Christmas Marketing in Stuttgart

Post #2 of Stuttgart, Germany.

A little off-season to write about the Christmas but better late than never.

So the Christmas Market in Stuttgart, it was THE activity I wanted to do in Germany. I’ve been to Christmas Markets replicated in Japan and loved it but wanted to experience the real thing. 

I was surprised to learn that the Christmas market goes on for 2 months but only until the 23rd. After 23rd, everything is taken down before Christmas and everyone spends time at home with their family. It makes sense if it is really a holiday for the family right? And everything shuts down for a few days from the 24th. Shops, restaurants, everything like the New Years in Japan.

We headed down to Stuttgart city center and all around was festivities. 280 shops in total in tiny wood huts displaying candies, pretzels, chocolates, candles, wood works, knits,  socks , Christmas decorations, ornaments. Everything lit up so colorful and bright. Everyone enjoying their time with friends and family. It was beautiful.

20161223_20305020161223_183928So many people! So many shops! 20161223_185002A chocolate shop!20161223_183813Roaming from shop to shop. Never ending. 20161223_18375920161223_190051

The shops themselves are lovely but you can’t miss the rooftop decorations! You almost think there is a competition going on to outdo others with this level of decoration and it was like my mother’s Christmas decoration collection had come to life in life size on these roofs! Amazing!

20161223_19553120161223_190236Nutcrackers and the spinning fan over decorative candle. We used to have that!20161223_190510

You know those calendars you peel open a window every day until Christmas? They made a building’s window that and they decorated it like a calendar! Clever!

20161223_195330

And Mulled Wine! Red and White wine heated with cinnamon, sugar and other spices. Its so aromatic and warms you up while you’re walking around the cold night. Served in original Stuttgart cups which is included in the cost, but can get the money back if you want to return it. Of course I kept mine!

20161223_18515420161223_185209

And some of the food. How cute is this sausage stand?!

20161223_19180520161223_19151920161223_191532

Some kind of creamy dessert with cherry sauce. Yum! I also liked pasta with sauerkraut. Never had that before but it was simple flavors and to my liking!

20161223_192438

People huddles around the food stands. Couldn’t understand the German menus at all!

20161223_191410The Japanese in me totally love this. Was hoping to come back to this but fish on a stick! Yes!

20161223_185732

Christmas ball Ferris Wheel!

20161223_184151Obviously, we had an awesome time going from place to place, picking up food on the way. I wish I could have had more time but next time I’ll go more than once which is what people seem to do over the Christmas season. Its on for 2 months!

Merry Christmas!

20161223_195423

Dec. 2016.

Stuttgart, Germany – Post 1

This winter break, I was lucky enough to spend time in beautiful Germany and Italy for the holidays. My second time in Germany and first time in Italy. I was particularly looking forward to it because

Christmas in Germany!!! I mean this is where the Christmas market was invented right? I always imagined Europe to be more the “real Christmas” as it’s closer to the North Pole and the St. Nicolas to have come from Europe, right? I was excited to spend the holidays at a German home with German traditions and observe and experience the whole thing.

There’s a lot I saw and felt so I plan to split the experience into several post. Hope you like it.

Stuttgart, Germany

So here is where I spent the majority of time. This is where my bf is from and it’s here on the left side of Germany. About a 2 1/2 hour ride from Munich airport, which we drove on the autoban – Its true there are parts where THERE IS NO SPEED LIMIT! and this is where you think, OK, I get it. Germans are good at their cars and they’re confident enough to have real people use it for its full capacity. Where else do you see in the world that let’s people go 280km/hour on the road with other drivers? Most cars don’t get to use half their speedometers capabilities and I feel bad for those Porches and Lamborginis driving around in Tokyo pumping up their engines going 80k.

stock-vector-germany-doodle-map-with-famous-places-berlin-hamburg-cologne-frankfurt-stuttgart-munich-and-76788871

Anyway, Stuttgart:

  • It is the 6th largest city and the 4th largest metropolitan area in Germany
  • It’s famous for being the home of Mercedes and Porsche and sometimes referred to as the “Cradle of the Automobile”. – the automobile and the motorcycle is said to have been invented here and museums are a big attraction for visitors.
  • It is considered a wealthier and intellectual city with industries in automotive, tech, science research etc., (like how we imagine Germans to be). But it has the most patents and designs registered in Germany so hey, that’s something to be proud of!

