How to Recover from a Post-Japan Hangover

I covered this theme shortly after returning from Italy, albeit in a much different and hungrier way. But I think my techniques for coping with incredible trips have matured, so I’m back on this topic again.

It’s been about 3-and-a-half months since I’ve returned from the glorious, temple-strewn, too-good food-peddling, amazing-public-transit-having, culturally fascinating world I feel in love with back in March. With me being so quiet these days, you’d think I was fine.

EXCEPT I’M NOT. 🙁

After returning to the land of the free, home of the brave, etc., my crippling devastation was suppressed by my need to find a new job and recalibrate my life trajectory. That all sounds very intense, so I suppose I’ll reword it as “my need to start doing other things”. As a result of my efforts, I was finally able to find and start a new job at Cal State Long Beach about a month ago, which is ~*~super kewl~*~. I work a lot less than before while making a positive impact on my environment and those around me. I work on a beautiful campus that gives me a million and one places to read, write, and practice my iPhoneography (soon to be actual photography, god willing) during my breaks. The best part? I’m like, two miles from my home. TWO MILES. Obviously, I, the Goddess of Anti-Commuting, feel so incredibly satisfied about this.

And yet…

Even as my life started to fall together correctly, I can’t help but long for the place that I had wanted to visit for 15 years and finally got the chance to only recently. I can’t help but think of the days that I would (willingly, mind you) wake up at 6:00 am, thirsty for a delicious cup of hot tea and hungry for my next adventure. True, this is how I am on every adventure, but the Japan-specific things were hitting my memory hard. The cobblestone streets of Higashiyama. The deer I spent a solid 30 minutes laying with and reading next to in Nara. The overwhelming bustle of Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon. The taste of the Owakudani eggs. Walking into my hotel room on Naoshima and thinking, “I CAN AFFORD THIS?!” The fleeting interactions I had with locals who seemed fascinated that, of all places, I chose their “tiny town” to visit, even though said town had more to offer to someone like me than they realize.

Oh man. Even writing this stuff is bringing me back.

Oddly, hyper-focusing on these good memories, rather than refusing to indulge in them out of sadness that they’re not my current reality, helps out a lot. It reminds that the experience was not only real, but that I made all of these memories happen. I alone booked that plane ticket at that pool in Vegas last year (yes, really), and I’m the one who made every choice single-handedly on that trip thereafter.

Another thing I’ve done recently is seek out Japan-like things virtually everywhere I go. Cooking Japanese food and reading manga are two examples of these, but given my new job, I felt that one particular item was even more appropriate. I mean, there’s a freaking Japanese garden at Cal State Long Beach. Ergo, I needed to visit it, DUH! Even though I almost died in a parking lot while trying to get there, it was like I had reached heaven once I got to it. Pictures will do infinitely more justice than my silly words. See below.

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Admittedly, this was not from the garden. But it definitely reminded me of much of the art from the Lee Ufan Museum in Naoshima.

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As far as what else I can personally recommend for extending the joy of a fabulous trip, should I make a list? I feel like that would make this more readable. After all, you’d probably appreciate that. I could do it. Let me try.

  • As I already mentioned, think about your memories. Remember that you made something incredible happen for yourself. And if you didn’t plan it, then you have an amazing friend/family member/travel agent who helped you, so you’re quite blessed with either direct or indirect talent. Most importantly, remember that these memories are REAL.
  • Do and seek out Japan-like (or France-like, or Australia-like, or South Africa-like) things that remind you of the trip. Find everything from museum galleries to food festivals, because they’re definitely out there. Fortunately, most of the Western world has become a pretty awesome melting pot and there are plenty of people interested in cultures beyond their own.
  • Create some sort of photo collage or art piece that immortalizes the trip. Never forget it happened. Make this quick trip a nonetheless permanent part of your life.
  • Brush up on the history of the area that you (hopefully) learned while you were there. Impress people. Be cultural and all that good stuff. But not pretentious. You went to a few museums, not the University of Douchedom.
  • Drop a line to someone you met on the trip, if possible. Even as a sly introvert, I still managed to meet one young woman at Incheon Airport who I shared the adventure of finding a buffet with during my first layover. We exchanged Facebook addresses and like/comment on each other’s stuff here and there. Thanks to the magic of this technology, I have a connection with another awesome human who I can see when I return to Japan!
  • Finally, take every other travel blog’s advice and get to planning that next trip! My significant other and I have flip-flopped between Bhutan, New Zealand, and various European locales for our first major trip as a couple. Even though it won’t happen until next year, it’s never too early to start planning!

Completely unrelated, I’m starting to learn web design in a little more depth, both for my job and for my non-work-related pursuits. I should get back to that. You’ll be hearing from me again soon.

p.s. This entry is exactly 1000 words.

– H

Japan 2015, Episode 10: Post-trip Pensiveness (plus a Poll)!

