Category: Travelers

Traveling Solo Through Japan By Foot

By , July 26, 2011 12:57 pm

Thanks to our readers who told us they want more of Couple of The Week. So due to popular demand, we are going to continue highlighting, not just couples, but all travelers who want to share their stories with us.

If you are interested in being in our blog, contact us and provide a short description of your travels, a link to your blog if you have one, and we will gladly send you questions our readers want to know about you.

Without further delay, I would like to personally introduce our Traveler of The Week. Anthony is not only a good friend of ours, but we thank him for always entertaining us with his outrageous stories. Anthony is the kind of person that won’t leave you indifferent. This is mostly because of his passionate personality type. From an early age, his passion for foreign languages grew from curiosity of learning about other cultures. It now has become a very useful vehicle for him to meet and speak to others while he travels to foreign lands. Today, he can speak 6 different languages (French, English, German, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Italian) and is in the process of learning Greek. He financed business school and his travels through his obsession for poker. Besides being a Manchester United fanatic, he is also lover of Japanese pop music (Ayumi Hamasaki) and dead French singers (Claude François).

Anthony Traveling Solo In Japan

Anthony Traveling Solo In Japan

Relationship Status: | Single.
Age: | 27.
Where do you currently live? | Montpellier, France.
Where is your next trip? | Greece.

What was your first big solo trip?
Anthony: My first big travel was in 2005. I spent one month in Beijing, China for a linguistic internship. I was in shock because everything was so different. From that day on, my definition of travel literally became “a big change”.

How do you prepare for your travels?
Anthony: I don’t like to prepare things. I don’t like to plan because things lose their spontaneity. The only thing I planned was vaccinations, which cost me 600 Euros ($870 USD) for 4 different shots. I was also given Malaria pills. I took them in Laos and they made me sick. My conclusion: no more planning! If I did not plan for any vaccinations, I would have saved 600 Euros. I didn’t plan anything else. I didn’t even know how Thailand looked like before going or what was the name of the capital of Vietnam. I don’t regret my choices because things were most surprising.

What is your favorite thing you always pack with you?
Anthony: I have a teddy bear, a plush donkey, but I didn’t take it with me on my last trip because I was scared to lose it! I made the right move because I lost so many things like my USB stick and cell phone. I would have lost my monkey for sure.

I would recommend travellers to be careful if they take something important with them during their travels. There is a high chance they can lose it.

What is the most difficult part of traveling for you?
Anthony: First, I have to say money. It’s difficult to consider that you don’t have income anymore, that you just spend and at the end of the month, nothing’s going to happen: no salary. Your bank account only gets lower and lower everyday.

Second is handling family. You always have to reassure them.

Third, I would say loneliness. If it happens that you are alone in a foreign country, far from your home, it can be difficult to handle, psychologically. It happened to me in my first days in Germany for example. Your friends are not there; you don’t know anyone; you don’t know the city. It can be difficult. But it doesn’t last long because as a foreigner, you can easily meet a lot of people.

What advice would you give other travelers?
Anthony: I have one regret during the Southeast Asia trip I did, which is to have been only to the popular sightseeing sites. I regret not have been beyond the established trails. I would have preferred to reject conventional wisdom and be gutsier and go meet locals. Every time it happened by chance, it was so great, but sadly it didn’t happen very often. I’m guilty for it.

A second advice is never listen to what people say, “this place isn’t good, this temple is not worth going to, this place is not beautiful”. If you feel like you want to go, just go and make your own opinion! It’s only a matter of taste. Try not to stick that much to travel guides and absolutely not to fellow travelers, or backpackers you meet randomly in youth hostels!

What is your favorite country so far?
Anthony: I could say Vietnam because of all the variety of landscapes: busy cities, desert of white sand, nice beaches, Ha Long Bay, and Sapa are all so different, but still within the same country. And then there is the “Asian touch” with crowded streets, scooters everywhere, dirtiness, and hotness.

I could also say Japan for the cleanliness and politeness of the locals. It’s not a legend. It’s incredible how they make it easy and comfortable to live in their country.

