On that pier I was nobody, momentarily stripped away from everyone and everything I knew; a hemisphere away from my own thoughts.
After my first day in Fukuoka was full of misadventures, I knew day two had to be better by default.
I honestly didn't have much planned for the day but I knew Fukuoka was on the ocean so I couldn't miss a chance to go to a Japanese beach!
That was when I hit my first obstacle of the day... the only modes of transportation I knew how to navigate in Japan were trains, taxis and my own two legs. Unfortunately, Fukuoka beach was way too far to walk, there were no trains that would take me there, and taking a taxi that far would be way too expensive. So what was my last option? The bus.
Don't get me wrong, once you figure out the bus system in Japan it's actually pretty easy...but I didn't have it figured out at all.
Google Maps told me to walk to the bus stop and then it seemed to be confused. The app kept updating and telling me to take different bus numbers: "take bus number 47. No, actually take 48. No, take 63..." Make up your mind, Google Maps!
I was confused so I tried referencing the bus schedule that was hanging on the wall. However, that made it even worse because none of the numbers on the schedule even matched what Google Maps was saying!
Finally, a bus arrived that was one of the Google Maps options and I risked it and got on. I watched the other passengers press a button on a little machine by the door and take a ticket so I followed suit.
Luckily, Google Maps was right and I eventually made it to my destination.
There was a screen at the front of the bus that told you how much the fare would cost depending on which station you entered at and it was surprisingly cheap. I think my half hour bus ride only ended up costing me like $3 USD.
When I arrived in front of Fukuoka tower I noticed that there was a huge line of people waiting to go inside and decided that I'd rather not waste my day standing in a line.
Instead, I kept walking past the tower and towards the beach behind it.
It was a beautiful day: in the low 80s F (around 28 Celcius) with a mild breeze. The beach was far from crowded and there were no other tourists in sight.
I took my shoes off as I walked along the beach and squished my toes in the sand. I did test the water but as expected for May, it was still pretty chilly (although not as bone-chilling as the water in the beaches where I'm from!) and it felt refreshing as the sun was getting pretty intense.
I put my sandals back on and walked over to a beach-side restaurant for some over-priced lunch and an iced latte.
It was only about 1pm at that point so I walked along the beach again and out onto a concrete pier. There were three sunbathers laying on the pier and although I usually try my best to protect my fair skin from the sun, I decided to join them.
On that afternoon, I completely lost track of time. When you travel, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget to slow down and truly be in the moment. But at that moment on the pier, out in the ocean, on a beach in Fukuoka, Japan, I was alive.
This is a hard feeling to explain unless you've experienced it, but I'll do my best.
When I was lying on that pier, I didn't listen to music, I didn't go on social media, I didn't even read a book. I just was. I listened to the waves lapping the pier, smelled the salt in the air, saw fish jump out of the water, watched boats and jet skis pass, and listened to Japanese high schoolers laugh as they played volleyball on the beach. On that pier I was nobody, momentarily stripped away from everyone and everything I knew; a hemisphere away from my own thoughts.
Before I knew it, three hours had passed. I couldn't believe that I had just spend three hours doing literally nothing and yet the time passed so quickly. This is why it's so important to me that I don't make a strict itinerary when I travel. If I'd planned to visit all the tourist spots while I was in Fukuoka then I never would've had the chance to truly appreciate where I was and what I was doing. Don't forget to slow down sometimes.
As the afternoon sun got lower in the sky, the sea breeze started to give me goosebumps and I decided that was a good time to pack up and head back.
I just missed my bus so I had to wait 45 minutes for the next one. Since it was about 4:30pm at that point, people were getting off work and the bus filled up until we were packed like sardines. The ride home took about an hour and it was another thirty-minute walk back to the hostel.
In the end, it seems like it was an uneventful day. After all, all I did was take a bus to the beach, lay on the pier for a few hours then come back to the hostel. But does an uneventful day mean it was a wasted day? Not even in the slightest. Sometimes I even prefer the travel days where I don't do much over the ones that are packed from morning to night with activities because it's in those moments that you can truly appreciate how far you've come.
"Here I am, on a beach, alone, in the south of Japan. I'm 23 and I made it across the world by myself with nobody to rely on or to ask for help. I backpacked and train-hopped to get here. I faced challenges along the way and not everything went as planned. But I'm stronger now than I ever was before."
Of course I did have the internet to rely on when I needed help, especially Google Maps, but that wasn't my point. I had to be completely self-reliant and learn to trust myself and my instincts. It was a big epiphany and I'll carry that with me forever.
...Although I made one mistake...
While I was having my epiphany on the pier, I was simultaneously baking my back in the sun; I didn't realize it because the ocean breeze masked the intense rays. So if you learn one thing from this blog today: Don't forget the sunscreen!!! I legit have permanent hyper-pigmentation to this day and I'm lucky I didn't develop skin cancer.
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