• Travel

    Avoid Do These When In Japan

    If you have plans to visit Japan, there are some things you need to know. Familiarizing yourself with some basic Japanese cultural practices will go a long way in making your trip there enjoyable. Also, you are not likely to get into trouble. Here are things you should not do based on Japan culture.

    1. Don’t enter a house wearing your shoes

    Are you used to walking around in your house in your shoes? Well, you might get yourself in trouble if you do that in Japan. There is a special place where you should keep your shoes before entering the house. Also, there are slippers for guests when entering a room.

    2. Don’t shout on the train

    Trains are very common in Japan. However, people don’t make noise while in trains. They are always silent. If you have to speak to someone, do it in a low tone. Use your earphones if you have to listen to some music.

    3. Don’t use your phone on trains

    As indicated earlier, Japanese don’t like any noise in the trains. You will rarely find someone using his phone to make a call in the train. If you have to use your phone, send a message or talk in a low tone so as not to distract other people.

    4. Don’t eat on trains

    Japanese do not eat when traveling on commuter trains. Drinking is okay unless the train is too crowded. However, in long distance trains, eating and drinking are allowed. Food and beverages are also sold in such trains.

    5. Don’t forget to remove toilet slippers

    Once you get to Japan, you will notice that there are slippers only used when going to the toilet. These slippers are easily noticeable since they have particular words or pictures. Always remember to remove them when entering your house or walking on the streets.

    6. Don’t tip anyone

    While it is common to tip anyone after an excellent service in many cultures, Japan is an exception. No matter how satisfied you are with their service, they never accept tips. In fact, someone will come running after you, returning the tip!

    7. Don’t ignore someone you are speaking with

    If you are talking with a Japanese person, always stay calm and attentive. You may sound impolite and rude by just failing to show that you have understood a point. Whenever speaking, show your attentiveness by talking back.

    8. Don’t photograph everything

    Despite Japan being a beautiful country, you are not allowed to take photos everywhere. It is advisable to always ask someone before taking photos. You must be granted permission to take pictures in museums, temples, and shrines.

    9. Don’t hug anyone you meet

    Hugging is common in western countries. However, in Japan, it is not. You don’t hug someone you come across in Tokyo streets. Most of the older folks don’t like the habit. If you want to hug someone, then it’s best to know their age group and whether they are comfortable with it.

    10. Don’t eat or drink when walking

    It is uncommon to find Japanese eating or drinking while they are walking. Even on the streets with food stalls they always find a place to sit. Now you know how to behave when you are on Japanese streets so you don’t look foreign.

    11. Don’t receive a present with one hand

    Whenever receiving a gift or a visiting card from a Japanese, use your two hands and bow. Then tell him thank you. On receipt of a gift, don’t open it until the person who has given it to you has left.

    12. Don’t throw away trash haphazardly

    Another thing you might find hard to get used to is how to handle your trash. In most cities around the world, there are a lot of trash cans however, Japanese cities are different. People are encouraged to carry their trash until they find a place to dispose of it.

    13. Don’t fail to say “thank you”

    The verb “thank you” is highly valued in Japan. Learn to say it after being served in a hotel or store. Familiarize yourself with how bowing is done in Japan. You must always bow and say thank you when you meet with elders.

    14. Don’t write down a person’s name in red ink

    In Japan, it is OK to write “goodbye” in red ink but not a person’s name. The Japanese consider it to be disobedient. Therefore, if you have to write down your Japanese friend’s name, you know which color to avoid.

    15. Don’t be shy

    It is common for tourists to ask for help from locals. When you get to Japan, don’t be shy or afraid of asking for anything. They are very friendly and helpful. Even when you accidentally forget something somewhere, go back as no one is going to take it away.

  • Travel

    Things You Should Do When Traveling Solo

    Solo travel has become a hot topic. Unlike “single(s)” travel, it is a broader group. It can include those who are single, married or have a partner/significant other. It may be a business person looking to add a leisure weekend or extension to a trip for work. Two stumbling blocks to solo travel can be: I. whether it is lonely to vacation as a “party of one” and ii.whether eating alone, especially dinner, is really uncomfortable.

    Now having visited 68 countries and all 50 states, I have found 5 good ways to go alone without feeling you are “going it alone”.

    1. River Cruise and Small Ship Cruises

    I highly recommend river cruises and small ships. They are especially a good fit for a first time solo traveler. However, they are also great for well-traveled solos in two cases. That is where destinations like Cambodian boat villages are not otherwise easy to reach. Secondly, they work well in places where security is an issue.

    Here are the key advantages of such river and small ships for solo travelers, they:

    -Give you time alone but a group for tours and meals

    -Can be competitively priced when compared to a piecemeal approach

    -Make unpacking a one-time chore

    -Work well with land packages

    -Often have discounted package pricing including flights

    2. Select your own lodging, and take day trips.

    Here are the key advantages of this independent approach, it:

    -Affords you the opportunity to select your own interests and travel style.

    -Provides more opportunity to interact with local residents.

    -Gives you a “day-off” when you need it.

    -Works with a range of budgets.

    3. Combine both of the above approaches.

    I really favor this approach when I travel. On solo travel for 17 days at New Year’s, I toured Southeast Asia. I started with a private taxi tour in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I then joined a top Mekong River Cruise on to Vietnam. On the last leg, I had five days in a 5-star hotel in Bangkok. In my last stop, I tried all 3 ways of sightseeing: 1. A large bus tour 2. A private guide and 3. Self-directed subway tour.

