#15: Days that Try a Man’s Soul

Since I last wrote in my blog I had a lot of deep thought about what brought me to Taiwan. Yes, I’m here for the experience in and of itself and to work as an English teacher, but why am I really here? Simple, I’m here to travel and gain firsthand experience of a culture much different from my own. Such a simple missive can and was initially forgotten.

When I first arrived I spent a lot of time touring the city and then travelling throughout Japan. Then I got burnt out from constantly pushing myself to explore for 12-16 hours a day and lost sight of things. I settled into a seemingly cozy and secure job and got used to everyday life.

Days became weeks and weeks became months, and soon I found myself questioning why I came here and wondering whether I had made a terrible mistake. Thoughts of returning to Canada to continue my education or to work (under the jurisdiction of Canadian labour laws) flooded my mind and I spent several nights unable to sleep.

Without getting into too much detail (out of respect for some of the people it involves): I was in a bad situation, through little fault of my own, and needed to get out.

Every nerve in my body pushed me toward the exit sign.

In the daze of everything I reached out to some close friends and family and was given guidance. The biggest question of all became “Is it sustainable?”. A few questionable encounters followed by one final “boulder that broke the camel’s back” later, I had my answer.

Now days are much less stressful. Though I currently lack a certain measure of security, the feeling of liberation from a horrible situation is immense. I find renewed purpose in my presence here and have my eye keenly focused on why I’m really here.

Tomorrow I’m off to Hong Kong for five days for a visa run and to get some much needed R&R. The trip is mostly free thanks to AsiaMiles and credit, so I’ll be able to enjoy myself despite the city’s high costs.

Bon Voyage!

Be sure to check out my Instagram for more frequent posts and pictures.

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Travel Blog #5: Arrival in Japan

August 24: I was originally going to leave this day blank and say it was a travel day where nothing much happened. However, after the series of unfortunate events that crept into the next morning, the lack of a complete post feels far too dishonest.

My flight landed at Haneda airport in Tokyo at 10:33 p.m. Unfortunate Event (UE) #1: Despite Japan’s alleged efficiency, the customs line took nearly an hour for a relatively small amount of people. But, I suppose that’s customs for you. Things started looking up when my baggage was waiting for me.

With my head held high I made my way to the information booth to pick up my JR Pass (unlimited bullet train travel throughout Japan – versus paying $150 one-way between cities). 

UE #2: The exchange booth closed at 6:30 p.m. and I would have to wait until at least 9 a.m. the next morning to pick it up from Shinjuku station. UE #3: Traveller SIM card pickup was also closed. 

Okay, so most of the ‘UEs’ so far have been mere inconveniences. Yes, no Internet made navigation difficult and yes, having to delay my trip to Osaka the next morning meant wasting time, but things happen.

UE #4: 86% of my transport budget was wiped out. 

By the time I got to the transit area it was already 11:30 p.m. and my AirBnB was an hour away by subway. This wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that public transit dies at 12 a.m. city-wide. So, taking a taxi was the only option. Little did I know taxis in Tokyo are notorious for being among the most expensive in the world. 

The total? ¥10,130 (about $120 Canadian) for a 30 minute cab ride. (side note: Uber would have been just as expensive as they only offer “Premium” cars).

UE #4: The cab dropped me at the wrong place in the middle of a residential area. After about ten minutes of panicking I started heading to the nearest convenience store (I saw one on the way, maybe 20 minutes away by foot). 

Luckily, I ran into two locals who were about to go for an evening stroll. Despite their near absolute lack of English knowledge, they managed to help me tremendously. They used their cellphones to direct me, including calling the number I had for the AirBnB (remember, I didn’t have a SIM card) and got all the necessary information. Then they walked me ten minutes to the destination and made sure I was inside before departing. Needless to say I graciously thanked them. 

I squeezed into the AirBnB, nearly hitting my head several times. Once inside, I was welcomed by the extremely friendly host and her adorable two-year-old beagle. 

After several minutes of petting the beagle, being showed around, getting settled, and petting the beagle some more, I went to sleep for the night.

August 25: I woke up at 9 a.m., got ready, pet the beagle, and headed to Shinjuku station. After 30 minutes of waiting (for two people to take forever and also being cut in line – UE #5) I got my JR Pass. Five minutes later I had a SIM card (2GB for ¥3750 – UE #6?). Finally, 30 minutes later I caught the train to Osaka with two minutes to spare.