Here’s the view of the city. in a valley.

Blick über Stuttgart - Panorama

And the magnificent city center plaza. Governmental buildings, museums shopping centers concentrated in the center of the city. stuttgart

The picturesque city is spacious and compact. Coming from Tokyo where every inch of the city is built up with high rises and no space to spare, it was refreshing to see architectural beauty standing so boldly with space around it. And it is so compact that 10 min. away from the city center, you’re already in the suburbs with rolling hills of farmland and vineyards. Not to be stereotypical but there were a lot of cabbage fields!

In the village/ town? I was staying at 10 min outside Stuttgart, the architectural interest to my eye was still the same. Churches, homes, stores, all seemed to have been built out from a fairytale. From Grimm’s or Andersen’s stories of Snow white or Hansel and Gretel. People really live in these houses? Aren’t they elves and aren’t they going come out dancing and singing in their lederhosen?

But no, they were normal Germans and they do live modernly in these traditional architecture homes. Beautiful.

20161224_08425520161224_12452420161224_155815

We looked for a cafe to warm ourselves and was lead to this. I mean come on! How is this a real cafe?!

20161225_114301

In Japan, we call these kinds of fairy tale like or romantic things “Merhen”. We say that about an atmosphere or even fashion, if they are wearing something cute and lovely like lolita style. In search of this world in English, I learned that “Merhen” was actually “Marchen“, a German word which means fairy tales! Exactly!

One of the cute findings in Stuttgart – Cone shaped cabbages.  How cute is this? I didn’t have a chance to eat them but apparently they are sweet and a product of this region, even made into a statue.

Loved checking out the local farmer’s market.

christmas-in-germany_2404

Another thing that I loved was the public transportation. I’m a big advocate for public transportation in big cities, coming from Tokyo but what impressed me about it here was the “honor system”.

We hopped onto the bus/train with no  passing gate and no apparent ticket purchase. I asked if it was free, but apparently she held a ticket that covered us but didn’t show anyone or pass through any machine. It is assumed that you buy a ticket before you board so that when the random person comes to check, you prove it. If you don’t have a ticket, you pay a fine but more importantly, it embarasses you to have taken advantage of this beautiful trust system and discourages you from doing it again. What would happen if this was implemented in Japan or other countries? Interesting to know.Rack Railway

Surprisingly for a city of Porsche and Mercedes, not all cars were that .There were still VWs of course and French cars, even Japanese, Korean and Japanese cars! I don’t know why that would particularly surprise me but I guess I was being stereo typical and thinking everyone drives a German car. Dumb assumption.

Overall, the impression was as they are known for, organised, controlled, orderly. They take their recycling seriously and they value good behaviour. A very comfortable environment coming from Japan. People say there are man things similar about Germans and Japanese and not just the war. The way people are conservative and like to follow rules. They don’t like things to be or people to be out of line. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered”. Probably still relvant to both societies. Things work and are on time and they like solving problems. Have extremely high level or road work and things are fixed overnight, quick and efficiently. All things to be very proud.

Sadly, some idiot has also told me that what we also have in common is the “lack of humor”. Well, not true. We’re not the most outwardly comical and goofy people in the world but maybe the seriousness gets in the way to perceive us as such, but we do have a sense of humor!!

Anyway, this was post 1 of my German journey. More to come in the next post!

New Year Resolutions – Restart!

Jan. 2017. New Year Resolution.

Among a whole bunch of other resolutions for 2017, I’m putting “Restart the Blog” as one of them.

I’ve stopped writing since I’ve been back to my normal life in Tokyo 7 months ago but it’s always been on my mind. I had so much to tell about the 1 year journey but never seem to have enough time or take the first step to start.

All the stories that I couldn’t tell during my travels (traveling is BUSY! and blogging takes a whole lot of time!). The summaries of each country I visited and what I found fascinating about each of them. The beautiful people I encountered and feeling like being on top of the world with friends from around the world! Days and nights when I felt lonely for traveling alone and questioned why I was doing this when others are surrounded by family and friends. And what I learned from it and how I over came it.

The hikes in the Andes, the surfing on the coast of Peru, the roadtrip through Baja California, the week on a boat in Galapagos. All those amazing out of the world experience I didn’t have time to record.

