I'm going to the opposite side of the world, where I don't speak the language, by myself, for over three weeks...it's okay, no big deal.
You know that feeling when you have a vacation coming up but it doesn't feel real? Not until you're actually sitting on the airplane does it finally hit you and you can feel excited. Well... I was sitting in planes for my 19-hour journey to Japan and it still hadn't hit me. I'm going to the opposite side of the world, where I don't speak the language, by myself, for over three weeks...it's okay, no big deal.
Granted... I went to Japan last year with another person so using the train system and getting around wasn't completely new to me, which helped A LOT with the pre-trip anxiety. But this was still my first time traveling alone, so there was a new set of things to be nervous about:
"Would I get lonely with nobody to talk to? Would it be awkward going around alone when everybody else would be with family and friends? Would I be brave enough to go train hopping by myself? Was this whole thing a mistake?"
With so many unknowns, there was one thing that I did know: Something was going to come out of this trip, good or bad. Because when you go so far out of your comfort zone and push yourself to try something new, even if it scares the hell out of you (especially if it scares the hell out of you) then you're bound to learn something. Playing it safe is easy and comfortable, but it's only when we step out of our comfort zone that we can truly grow. And so off I went.
Since the plane tickets were cheaper, I booked the tickets for the end of April to the end of May. The only problem with this... I'm a college student. This meant that I had to request permission from my professors to finish the semester 3 weeks early and to somehow submit all my final papers almost a month ahead of time. I planned to have them all done before setting out on my journey, a plan which failed.
My 19-hour trip to Japan was filled with homework: I had to read an entire book and write three final papers. I succeeded in reading the book and finishing two papers on the flight, but I just didn't have it in me to finish the third in that plane ride. I finished off the trip by watching a marathon of Marvel movies (ahh... fine airplane entertainment).
I forced myself to stay awake for the entirety of the trip, despite the fact that I had to wake up at 4:30am to catch my plane that morning. If you've never had to do it, just trust me that staying awake for 3 consecutive flights - one spanning 13 hours straight - with only 4 hours of sleep the night before...is difficult, to say the least. However, I've found that the best way to beat the jet lag is to coordinate your sleep schedule on the plane. I knew my plane would arrive in Tokyo at 8pm, so if I could stay awake until I got to my hotel then I could pass out right away and start to regulate my schedule (Japan is a 13-hour time difference from New Hampshire and last year I was extremely jet lagged for at least a week - not fun).
I arrived at Haneda International Airport around 8pm and hopped on the metro that's located inside the airport. This brought me directly to Kawasaki Station and only cost a couple U.S. dollars. The last time I went to Japan, I didn't realize that there was metro access inside the airport and I ended up dropping about 50 USD on a taxi to get to my hostel. I quickly learned that it's cheaper and more foreigner-friendly to take trains rather than taxis in Japan.
From Kawasaki Station, I walked just about 15 minutes to my hostel: On The Marks. I seriously love staying there when I fly out of Haneda because it's a quick walk to the airport metro line, it's cheap, and it has both hostel and hotel type accommodations. You can book a capsule-style bed with storage space, a single room in a gender-separated dorm, or a full hotel room with a private bathroom. Depending on your preference and budget - prices start as low as about 20 USD per night. They also have breakfast and coffee in the lobby every morning for about 7 USD.
***No, I'm not sponsored by anybody to say this, I just love this hostel/hotel and highly recommend staying here if you're flying in or out of Haneda.
Just as planned, I checked into my room (I chose an economy room in the female dorm because I didn't want to risk not sleeping well in a capsule after being awake for about 2 days straight), took a much needed shower, and went to bed.
I was going to need a lot of rest for all of the adventures that laid before me...
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See you soon!