Looking back on any trip is always going to be as perfectly bittersweet as the Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate I’m eating right now. You have incredible memories – and the photos to prove it – but you’re also wishing you could have stayed just a little while longer. Or forever. You then imagine how much you’d miss your family, friends, and significant other if you stayed, but then your mind goes to “well, what if they had just come and stayed with me?”

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Japan 2015, Episode 9: Taking Back Tokyo

Refreshed and enriched from my nature-centric Hakone experience, I felt all the more prepared to take my last day in Japan by storm. What better place to do it than back in the hub of boundless activity and visual stimuli known as Tokyo?

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Japan 2015, Episode 8: Putting the “Treat” in Retreat

After a continuous pattern of staying somewhere for one or two days and moving to other pastures before I had even gotten a true taste of it, I finally took it upon myself to stay a little longer somewhere. The place I chose to do this was Hakone: a land of rolling mountains, dense woodland, and the sparkling Lake Ashinoko. Amazingly enough, Hakone is only about an hour-and-half from Tokyo, making it a popular spot for Japanese and foreign tourists alike. Still, everything that Hakone has to offer makes every crowded cable car ride or “tourist traffic jam” worth it.

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Japan 2015, Episode 7: How Haley Went Bananas

Read in one way, the title describes an event that actually happened the second your author was born. Read another way, the title alludes to one of the most exciting journeys one can take in Japan: visiting the snow monkeys at Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park)!
 

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Japan 2015, Episode 6: Haley’s Moving Castle

I can best describe the few days after Naoshima as an immersion into Japanese history and into the “real” Japan. Shorter buildings. Fewer foreigners. Less English. While the towns I visited during the last few days certainly have well-known attractions, the journey became more about discovering Japanese history and understanding Japanese identity, rather than about ticking the most exciting boxes on my list. Well, except for Nara – Nara was a very exciting box to tick.

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Japan 2015, Episode 5: You need to go here…right Naoshima!

You have no idea how excited I am for this installment. I’m brimming with delight. Just brimming. I try not to use that phrase more than once a week, but this is an absolutely necessary time to use it.

It was my great pleasure to spend about 24 glorious hours between Wednesday and Thursday afternoons on the small island of Naoshima near Japan’s least-traveled large island, Shikoku. Centered around the celebration of art, architecture, and nature, it seemed like a dream to an artsy little alien like me. To boot, I was shockingly able to book a room at the the sumptuous Benesse House on the southern tip of the island, whose company sponsor is responsible for much of the art on Naoshima. I’ve never stayed in a hotel that literally looks like it walked out of my most splendid home design-dream, so this alone was a treat.

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Japan 2015, Episode 4: Kickin’ in Kyoto

You may have noticed that I’ve returned to my old naming convention: goofy and rife with alliteration. I suppose it just didn’t feel like “me” with all of the overly-philosophical banter. Am I an introspective person? Certainly. But this pot needs a few other flavors in order to keep stirring. So, I hope we’re happy with me going back to more “old” IC (having a message paired with plenty of oddly-placed humor and lengthy descriptions), because that is what decidedly works for me.
Anyway, I couldn’t have felt more thankful to have snagged two incredible accommodations in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. I felt even more thankful when I attempted to book a return trip for this weekend (after my romp on Naoshima Island) only to find that the city was, according to one booking website, 99% booked, most likely due to cherry blossom season. I nearly found myself in a situation where my only options were knocking on doors, doing karaoke by myself (they let you stay overnight in some places if you’ve had too much to drink), or pulling all nighters in the train station. I was relieved to have found backup accommodation in Hikone, about 20 minutes by train from Kyoto. I’ll start today’s entry with an important lesson learned: know the accommodation options of where you’re traveling at the times you are traveling. Letting the wind take you on its course is undoubtedly awesome, but when your overall schedule or too much convenience/time is on the line, it’s best to go the planning route.

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Japan 2015, Episode 3: Sushi in Tsukiji (featuring “What Did We Learn Today”?)

Today, I give a little toast to my first major travel mistake of the trip. It had to happen sometime, and hey – it was more of a “poor planning” thing than anything.

Logistically, I should have just stayed in Tokyo a couple more days. As my next journey is taking me to Naoshima Island, I originally thought it would be better to do Kyoto for a couple days beforehand since it’s closer than Tokyo. What I’m really doing, though, is teasing myself with a very limited amount of time in Kyoto when I have to leave fairly early tomorrow. What’s more is that I have to change hotels today in Kyoto, which involves carrying my gigantic piece of luggage to wherever the nearest taxi is!

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Japan 2015, Episode 2: Takin’ on Tokyo

There is something about the simple act of moving from one place to another that excites me. Planes, trains, metros, and cars are little “mini vacations” in and of themselves. It’s definitely the anticipation of my next destination that gets me, but I usually enjoy the ride as well. After all, travel has gotten pretty comfortable over the last few decades to make up for the stress it can cause, with everything from meals to Wi-Fi provided on many of these forms.

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