I am finally back from my international trip where I visited three areas, four hotels, and took a gazillion trains. The background: My daughter and I went to Okinawa Japan where my son is stationed with the Army to celebrate his birthday and decided to also visit the main island of Japan and South Korea. This post won’t be a travelogue but I am happy to say we had tremendous fun. I rarely travel internationally–the last time was when I toured the Soviet Union (now Russia et al)–so didn’t know what to expect as far as languages, customs, foreign money, and everything in between. Words can’t express how nervous the whole thing made me (I’m not a brave person) but with my kids’ support, I did it and am happy I did.
A few highlights:
- We planned to carry on our luggage and do laundry in the hotels. That often didn’t work as there were strictly-enforced weight limits on flights.
- We traveled Delta’s Comfort Plus to and from Japan. This cost more money than Main Cabin but much less than Business Class and turned out to be a wonderful balance of cost and comfort. Check it out next time you take a nine-hour flight.
- I worried about phone charges but that was solved by leaving my phone in Airplane Mode the entire time. Luckily, my son had local phone service so we used his.
- We stayed in US Military vacation housing. This is discounted luxury hotels they make available to Active and Retired military. It had everything I needed at a fourth of the price.
- I bought a Scottevest for the trip with its dozen pockets and RFID protection for carrying my passport, military base passes, wallet, receipts, room keys, phone, headphones, rechargers, medication info, and incidentals. It was a life saver.
- The first thing I noticed as I arrived in Narita (the Japanese airport that was our port of entry) was how quiet the terminal was. The people didn’t chatter endlessly as Americans do. That changed when we arrived at Customs and Immigration, thanks to all the foreigners.
- Japan and South Korea have few trash cans and still no trash lying around on streets, on trains, on sidewalks. It seems that no one tosses their refuse on the ground. I ended carrying mine around until I came across the rare trash can or a restroom.
- Japanese trains are clean, well-maintained, safe, dependable, affordable, and packed with riders.
- As one who speaks neither Japanese or Korean, I gained an appreciation for symbols and hand motions. Most signs included a visual of what they meant which was all that save me from complete confusion many times.
- The Japanese walk everywhere and do it quickly. Many people older than me passed me up and climbed multiple levels of stairs without slowing down (by the thrid flight, I was stopping to rest). I tracked my steps and floors on a health app and I often exceeded 17,000 steps and over 40 floors. Yikes!
- There are trains to take you anywhere you need. Most people don’t commute to work in cars and taxis are horrendously expensive. But, once again–these folks don’t mind walking. The train we’d take to our tours were always at least a half mile from our hotel. Lots and lots and lots of walking.
- Many restaurants didn’t offer napkins with the meal. When we asked at one of the eateries, they gave us a box of Kleenex because that was all she had.
- I ate 50% more food than normal and lost one pound. Woot!
A few problems–not unexpected on a long international trip:
- I lost my Surface Pro laptop on my Air Seoul flight. Multiple phone calls did no good, nor did visits to the airline and airport lost and found. My biggest worry was security. I spent 3-4 hours changing passwords, locking down accounts and the device itself, and then daily checked my Find My Laptop account. It never showed up, nor did anyone try to use it. I found out too late that I should have installed a program called BitLocker that would wipe the device as soon as someone tried to use it. I still had my phone so became adept at doing everything (like getting boarding passes) from my phone. Sigh.
- ‘Send’ stopping working on my phone. ‘Receive’ still worked (thankfully) but I couldn’t Reply or compose new emails. Troubleshooting, I found out that Gmail still worked as did my webmail. My workaround became to go directly to the mail sites (rather than my phone’s aggregation of all mail sites). From there, I could copy-paste any message I needed to and reply. Update: It works again, now that I’m home, so it must have had something to do with Japanese/South Korean internet settings. Hmm…
- My son broke his Chromebook. By the end of the trip, we had only my daughter’s iPad and our phones.
OK, Debby (over at D.G. Kaye Writer)–you wrote the book on traveling. What did I do wrong that I should fix on my next trip?
–A note on the picture: That was taken at the DMZ. Clever those South Koreans.
More on traveling
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, The Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning