Lessons from the Land of The Rising Sun

I just came back from a 5 days 4 night trip to Japan.Lessons learnt from the land of the rising sun

It was quite a stretch for me.

Some may ask: “Why?”

I was there alone.

“What’s the big deal?”

Its not the first time that I was overseas alone. In fact, I have traveled to 20 over cities over the past 6.5 years, and most of the time I traveled for work alone.

“Ok, what’s the difference?”

When I traveled for work, I book the tickets, buy the local currency, find out how to get to the hotel and how to get to work from the hotel. After that all I need to do is to fly on first or business class (perks for working in an airline!) and turn up! Generally, the schedule is quite fixed: I have breakfast, work, have lunch, work, grab dinner, and go back to the hotel. If there are sights to see on the way back to the hotel, that is a bonus.

As for leisure trips, I had often traveled together with my aunt or friends, and I had largely left the planning to them. I just tagged along.

For this trip, I felt stretched. It is because its the first time when I had to plan for my own holiday, booking the tickets, planning the itinerary, book the hotel rooms, buy Japanese yen and do everything else!

On the 20th of July 2013, I took a flight on Singapore Airlines at 2130hrs. I arrived in Tokyo on the 21st of July 2013, 0630 hrs. I checked into Hyatt Regency Hotel at 0700. Correction……. I tried to check into the hotel at 0700. I was told at the check in counter that I could only check in at 1400 hrs! There were no rooms available. I had forgotten about the check in timing when I planned my itinerary!

What am I to do from 0700 to 1400 hrs?

What do you do when things don’t go according to plan?

I checked my itinerary and decided to move forward a schedule which I had set for the following day. I decided to visit Tsukiji Fish Market and Ginza! As it was Sunday, quite a number of stalls have closed for business, however it did not take the experience away, the seafood stalls and their ensemble of sea food was colorful and delightful. After exploring the market for an hour, I heard a “Growwwl”, oops it was my tummy growling in hunger!  As tradition dictates, at the end of the tour of Tsukiji Fish Market, Sushi breakfast beckons. I looked around the market area before having my sights set on a restaurant, which had quite a crowd and even a queue at 8 am!. After a couple of minutes of waiting, my turn came, I ordered beer, and a tuna set. As I put the sushi into my mouth, I felt the fats of the tuna melt in my mouth, mashed with a tinge of saltiness from the soya sauce. Paired with beer, it was an absolutely divine experience. I told myself:”Even if I were to fly back to Singapore right now, I would have no regrets.” What a magnificent way to start the day! Feeling refreshed and energized, I set off for Ginza!

The lesson I learnt from this episode is this: Always plan and take in as much details you can because as they say “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. But be flexible, don’t give into panic when things don’t go according to plan, be ready to make changes. That’s basically the philosophy I adhered to for the rest of the trip and I had lots of of surprise finds!

The second lesson I learnt is one on money. My friends, I am a saver, my heart bleeds everytime I spend money. For this particular trip, I decided to enjoy and not worry about money. This is what I did: I set a budget. Not only that, I set a budget that was comfortable, one that didn’t require me to look at the wallet everytime I spend. Most importantly of all, I stick to the budget.

What a revelation that was: I did what tourist did, bought souvenirs, took cable cars, ferries and trains, and most importantly I ate in the best restaurants! I looked less at the money spent, but celebrated the experiences, the services, the food that I got!

The lesson I learnt is to have a reasonable budget, and stick to it. It does not just apply to travel but to my daily life as well. I have learnt to set a budget for not only my expenses but for my income as well. This helps to reach my financial goals.

I came back last Friday, fully refreshed, fully stretched and fully enriched with the experiences and lessons that I have gained during these 5 days. Once again the lessons are: Plan but be flexible, Have a budget and stick to it. My friends, what do you learn during your travels? Do share in the comments section.

Shaun

Your fellow human being:)

 

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