    This blended approach puts you in the driver’s seat and:

    -Will let you set your own course while being free to pick and choose

    -Gives you a part-time group of travel mates but also time alone

    -Makes it possible to follow a budget (or splurges) tailored to what works for you

    4. Sign up ahead for a class abroad.

    This has become very popular now for cooking classes in France and Italy. However, for decades, language classes abroad have lured students for short-term or full summer programs. Add to that options for photography classes, skiing and scuba diving.

    Here are the key benefits to this approach.

    It:

    -Provides you with a ready-made group

    -Gives you a local contact to hear what not to miss off the tourist path

    -Make it possible to connect with classmates for meals or sightseeing

    -Results in providing local contacts in an emergency

    5. Join a volunteer group or exchange program.

    I have done this twice. My first trip out of the US was at 18 joining 5 other girls on a summer YMCA project in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the best way to learn about day-to-day life in another country and participate in community activities.

    The benefits were endless. They included:

    -Meeting local residents outside of the typical tourist path

    -Seeing distant and often more unusual destinations

    -Providing volunteer efforts to communities than may have experienced natural disasters or other hardships.

    If you are new to solo travel, take a look at each of these options. You will be surprised how fast solo travel gives you the chance to make new life-long friends from around the world so that you feel you are solo to more!

  • Travel

    Fun Traveling By Bus

    If you are planning to go on a group tour, you can have a lot of benefits by hiring a charter bus. This way you can enjoy a lot of benefits. Given below are 5 major benefits. Read on to know more.

    Environment Friendly Travel

    It’s the responsibility of all of us to keep our environmental clean and free of pollution. This is one way of staying healthy, as the air we breathe in should be clean. If you travel by bus, you will use a lot less fuel per head. A fully loaded car consumes 5 times more fuel than a loaded chartered bus. So, if you travel on a bus, you can protect the environment, which is a good thing.

    Eliminate Stress

    It may be stressful to drive to new places on your own. You may come across crazy drivers that always try to cut you off. Therefore, it’s hard to keep many cars together, blowing horns in traffic jams. In this scenario, you are more prone to accidents.

    On the other hand, if you hire a charter bus, you will travel with an expert driver who has a better idea of the roads. So, your mind is at ease throughout your journey. Therefore, you can relax and enjoy your trip. After all, you don’t want to go through all the stress when going on a tour with a group. Your purpose is to have fun. So, hiring a bus is a good idea.

    Higher Safety Rating

    Compared to traveling alone, you may not be at a higher risk of accident when going with a group on a vehicle. The fact of the matter is that the drivers of chartered buses know the latest safety procedures, so they try their level best to follow the traffic rules and stay on the safe side.

    Save Money

    The cost of traveling by a charter bus is a lot less than traveling alone. The math is simple. The total cost divided among all of the passengers, so per head cost is significantly low. As a matter of fact, you will pay several times less with this method. The money you save can be spent on other things that you love to do. Therefore, this option is cost effective.

    Enjoy the ride

    Since there is an expert driver behind the wheel, it will be easier for you to enjoy the sites. Moreover, you will be able to get a chance to socialize with others instead of focusing on a lot of unimportant things. Actually, traveling with others can be a lot fun. You will meet with new people, develop stronger relationships and even connect with some old friends.

    Long story short, if you are looking for the cheapest and cost effective way of traveling, we suggest that you give a go to a charter bus. This will save you money and you will have loads of fun. Hopefully, these are enough to help you make the best decision.

  • Travel

    Trying Volunteering Abroad

    The first time I traveled by myself was my Freshman year of college when I ventured off to volunteer in Nicaragua. A few months before I left on a flight by myself to meet a group of strangers, I was sitting in my Chemistry class in Felmey Hall when a recruit came in to spread the word about an organization I had never heard of, GIVE Volunteers. With little research I convinced myself that this was a step I should take and signed myself up. Fast forward to awkwardly sitting on an old school bus full of 30 other volunteers, traveling down a gravel road to a small fishing village on Western coast of the country. Though the first 12 hours were a little awkward and intimidating I grew to love that group of strangers and some of them are still my good friends now, four years later. We started in the small town of Jiquilillo building houses for single and abused mothers and worked our way to Little Corn Island, teaching kids and working with a recycling program.

    Poverty in some of these places were high, I saw things that I had only seen on the news before and never thought I would experience first hand. But I also gained a new respect for the world, for my family and friends and all that we have. Little did I know at the time that this trip would change who I was, how I viewed the world, and what I would want to do for the rest of my life.

    It was when my flight landed in Chicago that for the first time in my life I had a passion for something. I had done things before that I liked, such as cooking and taking art classes, things that I thought would be fun to do but I had never craved something like this passion before. I had spent the past two weeks traveling around and volunteering in Nicaragua. And those two weeks were the most meaningful weeks of my 18 years of life. At moments it was terrifying, I questioned why I went, I got sick and missed home and my mom, but the more I did and the more I feared, the more I grew and the more I realized that the best things in life are held at the other side of fear. I had to stretch past my anxiety to hop on that plane and it ended up leading me on an adventure that I can never forget. That adventure sculpted me as an individual. It lead me to the love of my internship, and the work I do around the community.

    When I was first offered my internship at Marcfirst my friends told me I was stupid for not looking for an opportunity that would offer pay. I knew it would be relatively time consuming and though doing the work for free wasn’t my first choice, it was an organization that consisted of something that I fully supported. It was that passion to relinquish into the community of doing good and helping others no matter what form it came in. I am currently seven months into my internship and I love every second of it. I would go in more if I had the time, the money means nothing to me and I fully support the work being done. It has proven that money is not the ultimate prize in life, and that happiness in what you are doing with your life is.