Five months. Eighteen countries. Ten new countries. It’s been exciting. It’s been fun. It’s been tiring. I mentioned last month that I was starting to feel the effects of the constant travel, and that I was in a different spot. Well, as I hit five months, I’ve also hit a wall.
Between the stress from my dwindling passport pages (only one full page left) and the challenges of making embassy appointments because of a holiday in Singapore and the King’s funeral in Thailand — not to mention the thought of a 7+ hour flight to Singapore to take six more flights in five different countries over the following 2.5 weeks so that I can take another 8 hour flight to Hawaii — I’ve made another itinerary change. I was trying to push myself through to the finish line, but I’m learning to stop banging my head against the wall once I hit it… this is progress folks!
So instead of heading to Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong and back to Japan before flying to Hawaii; on Tuesday, I’ll fly to San Francisco. I’m still working on the specifics after that, but it will likely involve the Grand Canyon, Sedona and possibly southern California before going to Hawaii.
I have mixed feelings.
Once I realized that because of the passport issue, Vietnam was off the table, I was bummed. Thailand doesn’t hold the same excitement for me, even though so many people I know have been there, loved that. However, I also don’t feel like I’m prepared enough to visit and enjoy these new countries as much as I’d like. One, because I’m a bit burnt out and two, because I haven’t done enough research and planning. It’s part of the program with long-term travel — it’s hard to experience where you’re at while plotting what’s next.
Although it’s disappointing to cut my Asia itinerary short — especially with how much I’ve enjoyed Japan — I am excited about seeing more of the U.S. With my initial itinerary, my only U.S. stop was Hawaii, and only for a week. Now, I’m planning on visiting Arizona and seeing the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Sedona — three places that have been on my list for a while now. I’m also looking forward to catching up with some friends, check out some must see TV and hopefully getting to see a few Yankees games (keep it going boys!). I’m also thinking of some of the foods I’ve missed… yum! Being a few time zones away from home will also be helpful, especially to my poor mom who thought I was on a plane to SF while I was sleeping in Tokyo!
A few more observations from the past month:
- Big in Japan. Japan is awesome! Kyoto has to be one of my soul cities and Tokyo is really cool, even if it’s a bit overwhelming. I’ll work on a separate post about Japan, but suffice to say, if you are considering going, do it! And make sure to go to Kyoto. I want to go back to Kyoto and also check out additional cities, especially Hiroshima. As a solo female traveler, I’ve felt really safe here and actually enjoy going out after dark. Both Kyoto and Tokyo have a really great night time vibe and I don’t find myself looking over my shoulder. The main takeaways I’ve received from my interaction with the people here are kindness and respect. Two things I wish there were more of.
- Heading back to the U.S. Speaking of kindness and respect… I was hoping by the time I returned to the U.S., that we’d be on a better path in that area. It’s quite hard coming back to a country that was kinder and gentler before I left. Gotta keep working to “Be the Change.” It’s going to be hard.
- Hotel California. I’ve got 23 hours to hear it. Don’t disappoint me Japan! I have heard a lot of Ed Sheeran and a lot of 80’s music… even Xanadu by Olivia Newton John.
- Shopping! Since I’ve been traveling light, I’ve done very little shopping. Part of the reason I’m happy to be leaving Asia from Japan is because I’ve been able to buy some of that adorable, cute kitschy stuff for me and a few lucky folks! I’ll just make a quick pit-stop at the post office in San Francisco and my bag will remain trim until I head home!
- Solo Travel. I’ve spent the last three weeks straight on my own. I think this is the longest stretch on the trip. I’m getting into a grove, but it will be great to see friends as I head to the U.S. Once you get past the big language barrier, Japan is good for solo dining. They have a lot of bar-style seating and ordering at kiosks or vending machines, so there’s a lot less of the pity-eyes. And as I mentioned previously, I also feel very safe.
- Disney still makes me smile. Even on a cold, windy, rainy day, Disney is magical. It was the perfect last day in Tokyo (well 20 degrees warmer and a bit less rain might have been better). I’m now sitting in my hotel room enjoying the fireworks, which is icing on the cake (mmm… cupcakes!).
- Help Wanted? This week, I started putting my resume out there. I’m enjoying the time off, and if I don’t get a job right away, I might keep going after a holiday break, but I’m ready to get back to business. If you have leads for great gigs in communications, change management, culture or talent management, please send them my way!
- Still miss my animal(s). I’m going to post this until I get home! I’ve visited cat cafes in Vienna (none of the kitties there were like my girl Vienna, but it was still nice to pet kitties in “her town.”) and Tokyo. The cat cafe in Tokyo was awesome. If I had a couple more days here, I’d hit one of the other 60+ they have. I also need to figure out what they put in their cat treats. In Vienna there was a cat ketchup and in Tokyo a cat lollipop. Both of them had the kitties going crazy! I know Vienna and Wookie would totally dig them.
Three months by the numbers
- Miles walked – Approximately 111 (approximate total for five months 648)
- Different hotels/B&Bs/apartments/tents/rooms/riads/guest houses/cruise cabins– 9 (total of 57)
- Flights taken: 19 total (six this month – not including tomorrow’s flight)
- Currencies – (11) — Israeli Shekel, Jordan Dinar, Euros, Moroccan Dihram, British Pounds, Icelandic Krona (although not in cash), Norweigan Krone (also not in cash), Swiss Francs, Bosnian Marks, Croatian Kuna and Japanese Yen, and the occasional US Dollar in Morocco and Jordan
- Languages spoken (or I attempted to speak) – English, Hebrew, Arabic, Berber, Italian, French, Icelandic, Norwegian, Maltese, Gaelic, German, Bosnian, Croatian, Greek, Japanese, Chinese (two words during my Beijing layover – thanks Amazing Race!)
- Pictures taken – 8,500+ on my iPhone. I now have more than 20,000 photos on my phone. I might have a problem…
- Countries visited – Israel, Jordan, France, Morocco, Italy, (twice) U.K. (England, Scotland), Iceland, Norway, Malta (twice), Ireland (including Northern Ireland), Switzerland, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Austria, Slovakia, Japan
- Weddings witnessed — Two (one in Italy, one in Japan)
- Jackets abandoned: 1 – Leaving my thin puffer here in Tokyo. It’s seen better days and it’s not so “fresh.” I’ll be on the hunt for a new one in SF.
So, that’s the latest… if you have any tips on Arizona or Hawaii (both new states for me), please send them my way. Next time we “talk,” I’ll be back in the good ole USA!