The trip that made me want to travel more

4 min read

May 19, 2022

shinjuku dusk

I have been thinking a lot about what kicked off me wanting to travel. It's kind of a cliche because it seems like everyone likes to travel but I think all of us have our own reasons for it. Looking back, I think the big catalyst for me was a trip I took with my parents to Japan when I was 17. After that trip I made travel a priority the best I can and have continued to make it a hobby of mine. Some friends might say even a bit obsessively as I am always searching for flight deals and sending it to them or tweaking my travel plans for the "perfect" trip.

I was lucky to previously have traveled a lot with my family but Japan was by far the farthest I had gone and the first time I had a real hand in helping plan. The trip originally became even a possibility because I had stumbled upon a blog post talking about cheap tickets to Japan. I believe we took ANA for around $500 round trip to and from Japan. Not bad even for todays standards.

The other piece I remember helping with was hotels. Even though expedia and online booking companies existed at the time it was still kind of hard to book hotels and other things specifically for Japan. I remember us having to send a random email and wait for confirmation that our hotel was booked. The only hotel we were able to book all online was one in Kyoto that was from a Hilton/Marriott/Hyatt (I don't remember exactly) and it was by far the priciest hotel we booked.

I remember that it felt fun to track down these rooms and hunt for deals, something I still do today. I think being directly involved in the planning taught me that I could plan a trip, it was something I seemed to enjoy, and that it wasn't as hard as I thought. I think that really stuck with me and I try to make the travel planning process fun and feel like not a big deal otherwise it gets stressful.

As for the trip itself, once we got going, it blew my mind.

ANA Meal

I took a photo of my meal on the flight over as I wasn't really sure what it was. Honestly I think before this point my only experience with Japanese food was teriyaki chicken and instant ramen. This was the first of many new food experiences that really made the trip.

Shinjuku at night

This was one of the first photos I took. I didn't know it at the time but we got lucky and booked our hotel really close to Shinjuku, which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo. I remember all the lights and people feeling super overwhelming and incredible at the same time.

Everything was new

I don't think you have to leave your country or even state to find new experiences, but in a place like Japan every single thing felt new and different. The trains, lights, food, etc. were all so different it was a lot to take in. I remember thinking to myself "wow I literally cannot read any signs if I wanted to" and it really kind of threw me for a loop. It was sensory overload from all aspects and I was having the time of my life.

It is cool to reflect on now because I remember just trying to soak it all in and even after being able to return to Tokyo since this trip I feel like I have still just scratched the surface. I think that is true for most places that you only get to visit in snapshots. This is also a reason why I am trying to take longer trips to try and get more than a taste of a place.

Mt Fuji

We attempted a day trip to Mt. Fuji only to learn that the shin-fuji station was a town that was just sort of close to Mt. Fuji. We didn't realize we would have to drive, take a tour, or a smaller train to actually get closer. Either way we had fun and it was an adventure trying to figure everything out.

Impact of the trip

I could go on and on about stories and the specifics of this trip (and I may do that someday) but I am feeling more reflective about how much that single trip changed my life. I actually live blogged it in 2009 but the database is now lost to the ether of the internet.

Looking back there are a few things I've done that are direct outcomes from that trip:

  • got a job at an airline to travel more
  • continue to obsessively look for flights
  • studied Japanese in college (and still do today)
  • integrate travel into my life with a remote job

These really stand out as I am unsure if I would have done or do any of these things without the catalyst of this one trip. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to have such an experience at a young age and it's shaped my actions in numerous ways. I hope to continue to be able to have experiences like this and bring others along for the ride.