The travel hacks I’ve learned along the way, the packing tips, the cautions for traveling alone. All that has changed me and the difference over time inside me that I noticed. What it felt like to be traveling freely for a year and then to be back to reality back home.

There was a whole lot to say and a whole lot I wanted to share. But it was all inside me slowly being buried with all the new memories building over it. The more time passed, the harder it got to tackle and the less approachable it became to write it down.

But I realize.

Who cares when it is? Who cares if it is not perfect?!

Better late than NEVER.

Better NOW than later.

So here I go. I start NOW.

I make it my resolution to tackle this blog and unravel all the stories I have buried inside me. Its been a while but its okay. I think they deserve to be dusted off and brought out to sunlight. And in addition, there’s other travels and stories that’s built up in the last few months after my 1 year journey. I have a lot of things to say about those too!

Riekotravels is back! Hope there are some people that will enjoy reading as much as I will enjoying writing it!

 

 

Tokyo Running – 23k

Tokyo Running  – Tokyo to Kasai Rinkai Park 01.15.2017

It’s become my routine over the weekend and one of my highlights of the week to run through Tokyo and explore. I’m training for my very first marathon in LA in March and I have been increasing the length and strength over the past months. I have 2 months left to go so need to use this time wisely to increase my stamina and get my body and mind ready for the race. I’ve never heard anyone say about a marathon how wonderful and fun it was and that they can’t wait to do it again, but rather how tough and how painful it was and how they never want to do it again. So I’m expecting it to be painful and tough, and trying to minimize the damage by preparing for it as much as I can.

My plan has been to increase  the distance 1km per week and I am up to about 20km now. I’ve been slacking off over the year end but now is the time to get back into it and get back on track.

What I love about running longer distances is that it gives me a chance to explore the city while I train. The more the distance, the more areas it can cover and it has been the driving motivator for these runs, not the distance, not the speed but rather the sense of exploration and adventure while I train.

Today’s route was as furthest East as I’ve gone and I’d like to do more.

Harajuku -> Akasaka Palace -> Imperial Palace -> Ginza -> Tsukishima -> Toyosu -> Yumenoshima Park -> Kasai Rinkai Park -> Super Sento Kasai.

Temperature was around 1 or 0 Celcius and very cold but where it was sunny, the skies and view were beautiful.

A total of 23 km. Done with stops at 2hrs. 50 min with total moving time at 2hrs 31 min.

Some highlights:

Imperial Palace – 5 k around but these days very crowded with runners over the weekend. I still like to go there once in a while just to see the seasons change.

 

Passing through Ginza and the Kabuki Theatre

Tsukishima Area – Old towns leading towards the bay. Now, Tokyo is continuously expanding the bay and its land and there are more cities growing outwards, but these towns though invaded by high-rises lately, still holds a “old Tokyo” feel in its streets and culture, particularly food.

And to Kasai Rinkai Park, which I believe is also a man made built land by the ocean, right next to Tokyo Disney land. I especially found this glass observatory interesting and beautiful but there are also BBQ areas, ferris wheels, and an aquarium for all sorts of fun! I didn’t have the energy to run through all but next time, I will be going there to cover them all.

Especially for a busy city like Tokyo, I really appreciate seeing the city as a runner. Not getting trapped in the massive crowds everywhere especially on the weekends. Having control over where and what to see through zipping through the streets and zipping through traffic and the millions of people. You’ll learn very quickly that as big and condensed with high rises Tokyo is, there is a lot of parks and temples and nature to give breaths of serenity and calm within this crazy city there are so many moments where you just can’t believe that this is right in the middle of Tokyo.

Anyway, I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but as a new year resolutions, I am going to start again whether it is overseas or back to my own city.

Hope there are some people that enjoy it!.

The map of my run today:

Wow! LA Libraries!

I’ve landed in LA for over 4 weeks now from Mexico.

Why so long in the US and not in South/ Latin America as per plan? Well, long story short, I couldn’t get a visa to Brazil from LA. It had been the one and only plan in my trip to start and finish in Brazil and go out with a Bang! after I release all energy at the Carnival, but well, sometimes you can push and shove and kick and scream but it just doesn’t happen. Not because I can’t get a visa in LA, but because I couldn’t get an appointment to get the visa because it was backed up for over a month, which was even more frustrating! I tried going through a visa agency which can process it in 10 days but they required proof of residency in the US to apply on my behalf so that wasn’t happening either. So people, if you are planning to go to Brazil, PLAN EARLY!!

