildings and gardens that were hundreds of years old. The mist of the morning was clouding these pagodas that are so brightly colored and rich.

There were so many moments where I would just stop and stare for minutes on end, transfixed by the history and unable to grasp how many thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life had stood where I was standing, in awe of the same unmoving and unchanging building.

As the morning ticked on, I became more aware of people around me, bustling through the park to get to their job or gliding lazily through on a morning stroll, a couple visiting from South Korea who couldn’t seem to stop smiling and a pair of friends from Vietnam who wanted nothing more than to practice their English with me.

About the time I decided to head back to my lodgings, a processions of brightly colored monks made their way through the main gardens, accompanied by a loud drum and a ringing triangle. I obviously followed as we made our way to the main building.

15781550_10155642135623135_6997755831028819612_nThere, they began a ceremony, at least that’s what I’m assuming from what I gathered from context clues. A fire was lit, chanting began, and those watching with me began bowing at specific times. I was overcome with emotion. Here I was, a girl on her first day of travel alone in a country she knows little to nothing about and the universe was rewarding me with this abundantly beautiful showcase of culture and religion.

As I sat silently crying, thanking anything and everything that would listen, I watched as those around me; travelers, couples, children, families, and businessmen alike come together for a brief moment in time. The deafening drum beat became our pulse and the chanting monks transfixed our hearts. And then, with 3 sharp blasts to the giant drum, it was over.

I sat stunned for a few moments, as those around me clamored to get up quickly. I didn’t know where to go from there. It was my first day of travel, alone, and I had witnessed more than I thought I was going to see in an entire month.

How lucky I am.