Every year, I book a solo travel trip to a foreign country. It will be a place where I feel uncomfortable, maybe disoriented for a start and face a short period of anxiety disorder. But after all that, it’s just pure enjoyment and peace of mind.
It’s an amazing experience. I love it!
It has been 3 years since my last visit to Japan. It was Okinawa previously, and it was a complete beauty with the beaches and nature. Somewhere closer to the west of Japan, I have chosen Kyushu area as my destination this year, in particular the city of Fukuoka.
A combination of the Hakata’s port city and the castle town of Fukuoka back in 1889, the current city of Fukuoka boasts a good tourism industry with its famous Kyushu ramen and a variety of snacks. Although being a cosmopolitan city, the outskirts are still townships that are not much exposed to foreign influence. The preservation of the Meiji period of ancient Japan is still very much visible. Apart from my favourite Japan city, Kyoto, I would say Fukuoka is close in line (I have yet to go to Hokkaido… Might just overtake Fukuoka in future).
In our current technology and gadgets centric era, it’s inevitable that we turn to something we rely heavily on called the smartphones. To me, a travel to a foreign country, especially one with amazing rural areas, is a great opportunity to do a smartphone detox, or actually use it to its intended benefits apart from browsing social media or sticking my eyes to it.
Many would have chosen to rent a mobile wifi device. I chose not to.
There are many things we can relearn again, back to the basics. And these are some which I have picked up from my travels (they are going to increase because I’m not stopping my travels).
Speaking the Foreign Language
How do I know what it means? What if they are wrongly comprehended?
Being in a foreign country and speaking their native language is learning how to speak all over again. We have been speaking our own language for decades and that’s what makes us comfortable (maybe not comfortable these days when everyone seems to stop talking…). But going to another country, and expecting their people to speak our language (even though English is global) can be quite a selfish gesture and a non-beneficial one.
No, it’s not about being fluent, neither it is about being a native speaker in just a holiday trip that I may potentially be there once a year. But the trick is understanding and starting a conversation or question in the native language, opening myself up to more locals.
How do I do that?
Every single day, before I head out to my trips, I rehearse and rehearse on the potential phrase I may need to use, and may screenshot the translation on my phone whenever I need to rehearse again. They may be the commonly used “how much is this?“, “how do I go to this place?“, “what does this do?“, “Can I have a refill?” etc. During this trip, I even learned how to ask “may I borrow your umbrella?” from the hotel because of the rain. It is amazing when I get to learn and speak in their native language.
The Smartphone Detox
We have been gazing down on our phones, be it for the emails, the messages, the instragrammable (if there’s such a word…) pictures of food and sightseeing sights or even the likes on our social media page. A holiday travel is meant to take our mind away from all of that, which is why I always prefer a holiday with a good hike, away from the city. A travel to the rural area instils something in me – The discipline of not whopping up my mobile phone as and when possible, depending on a good camera for my photo-taking and even writing down notes and expenses, coupled with the occasional awareness of “no WiFi/no data”.
When I travel for a vacation, I will make sure my work is well-delegated, with clear go-to-person on my away-from-office email notification. This allows me to not look at my mobile phone unless I’m back in the hotel/room and gives me the total enjoyment of truly being in a holiday.
What can you do to make sure your holiday is a smartphone detox or a smartphone minimal trip?
Choosing to Spend Wisely
The international tourism is a $7.6 trillion dollar industry, and it is set to increase with many people these days choosing to travel to escape their stressful work life, or the rising number aspiring remote earners.
When we travel, it’s tempting to purchase souvenirs or visit every attractions that are in the place simply because – well, this may be our only trip to this place and there are many more. I was part of this culture, spending in every attractions I can find. But should we?
As I traveled over 30 cities, I realised many attractions are more or less similar. We may find a bridge like that of the Golden Gate, the high-rising tower view over the city, the ancient looking architectures, or even the clear pristine waters. Some of them are just money-generating tourism traps, that are there to lure us into digging into the wallet.
That does not mean that we should scrimp and save even on a vacation. I’m an advocate for traveling without a budget, but not one who would spend unwisely. Here are some questions we can consider during our vacations to make sure we are spending right:
For the best views – Is there a better viewpoint from this place? Do I feel excited paying for the entry to this view?
For the souvenirs – Am I buying to impress someone? Do I need to spend this for the sake of buying it?
For the tourist attractions – Is this an unique attraction? How would I feel paying for the entry to this attraction? Am I going to stay here for long or just a picture-taking session?
For the day-trips – Does this day trip covers most of the attractions I want to see? What would it be like if I’m going to these places by myself? Do I prefer to meet interesting people from other countries or an exploration of my own?
Overseas travels are exciting, fun and a whole new adventure. We meet different people from different culture, background and learn a lot from their experiences, simply because everyone is unique. As much as these trips are amazing, the true essence of travels, in my humble opinion, is one that allows us to be openly receiving the other side of the world and ditching ours back from where we came from (excluding the sharing with the natives when they want to know more from where we came from…).
So, what’s your next travel adventure going to be like? What will you be learning or what have you learned?
Do share with me in the comments section.