But if I have to pick one and I swear I’m not chauvinistic, I’m going to choose FRANCE! I’m able to say that with more legitimacy now that I’ve been travelling in many different countries and I’m able to compare. There is no place like France; I must say South France. We have a perfect climate, 300 days of sun a year, many different cultural places, a long history, amazing landscapes, castles, churches in every little village. Even though there are only 70 habitants living in my village, we still have a church and a 1000-year-old castle; I find it just incredible. I didn’t realize it before, but people are nice too. We have beaches by the Mediterranean Sea, snow-capped mountains, and we are also near two amazing countries, Spain and Italy. I swear I’m not saying this because I’m a southern French guy! France is the most visited country in the world and there are reasons for it.

You just finished a trip to Japan. Why did you want to go to Japan and tell us about your trip?
Anthony: The reasons that made me want to go to Japan were very personal. I grew up with Japanese cartoons. Then I got interested in Japanese culture, the country, and the language. So since I was 5 years old, I was always into it. Going to this country was just the next logical step.

I stayed 2 months in Japan in July and August 2010. I spent 2 weeks in Tokyo and then I backpacked for 2 weeks. Then I spent one month in Osaka, in the region of Kansai where you can also find cities like Kyoto. I don’t recommend going to Japan during these months because of the weather. It’s fucking hot and humid and it can easily spoil your trip.

How many days did you hike for in Japan? Why did you do it?
Anthony: I hiked 15 days from Tokyo to Kyoto for a total of 400 kilometers, 30 kilometers a day of just walking. I carried a 22 kilos (48.5 pounds) backpack on my back and another 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) on my chest. I hiked for two reasons.

I have to admit the first reason was related to money. Tokyo is hella expensive! I didn’t expect it could be that expensive. I had been travelling in countries like China and Thailand before, so the shock was double the intensity! I wasn’t ready and willing to spend 400 Euros ($560 USD) for a train between Tokyo and Kyoto. I found a 25-euro bedroom in Tokyo, but it was a very bad hotel. It was very small and I had to leave between 8am and 4pm, even if I had booked 2 days in a row. So I was upset and decided to find a way to spend the least I could. Walking and sleeping outside was the solution. Nights were around 25 degrees celsius (80 fahrenheit) so it was fine. I slept on the beach often and overall, it helped me be in better physical shape.

The second reason is that I wanted to know Japan in more detail. I wouldn’t have done it in any other country. So I went through the countryside, where I wouldn’t have gone in any other case. I got lost sometimes and got upset (I lost 2 days without knowing I was going in the wrong direction and had to come back the day after: 10 kilometer to go and another 10 to come back). Of course I had difficulties with the sun waking me up around 5am everyday and the hotness that goes with it. It was also difficult to take showers; I was dirty. Now I realize how crazy it was, but I loved it!

What were some your budgets for your travels?
Anthony: Not considering cost of flights:

While I was on my internship in China, I had a budget of 900 Euros ($1,305 USD) per month, of which I spent 400 Euros ($580 USD) on classes and 500 Euros ($725 USD) for everything else (housing, food, transportation).

In my Southeast Asia trip, I traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and China again. I spent 2,500 Euros ($3,620 USD) in 3-months.

In my Japan trip, I spent 2,000 Euros ($2,895 USD) in 2-months, but this was a very low budget for Japan.

Any closing remarks?
Anthony: After each big trip, I am like, all this happened so fast, just like a dream. I would recommend to all those that want to do the same thing, to do everything that you want to do in your trip, have no limits, no restriction, and don’t restrain yourself. Go crazy because such travels are crazy, so they are made for crazy people. LOL.

Couple Of The Week: Yours Truly

By , May 11, 2011 4:52 pm

I hope we don’t need any introductions. The couple of the week is Boris and MuiMui. While we were interviewing couples for our weekly couple section, we actually got asked to answer a few questions for Holly, who will be starting her travels in a few months. You can read the original interview on her blog.

MeAndFrenchie

Boris And MuiMui

Relationship Status: | Attached to the hip.
How long have you been together? | Over 3 years.
How long have you been traveling? | 13 months.
How long is your total planned trip? | 12 to 18 months.