But hey, LA really is not a bad place to be in. Sunny beaches, friendly and beautiful people, beautiful hills to go hike, great food and nightlife, lots to see and do! So maybe its fate and I decided to think of it so and take this opportunity to enjoy LA, and live in LA and see what the great LA life people dream of is all about. Plus it was time I faced the big question…

What the hell happens after the journey??

In March, I have a flight back to Tokyo. So what next? I had given this some thought in the past few months but haven’t sat down to face it because it scared me tremendously to think this free life will be over . Will I continue in my previous career in advertising in Tokyo or will I shift direction and even location? It’s a big decision and even more preparation to do while continuing to travel  (especially while in Brazil and at the Carnival!) so I’ve come to think that it was fate Brazil didn’t happen and this time in LA was perfect to provide me with the environment and support to focus on the future.

And so, I have been enjoying my life in LA a lot, but one of the greatest discoveries I have made for the purpose of focusing has been LIBRARIES and I would like to share this with you.

Why are Libraries in LA so great?

  1. It’s FREE!!! and open to EVERYONE!
  2. It has free WI-FI!! (and at impressive speeds! especially coming from Latin America)  and computers!
  3. Study desks are HUGE and with plug outlets to recharge your devices with no worry!
  4. No constant people traffic and chit chat like in coffee shops!
  5. Can stay as long as you want without having to prove your customer value by buying something new every 2 hours! (which can add cost and calories!)
  6. No TVs, no Netflix (well, your choice), no refrigerator, no bed, all the luring distractions at home
  7. There’s focused people around to force you to concentrate and ride on their energy
  8. Can fell like a student again
  9. Has various locations in LA to force you to explore new neighbourhoods!

These are so obvious, but I’ve been so used to going to cafes for wi-fi that the re-discovery of libraries has been a refreshing find! So far I have visited 4 but there are so many, I am eager to make this a journey in itself.

  1. Los Angeles Public Library (downtown)

IMG_20160209_131548IMG_20160209_131341

Right in the center of downtown lies this historic library which was originally built in 1926. It has been renovated now with 4 stories above ground and 4 underground, an impressive structure with an open air space in the middle boldly displaying colorful artwork. The sun shines through the windows and creates a beautiful display of the space during the day. I especially loved that they have a study desk at the very top overlooking the city and the artwork which you can see in the photo! What a lovely place to spend your afternoon reading or studying!

The outside and the study area. Apparently they have a garden as well which I failed to check out at this visit.

Sitting in the library and working amongst the other focused people was a great way to pump up my motivation! I just wanted to read, write and learn that feeling got me hooked to do this again everyday!

The only sad and shocking downside to the visit was the ridiculous price of parking. Parking signs, I just can’t figure out in LA and I think they intentionally make it vague and tricky so that tourists and nervous drivers like me just drive in without understanding the pricing. So, for 2 1/2 hrs, I was charged a whopping $37!!! Can’t help to think and be disgusted by all the things I could have done with that money in Latin America and how the value of things differ so much…. Parking is indeed tricky here, but I hear that you just need to find the “flat fee” parking, which was still hard to find and understand for a first timer. But… moving on.

2. Beverly Hills Public Library

IMG_20160211_103423IMG_20160211_131700

Just off of the Beverly Hills shops and restaurants, the library was Oh So California! to me surrounded by the palm trees and the elegant white 90210 buildings. It is 2 floors and not as grand as downtown but well organised well lit and spacious. In the study area, the tall windows bring in an abundance of sunlight reminding you that you are in sunny California. Of course equipped with outlets and good wi-fi and even a cafe with a terrace, it was a cute, happy, relaxing library.

IMG_20160211_103703

The view as you step outside the library. Everything is so elegant and spacious and reeks of the relaxed high life.

IMG_20160211_131609

3. Doheny Memorial Library (in University of South California)

IMG_20160212_131702

This library is located inside University of South California which is a beautifully impressive campus in itself. The structures and the greens are well maintained with students on skateboards and bikes in their shorts and flip flops commuting to their classes. The library is gorgeous with its stone floors and high ceilings with detailed railings making it feel like historical museum or a bank. From the inside you can get a great view of campus while you work and almost trick yourself to feel you are a student again. I sat by the window pretending to be a student again (and sucking all the youthful energy from all around), which I enjoyed a lot. LOL

IMG_20160212_180154The library also had a dedicated East Asian area with impressive collections of books and historia from my home! IMG_20160212_131826
This too, I encountered problems with parking, this time not being able to find it around campus without holding a permit. I rode around for like an hour and cursed LA for being so car dependant and swore I would take public transport or Uber from now on.

