After The Fact

Sitting in the Beijing Airport after a two week stay in Japan. This is a list of things I would have told myself before I left.
  1. Pack less
    I'm a light packer already but I could have brought even less. One pair of jeans that you love, one pair of good walking shoes, a few t-shirts, a nice shirt if you think you might end up at a nice dinner or a job interview, a camera, and toiletries. The rest you can buy once you're out there, if you really need it.
  2. Eat everything
    Rather than questioning weather this noodle shop is going to be good or not - just go inside, sit down, and eat. I was lucky to have a good friend who knew a few things about the general cuisine. We were able to cover a lot of styles. Smaller meals - more meals. Too often we would wait to find that perfect place, it would be closed, then we would get grumpy trying to find something similar, then just settling for any place - turns out it's amazing. Everything in Japan is tasty!
  3. Break your shoes in (idiot)
    Walking is going to happen and in large doses. There are trains and cabs everywhere in most cities, but don't rely on them to take you to the top of the mountain. Don't bring brand new shoes and have to break them in on your first few days - blisters.
  4. Speak the language
    I knew very few Japanese words when I first landed. I know a few more now. It would have been very nice to have some basics down before landing. Fumbling through ordering food, or even something simple like a coffee is not fun. A little homework never hurt.
  5. Enjoy the quiet
    Japan, especially Tokyo, is a sensory overload. The rush of life is an incredible thing to witness. Take a moment in those busy days and realize, there are quiet moments everywhere. The hustle is very real and for a traveler it can be relentless and soul-crushing. Take a breath and remember, I'm in Japan.
  6. Forget the guides
    Leave the guide book at home. Delete the 'Travel Japan' app. Take some notes from them and venture forth. All those places in the guides will be crowded, but some are worth it - not all, but some. Talk to locals about where to eat and what to see. Google maps is the only app you'll need.
  7. Keep a journal
    A lot happens on any trip - write a few lines after each day. A few months from now things will have faded and you'll wish you had taken some notes. I do.
  8. Get a change purse
    Lots and lots of coins. After any purchase you are often handed a handful of coins. Having those coins for exact change is nice, but constantly dropping them is not nice. Nothing worse than dropping five dollars and having it roll under the vending machine.