What attracted you to traveling in the first place and how did it become a reality?
Boris: I grew up in France and have always been attracted to the US. I finally went there for an internship and loved it. Once I graduated, I immediately found a job in San Francisco. I loved the city so much that I was disappointed to have ended up there before seeing more of the world. One year before our world tour, I told MuiMui that I wanted to move abroad and experience life in a different country. She replied that if she had to leave everything, she wanted to see more of the world. We agreed to go on a world tour together.

MuiMui: My desire for travel grew from loving parents who worked all the time and basically from their lack of travel. In college, I snatched every chance I had to travel outside of the US. Then when I joined the corporate world, travel became my yearly escape. When I met my Boris, he would challenge me whenever I would say, “I wish I could …” so here we are, circling the globe.

How is traveling different from taking a two week holiday?
Boris: Traveling has nothing to with going on holiday. First, you always have to look at your budget to make you can make it to the end of your travel and that you don’t have a bad impact on the populations. Second, traveling is, for us, more oriented towards meeting people and learning cultures than just sightseeing. Last, I would say that when you travel you have to give yourself time to rest and reenergize.

MuiMui: The two do not have to be so different but as a typical American, my short and infrequent holidays seem to dictate how I traveled initially, so I would automatically try to maximize my experience by seeing as much as I can and within the western comforts I am use to. It was when I went to Vietnam for the first time on holiday and explored the small villages and did away with my usual comforts that made me realize how much I was missing out on.

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Boris: Before entering a new country we will both do 1 or 2 hours of research and then compare our results. Then with the information, we will try to make an itinerary that would allow us to see most of it within our allocated time frame. Once we arrive in a city, we will start looking together for a place to stay and I usually get tired and let MuiMui find the best deal in town.

MuiMui: A world trip is a lot to take in so with some planning, it makes things a little easier for us and more efficient. We split up the work by who wants to do what. Two things we learned not to do is over plan, leave out some of the small details to be explored together, and for each country, it is good if the both of you read up a little about it as you enjoy a place more if you know more about it.

What did you learn about each other?
Boris: She is extremely good at bargaining and finding deals. She can be very cheap and will get extremely upset if she finds out somebody else got a better deal. No matter how hard it is, if she has decided to go somewhere, she will find a way to get there (and without getting ripped off).

MuiMui: I did not necessarily learn something new about Boris, but the small details I looked passed before the trip were more apparent during the trip. For example, I know he is a nice guy, but I found at times he was being too nice and polite to a stranger in a situation that I did not feel comfortable being in.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Boris: Yes but after a little break. I would do more research beforehand and visit fewer countries. I would also try to dedicate more time for personal activities like photography walks with locals, cooking lessons, or Spanish classes.

MuiMui: Yes! I feel like this past year was just a taste of more to come. I have more ideas for future trips such as becoming fluent in another language and staying longer in one place.

Any scary stories or low points?!
Boris: Nothing really scary as we never got robbed but if I have to choose a low point, it would be our experience in Indonesia on the road to Mount Bromo: A driver tried to rip us off and then a group of youngsters on motorbikes “saved” us, which was all an organized scam. We were in the middle on nowhere with no other tourists or public transportation around. It took us 3 hours to get out of there.

MuiMui: When we arrived in Arequipa and was looking around for a hotel, we met a female traveler who just experienced an attempted taxi kidnapping the evening before. She was still trembling and emotional and that woke me up how we always have to be careful in any country and as much as we are, shit still happens when there are bad people.

What was your most recurrent disagreement?
Boris: First money, second transportation.

MuiMui: We had one big recurring disagreement which was about when/how to book transportation. We both liked different styles and in the beginning, I would throw tantrums, not knowing I was, when I couldn’t get him to agree with me.

What are your top three tips for anyone thinking about traveling?
Both:
1: Go.
2: Meet as many people as you can.
3: Be open-minded and never reject something because it is different from what you are used to.
4: Always be aware of your surroundings.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Boris: One laptop each or no laptop at all. Find some activities that you can do alone (photography, diving, etc). Even if it is easier to stay in your room, try to go out and engage with other people as much as you can; the experience you share is invaluable and not written in any guidebook.

MuiMui: Traveling to new places is both fun and stressful. Doing it with someone else can be even more challenging so work together instead of trying to be right all the time. There is no right or wrong when it comes to saving $0.50. Be more open minded while being safe and meet fellow travelers.