Turns out, LA now has metro train lines that run by the campus so I will try that next time. I am a big lover of public transport. I really hope LA and its people will shift to use it more and lessen the burden of the crazy traffic and the crazy parking situations.

4. Santa Monica Public Library

Right in the middle of the shopping area in Santa Monica stands this modern library that was my favorite of the 4 so far. Clean, quite, spacious and well lit with a cafe in the open area, it was a library that was inviting and fun especially in a neighbourhood you can walk to go take a shopping break or lunch.

IMG_20160216_134526

2nd floor study area has an amazing ceiling high window overlooking Santa Monica Blvd. It is decorated simple but with warmth and a place you can read, relax and concentrate for hours.

IMG_20160216_134759IMG_20160216_134808

 

So that’s my list so far but I will keep on exploring more!

Here is a list I will follow based on its ratings.

Thoughts…10 months in

10 months into the journey and post Mexico, I find myself unexpectedly situated in LA now for 2 weeks and it has given me the luxury of being in a comfortable non-foreign environment with lots of time to reflect on my journey. Catching up with old friends and sharing the highlights, the learning allows me to summarize, analyze and digest this massive experience.

Though my travels are not finished yet, I’d like write this all down and share.

The biggest luxury of travel – Time to think and talk to yourself

I was never good at taking time to think to myself. In your daily life with work, you go from one place / task / appointment to the other, catching up on status updates and emails in between on your smartphone. Probably the only time there is no distractions of new information entering your brain is when I was running. But even then, I was going through realistic To-Dos and brushing over matters that were close to daily life.

It took a few months to get used to letting my mind wander free to where ever it wanted. I would think about the day, about tomorrow, yesterday or 10 years ago. I let it wander to day dream, about the past, about friends, family the best of times, the worst mistakes, work, relationships, theories, food, and anything that entered my mind.

It also helped too that I lost 3 phones on my journey and I rarely had good internet connection to be connected and having so much time such as 12 hour bus rides with no lights or over nights stays at the airport or days with no plans but to take a walk around.

These allowed me to dig deeper beyond the surface, be comfortable and entertain myself and to finally feel comfortable in sitting still with my own thoughts. In addition, travel brings new scenery, people, flavors, smells, language, music in every step at a very fast pace so it naturally trains you to question, compare, accept and think on a daily basis.

Thoughts 10 months in and what I am grateful for to discover.

