With each passing year of my life I’ve started to push the margins of my independence a little further. The first big push being when I uprooted myself from everything I knew at 23 and relocated across the country to Seattle. Alone. I knew one person, but he also happened to be the person whose apartment I’d be subletting while he studied in Germany (Hey, Finis!).
To familiarize myself with my new city, I began using Saturdays as an opportunity to explore new neighborhoods. I’d start with a vague idea of what area I’d like to see next, a plan of how to get there on the bus, and maybe one or two spots that I’d read about beforehand that struck my interest. Spoiler alert: more often than not, these places revolved around extravagant looking, waffle-heavy brunch menus and places promising pour-overs made with locally roasted, single-origin coffee. Judge me.
I quickly became comfortable navigating to and around the different areas — always expecting to get semi-lost at least once, and often finding a thrill in it. Meals alone felt like a spiritual time when I could bury my face in a dish that was lifting my spirits to the moon, and could even let a tear roll down my face if it was warranted. I began to stop caring about what people thought about “the girl who talked WAY too much to the barista and is now sipping a cold brew alone” and began caring more about the experience in Seattle that I was creating for myself. I’m a year and a half in now, and while I do have friends that I frequently brunch with, I still bask in the moments when I have a two-top for one and a whole day of discoveries ahead of me.
Some people find it thrilling to shop on Black Friday, or to try things like the KFC double down. I find it thrilling to redefine my comfort zone, so the next natural step in that process to me seems obvious: it’s time for solo travel. While my dad’s hesitations to this idea are rooted (deep) in the world of Liam Neeson’s, “TAKEN”, my expectations are completely wrapped up in the thought of waking up when I please in a city that is completely foreign to anything I’ve ever known with an itinerary that can be anything I want it to be.
The destination: Japan. For two weeks I’ll be chassé-ing around Tokyo — and a few other cities in on the island — on my time. While the majority of people I know who have been there before are encouraging me to fill my schedule to the brim with this attraction and the other, I plan on shaping my days around what I want to eat next and if I feel like spending 3 hours in a park spinning under the trees that are exploding with cherry blossoms. I want to use this trip as an opportunity to gain some insight and perspective on what I want right now in my life. Then again, I also want to use this trip as an opportunity to go to Disney World.
I want to leave Japan with an experience that I have curated, and not one that was dictated to me by travel guides and touristy checklists. I want to explore Tokyo the same way I explored Seattle — spending time in both the popular parts of town, and in the quiet neighborhoods that aren’t always explored by outsiders. I want to find the intimidatingly authentic noodle shops and the picturesque, traditional homes with manicured gardens, as well as pay visits to the famous museums and renowned works of architecture. I want to feel like I saw a side of Japan that I wouldn’t have seen without my brand of curiosity.
I know the idea of solo travel is daunting for some people, and to some it’s even downright terrifying. For me? It’s the next step into becoming the person I want to be.*
*That “person” is also one-step closer to becoming Anthony Bourdain’s successor than I am at this moment.
I’ll be writing some posts on trip planning and preparation in the days leading up to my departure. My plane takes off on March 30, and from that point on — for the next two weeks — you can expect photos and ramen-centric updates to flood my feed.
Looking forward to sharing this experience!
header photo by Alyssa Mcelheny