Any do’s and don’ts?
Both:
DO follow your instincts and change your plans.
DO NOT leave your stuff unattended even for a second. When riding on trains or buses, make sure your things are attached to you at all times. It just takes one second of snoozing for your things to be stolen.
DO learn the local language or at least use basic phrases or words.
DO NOT dress up like you would at home when visiting India. Not only will you shock the people, you may encounter constant harassment.
DO try local cuisine away from tourist areas if possible.

Is your traveling experience any different to how you imagined it would be?
Both: Traveling is more tiring than what we thought. It felt like a full time job at times. People are very different from one country to the other. Usually, the less money they have, the more giving they are and the more interested they are to meet you.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Boris: Hard to say but I have 3 places that stand out:
Thailand because we had a marvelous time there. We met extremely nice people and no matter what kind of experience you are looking for (beach, history, culture, food, city, trekking, mountains, villages, etc), Thailand has it all!
Colombia because we went there with some apprehensions and no positive expectations, but the kindness of the people blew us away. Trust me, Colombia is one of the safest countries we’ve been to and you will love both the landscapes and the people.
Galapagos because it is 100% unique. Everyday we would wake up seeing something that you can only see on TV: Giant Turtles, Endemic birds, penguins, iguanas, and etc. Plus walking on islands made of fresh lava (only a few hundred years old) is quite something.

MuiMui: It’s so difficult to pick a favorite as there is something great (and bad) about each country we went to. I think the country that wins for overall ease of travel, variety of things to see and eat, pleasantness of the people and culture, something for everyone, is Thailand. But I will never forget about how wonderful the people in Colombia were, or how out of this world the animals were in the Galapagos, or the penguins hopping onto the beaches of New Zealand, or the colors and sites of India, and … the gastronomy culture and way of life in the south of France.

Finally what’s the best thing about traveling?
Both: We always think that the best thing is to see beautiful and famous places. After coming back, I don’t think that is true anymore. Learning is the best thing that happens when you travel. Meeting people from different cultures will open your eyes on the world and your own life. This is, in our opinion, an invaluable experience.

Couple Of The Week: Dominique & Théo

By , May 5, 2011 2:30 am

Running alongside with us, as we are being chased by Komodo Dragons on Rinca Island in Indonesia, was the lovely couple, Dominique and Théo. We shared an unforgettable experience together and we are so happy to have met them.

In addition to being great people, what amazed us the most about this couple is that when they decided to take a break from law school to travel, they made the most out of their small budget and turned it into an 7-month tour of Southeast Asia. They are living proofs that amazing travels DO NOT require large budgets.

Dominique and Théo

Dominique and Théo

Relationship Status: | Dating.
How long have you been together? | 2 years.
How long have you been traveling? | 5 months.
How long is your total planned trip? | 7 months.

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Dominique & Théo: We did not really organize this trip before leaving Quebec. We often change our plans and I think it’s what made our trip more exciting, but sometimes it puts more stress on us and it’s difficult for a couple.

What did you learn about each other?
Dominique: Théo is more patient than me. He can tolerate more dirt than me. He is also a very calm person. I knew that before, but I just realized it more.
Théo: I was surprised to see how well she adapted herself to difficult situations.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Dominique: Yes, more organization.
Théo: Yes. Next time I would like to concentrate my trip on specific activities, so there is a goal.

What did you like least?
Dominique: The smell in India and the harassment of people who work in tourism.
Théo: The people who work in tourism.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Dominique & Théo: Try to have some time on your own and sometimes it is better not to speak with each other when you are tired to avoid shit talking.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Dominique & Théo: We hope Nepal, but so far India. The landscapes in the north of India are amazing and it is so different than anything else we saw during the past 5 months.

Couple of The Week: Jerome & Maru

By , April 27, 2011 7:27 am

Say hello to our couple of the week, Jerome and Maru. After working two years in Chili, South America, they couldn’t get enough so took off to see the rest of the world. We enjoy reading the couple’s blog, especially how they hire tour guides for their sightseeing and excursions. It’s a fun and an educational way of traveling.

Jerome and Maru

Jerome and Maru

Relationship Status: | Married.
How long have you been together? | 10 years.
How long have you been traveling? | 1 year and 1 month.
How long is your total planned trip? | 1 year.