  • Meeting people in the same state of mind – I have met the most amazing friends from literally around the world and I felt like we connect mentally at the same state that I am in. As I have taken the leap out of my comfort zone to see and discover new things, other travelers have all taken the same step to get here. There are differences in the backgrounds but I found the commonality in the mental state were so strong and a means to become friends very quickly and deeply that it was one of the best discoveries of the trip.
  • Becoming attractive to attract people – When you are having fun and at your best, you attract people. The amount of attention I have felt on this trip is 100 times more than a year ago and it is because I am at my best and happy.
  • Social skill – You wake up in different places, beds with different people (and I mean roommates) almost everyday. You have to quickly acquaint yourself to the new environment, make small talk, sometimes grow it into instant friendships and it is a constant challenge to your social skills. You learn to be interested in people that you may usually not associate with if it were your hometown and take an interest in their lives and stories. It has definitely widened my social topics and the conversation skills.
  • Facebook & Social Media – I feel like I need to say a big Thank You. Without it, I would not have connected and re-connected to many of the people along the journey and even people from the past. How so many people have offered their advise on places I was visiting or put me in touch with their friends, came to meet me along the way is amazing and would not have been possible without FB. It has greatly influenced and changed the path of my travels. So I know its not cool to love social media, but hey, Thank You Facebook.
  • Discovering new ways to live – I never saw so many options on how to live. A couple taking a year vacation on a RV with a 1 month old baby using the mom’s maternity and the husband quitting for the year. A software programmer that works 6 months and travels 6 months every year, a family living out their dream traveling through Latin America homeschooling 3 kids traveling in a van, a family living out of hostels, a couple that works and travels with no end date. I thought traveling was saving money, taking time off work but its opened me up to completely new ways people live and travel.
  • Everyday new learning and rewards – When you are in a new environment, starting with the language you are constantly faced with new things to understand and learn. Learning your way around the neighborhood, figuring out the transport, finding new products and how to use them, new foods, new music, new customs. These are all small things but that sparks the mind. Also the great things is that you get a rewarding feeling of accomplishment when you get these right one by one every day.
  • Getting used to changes – Nothing goes as planned. Things are different from what you searched online or what you heard. There is no use complaining about it, you just change your plans. You become flexible in accepting that things don’t go as planned and appreciate that you were able to come up with an alternative plan quickly. Yes, sometimes it costs you a lot of money and bruises your ego for all the planning in advance but its always at the end opened me up to new adventures.
  • Being creative with what you have – Because I travel with one bag, the effort to keep it compact and sufficient was a constant challenge. You pack and repack and reevaluate the necessities. So you have to be creative with what you have. You don’t carry around the “just in case” nice heels, but do with flip flops and sneakers to make it into a acceptable night look. You reuse your sarong as a scarf, as a top, as a towel and accept that its not the best in the crowd but be pleased with your creativity.
  • Things are just things – When you go from one place to the other every week, you inevitably lose things. My list is long with phones (3), wallets, credit cards (3), sneakers, towels, bathing suits, jackets, books…. etc. etc. etc. They devastate me each time and I hate myself for it but after a day or two, you realize they’re just things and you just learn to live without it. Things are just things and as long as you are safe and happy, you can go on. The only thing I would be really devastated to lose would be the HD of photo and memories which would be irreplaceable.
  • Experiences, not things – Being in LA makes you realize how much we spend on things like having a good outfit to go out or having a nice car, and it makes me afraid that I will want them the more I am here. In my travels it was never about the things but what I can do with the little money that I had. I have lost the desire to own things but rather experience things and thought that is often very difficult in modern society, I hope I can hold onto these feelings.

In the 10 months, the adventures, the scenery the new encounters have been beyond amazing. But perhaps the biggest luxury of all is the time that I had with myself. To have the time to listen and talk to myself and be entertained by my own thoughts. Just a year ago I could not have sat still for 5 minutes. Now, I can sit still for hours with calm and with a smile on my face.

 

 

Why I travel and Why South America

Why am I traveling and why in South America?

I’m often asked this in my travels and by now (8th month) I’ve answered it so much that I’ve become an expert in providing a brief explanation in a concise 1-2 minute manner in English and Spanish. But I’ve always wanted to write this down and communicate the full thoughts. So here we go.

Why South America?

I’ve never traveled to South America and it was merely an image I had in my head but there was always some fascination with South America and Latin cultures. Perhaps it’s been images I’ve created through media and movies and the people that I’ve encountered but it was the bright colors, the rhythmical music, the sunny beaches, the rawness of the cities. It was “don’t worry be happy” attitude, it was the sexiness of its people and the way they didn’t care to hide happiness. It was the dancing and the music and the rhythm.

Perhaps it was influenced by my living in Miami for 4 years for college and being surrounded by the majority Cubans, Puerto Ricans and people from all over the Latin America and the Caribbean. Miami was the US but it definitely was not, with 70% of its population being from Latino backgrounds.

And maybe it a subconscious yearning to seek something the complete opposite of reality. The reality of Tokyo where I’ve been working for over 10 years in this busy, punctual, efficient, crowded city. Where the social norm is structure and tradition, strict hierarchy, being well planned, organised and efficient. Where there is great value placed upon fitting into the crowd, being proper and following protocol. Perhaps trying to blend in this serious mannered society had pushed me to dream about something that was not.

In fact, sometimes I have been described in Japan by my friends as being “So Latin!”. I presume it is based on the image people have of being carefree and “live for the moment”, loud, always wanting a party and dancing to any beat.

So why not go there? Would I fit in better there? Will I feel more comfortable? Maybe its like going back home?

So what’s been stopping me?

Well like many people, I blamed it on a job, and a job in Japan. Vacation days that grew only by +1 day each year on top of 10 days to start with a separate few days in the summer and the winter. I was one to take longer vacations, which sometimes shocked people and clients but that was still a maximum of 2 weeks, and still with a obligation of checking mail and working while traveling.

