I’ve been living and working in Tokyo, Japan, for two months now and the question I’ve gotten the most from family and friends is, “how have you managed it?”. By this, they mean how did I just pack my stuff up, start traveling around Japan and not be totally lost. I’ve had people mention to me that they have always wanted to travel to Japan or somewhere else in Asia, but have been hesitant because it seems so intimidating.
If you feel the same way, you’re not wrong to feel intimidated by traveling somewhere so far away, especially if you aren’t going with any family or friends. It is not an easy thing to do, I’ll admit, but it is so worth it.
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While being here, I have been mentally making a list of advice I would give to people who want to travel to different places around the world, but maybe are held back by some fears and anxieties that come with traveling.
This is how I managed to be in Tokyo for so long and not get lost honestly. I came with a program that hosts internships abroad for young adults. I got signed up with the program through my school’s study abroad program, but you can do similar programs without going through a university.
Traveling by going through or with an organization can be very helpful and easier than just planning a trip on your own. It can offer personal support and resources while you are abroad and you can meet lots of new people. The main difference between traveling with a program over just planning your own trip is that you will usually be doing some type of work whether it is volunteer or internships. But, this work can prove to be extremely useful by boosting your resume and giving you an international work experience that most others do not have.
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These are just a few, but if you just give Google a quick search and do some looking around you can find many other programs and organizations.
Don’t just go somewhere to go somewhere. Traveling is expensive so I suggest making plans to go to your top destination places. If you know where you want to go and why it will make you more motivated to actually pull the trigger and make the trip happen.
My other piece of advice is to be realistic about going abroad. For example, when I was first planning out my trip to Japan I was trying to make plans to visit South Korea, Singapore, and Bali. It sounded good in theory and plane tickets weren’t too bad in price from place to place, but I wasn’t thinking about all the other things I had to pay for like food and experiences, and not keeping track of how much time I really had. I know we see tons of people on Instragam who seem to travel to six different countries in a summer and it makes us want to do the same, but it may not be realistic. If you are wanting to visit a lot of places in one trip than make that the goal and the focus, but if you have plans to go to one country for a while don’t feel stressed that you need to go and see all the surrounding countries as an addition to the trip you’ve already planned.
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Lastly, be flexible about the places you go to. If an opportunity arises to go somewhere that you would genuinely like to visit then take the opportunity! I believe in seeing as much of this world while you are in it.
I think this where most people end up choosing not to travel. The fears and anxieties that come with traveling somewhere far and foreign hold them back. It’s totally reasonable, most people experience the same feelings about traveling to an unknown place.
If you have really been wanting to travel though, but the anxiety is getting to you, I would say to speak kinder to yourself. Tell yourself you can do it, you will have fun, you have the capability to make it around in a foreign country. Hype yourself instead of talking yourself out. I know this is easier said than done, but I believe that if you use kinder, more positive language when talking to yourself about a trip it will help relieve anxieties and get you pumped up to go abroad.
Another way to hype yourself up is to just watch other people’s travel videos on Youtube. If they can do it, why can’t you? Watching cool travel videos of the place you want to go will also get you more ready and excited for what is about to come!
There is nothing more stressful than being abroad and running out of money. Most of the anxieties people have about traveling come from the cost. Do your research, write out a budget, and plan it all out money-wise.
Make a category for accommodations, food, experiences, shopping, and transportation cost (including trains, Ubers, and buses, people usually forget to factor these in). Also, make sure you have enough set aside for any emergencies. Prioritize things you want to do wherever you are traveling and make a note of how much those things cost.
My biggest piece of advice for traveling and spending is to spend more on experiences than things. My dad actually gave me this advice at the beginning of my trip to Japan and it has been extremely useful. Yes, it is nice to buy clothes or things on a trip to remember, but at the end of the day what you will remember most about going abroad is what you did and not what you bought.
There are a handful of apps that can help you get around an unfamiliar country. My two must-have downloaded are Google Maps and Google Translate.
Google Maps is so helpful for cities that have train systems. Navigating the trains and subways can seem so intimidating, but Google Maps will tell you exactly which station to start at, how many stops you will have, and any connecting trains you may have to reach your final destination. It can also work offline if you can’t get connected to wifi or don’t have any data left. Just put in your destination before leaving wifi and it will still help you find your way.
Google Translate is extremely helpful in countries where you don’t speak the native language. While it may not always be perfect it works very well most of the time. Every time I have had to use it, the person I am trying to communicate seems to understand the translation and give me a useful answer to the question I was asking them.
We are going to work for the rest of our lives anyways so travel when you can. Easier said than done, I know, but don’t put off traveling so much that you end up never doing it. Keep a planner, keep track of your budget and go as soon as you are able to. Some experiences and places are a once in a lifetime opportunity, don’t pass them up.