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Jerome: Maru does the planning; I carry the bags and eat a lot at the restaurants. 😉
Maru: Every time we arrive in a new country, I draft out a basic itinerary taking in consideration of the time we plan to stay. Then Jerome does his magic and finds out the most amazing places close to each area. I keep track of budgets, he takes care of maintaining the blog and preparing the platform so I can write the Spanish version. We figure out transport and lodging together.

What did you learn about each other?
Jerome: That we could spend 1 year being together 24/7 without killing each other, and in fact, without any problems.
Maru: The harmony of a couple traveling together comes with a small netbook and a digital camera EACH.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Jerome: We will… maybe on a motorcycle, maybe with kids. I wouldn’t change much. I think the preparation we did helped us avoid many mistakes. Maybe spend more time by the beach. Oh and yes, investigate the visas before going into a country (like Indonesia where we could have stayed longer if we had gotten a visa before arriving).
Maru: Absolutely! I would add a couple of kids, and a bit more of beforehand preparation, mostly investigating the countries we want to visit. I think we did not visit one or two really awesome places because we did not know we could easily get to them.

What was your most recurrent disagreement?
Jerome: Apart from being in India, no disagreements really.
Maru: mmm…none.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Jerome: Let go.
Maru: Talk, always talk. Never let the misunderstandings get bigger.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Jerome: There is not one favorite country overall actually, different countries for different things. But the top 3 are: Colombia (atmosphere + friends we met there), Nepal (hiking), New Caledonia (friends, memories, and beautiful place).
Maru:I agree with Jerome. We really liked all places we visited for a specific reason … well not all places. I still have mixed feelings about India.

Traveling As A Couple: Aud & Tonio

By , April 20, 2011 7:00 am

Without my partner in crime, MeAndFrenchie would not be possible. For those thinking of taking the same plunge, here is the dirty truth about traveling as a couple.

We were told many times by friends that if we could last through this trip then he is the one. While that is partly true, it doesn’t mean it is a good idea to dive into a world trip to test your love. All relationships require work, honesty, communication, compromising without over compromising, and much more. While traveling, you both will continue doing those things, but constantly in new environments. The things you like and don’t like about each other usually take years to realize and accept, but traveling will force it upon you both at a faster rate.

Don’t be intimated by all this because those that work as a team, will find that their relationship will grow stronger and traveling will be one of the best things they did together. Seeing the world and sharing that experience with someone special is blissful.

We will be asking a few couples, who we met along our travels, about how it is to travel together.

Up this week are Aud and Tonio who took the plunge after dating only one month! We had the great pleasure of meeting them on the slow boat along the Mekong River and kept bumping into each other over and over again in Laos and Cambodia.

Aud and Tonio

Aud and Tonio

Relationship Status: | Dating for now.
How long have you been together? | 17 months. Too short.
How long have you been traveling? | We’re on a break with travel now. We’ve traveled 15 months.
How long is your total planned trip? | A lifetime!

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Aud: We’ve tried picking countries that none of us has visited before to enjoy discovering them together (or ones that we really loved) and then we just play it be ear and decide as we go. We’ve been reading the Lonely Planet guides too.
Tonio: Aud organizes everything; I am just the follower. Seriously, we discuss each travel plan and make decisions then.

What did you learn about each other?
Well, a lot of things as we were dating only for a month before we started our travels.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Aud: Definitely do it again. And maybe try and read about the countries a bit more before so we know what we really want to do. It always seems like we could spend more time in each place.
Tonio: Of course. Maybe being a bit more organized and having a joint account from the beginning!

What was your most recurrent disagreement?
Aud: I’m not sure; I don’t think it had much to do with traveling.
Tonio: Huuuuuum no clue.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Aud: Patience! And don’t just stay with the two of you. When you’re not travelling alone, you don’t go towards people as much but it’s well worth the effort.
Tonio: Being cool, patient, and meet other travelers to “entertain”.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Aud: Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Bolivia, and Argentina. Amazing people, nature and plenty to do outdoors – love the beautiful landscapes and plenty of trekking to do.
Tonio: Japan, Laos, New Zealand, and Argentina. Respectively for its people, atmosphere, nature, and food.

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