Flashback to My First Trip Alone – Japan

Today is a very special day for me because I am celebrating my first trip ALONE. I just can’t believe how fast time flies, it is exactly a year ago today since I took that AC 1 flight bound to Japan.

For some, this may really be shallow, I know I am not the only one who experienced travelling alone. But I consider this to be an achievement for me, I was never the type of person who would do anything without being surrounded by people I’m comfortable to be around with, let alone travel by myself. Growing up, my closest friends were my cousins and wherever I want to go, we’ll be together. Since I learned to walk, until I went to college, got my first job until I got married, I never had problems finding people to hang out with because of them. Hence, just the thought of travelling alone was already difficult for me, I was too afraid to go alone anywhere. When I got married, I thought that I finally have someone who would travel with me, but travelling was not his interest, so again, I have to put aside my “travel goals.”

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After travelling with my family to the Philippines in 2017, I knew I have to come back in 2019 for our high school silver anniversary homecoming. For some reasons, my husband and my 3 kids couldn’t come with me. To cut the long story short, planning this trip took me a while, as there are lots of explaining to do, saving up money, effort to convince my three kids to let me go, but most of all an impromptu decision!.. Despite being anxious about going on this trip alone, I decided to book a side trip to Japan before coming to the Philippines!

Japan has always been one of the top “destinations” in my mind. It has always been in my bucket list. I heard and read about some of the most beautiful places, most amazing food, trendsetting fashion and great shopping places in Japan and I want to experience it myself.

And there I was, at 42, in December of 2019, I took my solo international trip for the very first time. I got to tick off 2 items in my bucket list – to conquer my fear of travelling alone and to visit Japan! It also came as a surprise to me that I am doing this, but I knew I really want to do it and I did it!

That was a very brief trip and I know, 2 days “stopover” to Japan was not enough to consider it to be an experience of a lifetime. My itinerary was jam packed, yet really memorable. Anyone who’s been to Japan will understand me, it is overwhelming, yet calming. It one is so iconic and provoking!

It is truly one of my favourite countries that I will not get enough of. In such a short time, I made sure that I was able to see some of the most popular “must-go” places in Japan.

I had breakfast at Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo, the fifth Reserve Roastery in the world and the first in Japan. This four-story coffee wonderland is the largest of its kind in the world. They’re not just your average Starbucks store – they’re bigger, classier, and offer a more extensive food and drink menu. It’s an interactive coffee wonderland that’s a must-visit for all coffee lovers.

Of course, I didn’t miss the chance to see Tokyo’s version of Times Square – Shibuya, the neighborhood where fashion buildings are built in close distance and advertisements are shown on giant LCD screens. I made sure that I was able check out and cross the world-famous Shibuya Crossing, the main intersection where hundreds of people scramble across the street at once. I was so amazed how what I was just seeing in pictures and videos was happening right in front of me, I even went up to Starbucks to see the best view from the top.

I didn’t forget to say Konichiwa (hello) to Hachiko (the most loyal dog in the world statue) also at Shibuya Crossing, I had to wait in line just to get the chance to have a picture with him.

Japan is known for its shrines and temples and I am fortunate not to miss seeing Meiji Shrine, the Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

I was able to try a crepe (apparently, it’s the unofficial street food of Harajuku) when I walk down the famous shopping street of Takeshita Dori where I saw a lot of fun stores and fun cafes.

I did not have a hard time to move around and maximize my time to see the places that I want to go, indeed, Japan have the most efficient and well-connected public transportation system in the world.

I regretted that I always forget to take pictures of all the popular dishes in Japan including rice-bowls, noodle soups, hot pots and sushi. I was not disappointed with my food expectations, every food that I tried is always better than the last, you’ll definitely say oishi (delicious) every time you have a meal.

I cannot put in words how much I enjoyed Japan and I will definitely come back with my 3 kids and this time I will make sure that we will stay longer.

As I look back today, I realized how much this trip means to me and how much it has reminded me that if you really want something, you have to just be braver and make that courageous effort to do it. Good or bad, there’s always something to learn from your new experiences.

Once the world opens up again, I will definitely make a plan to travel “alone” again, this experience didn’t just allowed me to explore new places but to also explore a bit more about my self.

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Cristina

My family and close friends knew how passionate I am when it comes to writing. I find joy and unexplainable satisfaction in writing. I am able to say what I am thinking or how I feel best when I say it through a letter, a poem and now blog. Through the years, blogging has opened different doors for me. It provided me a space to share my journey and my life lessons, the failures and triumphs that I went through in transitioning to a new life outside my comfort zone and it allowed me to reach out to people outside my circle.

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