Logistically, it meant 24-48 hours on the plane to get to South America, which meant 4 days of travel from the 2 weeks, leaving the actual vacation to a whopping  1 week and 3 days. How much can I possible see and do in a week and a half? Maybe step into Rio and hit some beaches? Maybe rush it to Peru for a glimpse of Machupichu? It just wasn’t enough.

And I was also waiting for a travel buddy. Never in my wildest dreams had I pictured to do this alone. I would always share my dream with usually a then boyfriend and convince them of how amazing it would be. I’d successfully talk them into it and we would dream about it, but it never actualised whether it was the risk of quitting their jobs or money. It was a drastic commitment, especially for Japan standards.

So dawned upon me that I’ve been dreaming about it for years now, but it’s never happened and it scared me to think how many more years would go by before it becomes a reality. Like the Carl in “UP”.

The turning point – So what trigger me to actually do it?

A position. It was around this time last year that a position became available to till and myself or another was up for consideration. It was an opportunity that was vital to the team and the company and it would definitely been a good experience to add to my resume.

But when I heard about it, I just wasn’t excited. And I realised that I wasn’t even excited about my career even if I didn’t take the position. I felt flat.

So in the taxi discussing this, I was quickly working my brain on how to decline in a reasonable and definite way. Something that would be professional than “Sorry, I’m just not excited about it”. I racked my brain until the words just came out. 

” Hey, I can’t take the it because I’m going to South America. Sorry!”

Silence and confusion. Did I just say that?!

Yes, I did and now it was there out in public. And I had said it in definite tense as if there was already a plan. I thought it was a pretty funny at that time and a clever come back like “Ha! You can’t say anything to me now!”.  But really, it was not a well thought out excuse like telling the teacher your dog ate your homework. But it was out there.

Whether my boss took me seriously or not I don’t know, but it was enough to communicate that I was not interested in the job. 

The Aftermath

I was sharing this with my friends and how funny and cleverly I had been. Hahaha. Imagine? How cool that would be to be able to quit your job to go travel and follow your dream. Yeah, how cool would that be?

But then as I said it, it felt good and I started to convince myself that this actually should be my plan. So what if I quit my job? Its quitting for a very good reason. What better reason is there but to follow your dreams? Its a hell of a lot better than transferring to a better paying job.

The more I said it, the more it made sense. Maybe my subconscious was tired of me always dreaming and talking about it and not taking any action. Maybe it had pushed me and it was the right time. Hey, I could learn a new language! I could learn to Samba and Salsa! I could take myself to a completely different environment and absorb new things! Maybe even fall in love by the beaches of Rio! I could be the crazy person that quit her career and left everything in search for a different path in life.

And I really liked how that sounded and made me feel. I realised that it had been ages since I’ve been really excited about something in this way and it was all crystal clear.

What started as an abrupt excuse out of my mouth had turned into a life changing plan. It was crazy but it felt good.

The Planning:

So seriously, how realistic is this? Well, when your mind in set to a goal, things get figured out much more easily.

I bought a world map and pinned it to my living room wall. I started jotting things down I wanted to do and posting it next to the map.

I made a plan to get rid of my belongings and my apartment, figure out what kind of trip I can afford with the finances, what I had to do for a smooth transition out of my job and my life in Japan.

Why 1 year?  

Based on various travel blogs, I set a daily budget for traveling in South America, obviously much cheaper than traveling in the US or Europe. I calculated the budget for getting out of Japan, buying things for the trip and some budget for when and if I do come back. The calculations gave me just enough to afford a budget 1 year travel.

Plus I could use my airl

Why 1 year? and the realistic planning
1 year was just enough to be able to afford and a good enough time
Plus the airline miles allowed for 1 year return ticket
Give someone a year, they could figure it out right?

And that is why I am traveling for a year in South (now Latin) America.

I was never a blogger but I wanted something to keep record of, communicate to people I care about and create as a portfolio for the future. Hence, I made a name card and put an address on it.

The most important thing was coming up with the Blog name and I had to do it quick to get it to the printer.

Hence the blog title. MEET PLAY LIVE, like from the Eat pray love – I would honestly put a better title on this if it was now, but at the time
MEET – get to know the culture, the people and absorb
PLAY – let my heart do the talking and let it do whatever I want to do – within budget and reason
LIVE – and possible find a key to my next life.

So here it is.