I knew it was a sign for me to go to Japan. As I was heading to my Government class I saw a flyer that said STUDY ABROAD IN JAPAN! I was like, “whoa back up!”, so I backed peddled and picked up the flyer. I knew right there and then where my next destination was going to be. Now, the only problem was “how was I going to go?” and “will my parents let me go?” So the wheels in my head started turning and I called my mom with much excitement and I told her I was going to Japan, some how. Well the only response I got was, “well we’ll talk about it when you get home!” So we did have a talk, and we did a lot of research. We calculated how much I would need and what was not included in the study abroad package. So I gave myself a year to save up because the trip was not until the following year. So every pay check I would get a part of it would go into my savings account. So between my mother and I, we created a budget of how much I was going to spend that included tuition, food, Japan Rail Pass, excursions, and souvenirs.
So research I did, it is imperative that when you are going to a different country you learn as much as you can before leaving, so you will not feel overwhelmed or out of place. So being the bookworm I am I bought books and maps to get a feel of Japan and its culture. I recommend reading, Japan Made Easy“All You Need to Know to EnjoyJapan” by Boye Lafayette De Mente. The book gives you much information and all the hot spots to go. So there I was, counting the days, the hours, and the minutes to go. But before I could leave I had to make sure I had everything ready. Thus, I created a list of things I needed such toiletries, copy of passport/drivers license, and cash. I cannot emphasis the importance of this. DO NOT rely on credit cards because in most countries it does not always work. Make sure that you contact your credit card companies and let them know that you will be out of the country. Have sufficient cash with you in case of emergency should arise and TRUST me when I say, you will need it!
I also made a list of the places I wanted to go. Our program leader advised us that if we wanted to visit other places it’s best to buy the Japan Rail Pass here in the US. The Japan Rail Pass is exclusively for travelers only visiting Japan and you cannot purchase it inside the country. The Rail Pass is the most efficient way of traveling all over Japan though it is limited of where you go; it just depends on the types of passes you purchase. Now I was ready to go! So with much anticipation and nervousness I bid my family adieu and mind you that I had very little interaction with my traveling companions. Therefore, we all met each other on the plane and got to know one another. Keep in mind that I was flying across the world; it was the longest and most tiring experience of my life! We did not fly directly because it would be too expensive. Consequently, we made stops which made the trip excruciatingly long! From Atlanta, GA to Detroit, MI then from Osaka to Kyoto in total we did about 22 hours of flight.
Now this is where my adventure begins! As I mentioned before we were all dead tired once we landed and as a result not only did we have to take five long flight of stairs but also carry our entire big luggage. Word of advice, pack LIGHT! It also didn’t help that we were 23 students who all look like and acted like foreigners! As soon as we got to our hotel called Palace Side Hotel, we all crashed. It wasn’t until the next day that I awoke hearing a Japanese radio in the background that I realized that I would be in Japan for a whole month! It was a very humble experience. It has been my dream to travel ever since I was a little girl and I made sure that everyone in my family knew that. I love the sense of excitement, adventure, and exploring other worlds. As Anatole France once stated, “To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.” I made that dream into a reality, I got a job, saved my money, and I took off with the support of my family. This was a wonderful opportunity to experience a culture that is not my own. Life is too short not to seize the chances that are thrown our way. So I seized the opportunity and enjoyed every moment of it.
Another thing that I enjoyed was the dynamics and personalities of our group. We were all around the same age and wanted to have a great time. We all had similar interests and were not afraid of getting lost or trying new things. And that is what makes an adventure, getting to know the people and sharing common interests. We all bonded given the fact that we didn’t know anyone and we were in a different country. When you travel you must have an open mind and be aware that things are done differently. The way a person thinks, does, or acts differs from another. When I interacted with the Japanese people and their culture it was another world for me. I was fascinated and intrigued by their rich history and set of codes of respect and honor. There are so many things to learn and see that it can be overwhelming to many people. I wasn’t just sightseeing but also studying their culture and history. You don’t have to be a pro at the language they will pick up the cues and try to help you as much as they can. Your map is your treasure; make sure that you or your group has at least one map at all times. The most important thing that I learned about this trip was to have fun! Even if things don’t go as you planned don’t close your mind that is the biggest mistake you can do. An adventure is not always perfect it’s the bumps in the road that you remember most.
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