Happy Anniversary! – One year down, four years to go.

A Year ago today (May 4th) this flashpacker left the states on a trip around the world.  The plan started with working over the summer in Ibiza, Spain before heading to Japan to find work teaching English.  There have certainly been more ups than downs and I’m looking forward to what’s planned for the future.

Here’s a quick recap of the last year on my journey:


Party time in Ibiza

I started by staying in Barcelona (Spain) for five days and exploring the city before heading to Ibiza (Spain) my home for the summer.  I chose Ibiza because I knew there would be a ton of work available and it felt like a good starting point for the trip.  What I didn’t expect were the problems I would have finding work while not being from the EU.  Instead of finding work as a bartender, as I had planned, I wound up doing something even better – working as a photographer shooting what some would argue are the biggest and best clubs in the world.   I met a ton of cool and crazy people before leaving to shoot a couple major festivals in London.

After Ibiza, the next major destination was Japan, where the goal was to find work teaching English.  Before heading to the land of the rising sun, however, I wanted to do a bit of traveling.  I had spent four months in Ibiza before heading up to London where I finished my photographer duties by shooting at a couple clubs and major festivals (including the Notting Hill Carnival).  I had about four days to explore London, and managed to see a good chunk of it, before I was on a plane bound for Ireland.

The Emerald Isle

The Cliffs of Moher, Flashpacking through Ireland, 2010

The Cliffs of Moher

I wandered Dublin for a couple days before signing up for my first tour bus ever.  I spent six days on “The Paddy Wagon” with a group of 20 other backpackers and flashpackers.   The highlights of the tour were the Irish pubs, small towns and the Cliffs of Moher.  We got back into Dublin and I headed straight up the coast to Belfast and Derry to experience Northern Ireland, which was absolutely amazing.  The people, the history, the murals and the Giant’s Causeway were the high spots of that part of the trip.

I had a couple days in London following Ireland to get mentally and logistically prepared for Japan.  These brief breaks are a good time to see what worked for past segments of the trip and what you need to adjust for upcoming segments.  While I had been to Europe previously, it was my first time traveling to Asia and I really had little idea what to truly expect.  Those two days between Ireland and Japan I shed excess gear, purchased things I felt I’d need, completed research on the things I needed to do once I arrived, and prepared the things I’d need for the Job hunt that was to get underway once I landed.

Land of the Rising Sun

Senso-Ji Shrine in Asakusa, Tokyo.  Flashpacking through Japan, 2010

Senso-Ji Shrine in Asakusa

Japan was a humbling experience from the beginning.  Typically, I’ll have everything I need to get to where I’m going, and such was the case the day I arrived in Osaka.  However, the language and substandard maps conspired to get me lost and overshoot a train stop on the first day.  It also took me much longer to find work (two months) than I expected, even though I had been doing everything I could to find work.   I spent the majority of two months in my hotel room sending out resumes, looking online for job postings and doing what I could via networking.  I finally found work and was hired in late November.

Ina-shi, Nagano, Japan

Ina City, Nagano Prefecture while living in Japan, 2010.

A shot of Ina from Takato Castle

I was placed in Ina, a small city in the mountainous countryside about three hours north of Tokyo by bus.  Ina is known for cherry blossoms and Romen (like Ramen but different).  It is small by Japanese standards (about 65,000 people) and isn’t exactly the situation I imagined for myself when I pictured living in Japan.  This is really the first time I’ve lived outside of the city where there isn’t much activity going on.  It’s been good for me in that I have time to work on pursuits I normally don’t give myself time for, but I’m also interested in the city experience that I came to Japan for.

Lessons Learned

Cherry Blossoms in Komagane during the summer of 2010

Cherry Blossoms in Komagane

Trips like this can’t help but shape the person you are and among many other lessons I’ve learned so far, by far the most important has been to be flexible.  Things are not going to go the way you planned.  They just aren’t.  Two years before this trip, I picked up a second job learning how to bartend just so I could use that skill to work abroad.  While it may come in handy down the line, it was useless in Spain where the laws of the land kept me from getting the work I’d planned.  You make it work.

The saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” comes to mind.  Due to the cold, snowy winter and the lack of activity, Ina isn’t exactly the place I’d choose to live.  However, I’ve made it work and know that change is coming soon.  You do what you have to to keep the trip going.

Plans for the Future

Some of the people I've met during my stay teaching English in Ina, Japan.

Friends, Students and Co-workers

That is a quick summary of the past year.  I will be in Japan for at least the next three months (until the end of July) but all bets are off after that.  If there is a good opportunity to stay for a little while longer, I might take it.  Otherwise the current outlook is Korea around August/September then over to China where I’ll hit the road for about 2 months and travel south into Thailand.  I’ll put the anchor out in Thailand where I hope to find some work and learn how to Scuba while catching up with other travelers and planning the next part of the trip.

As always, I’d love to hear suggestions on places to go and things to do, and if you have any questions for me on places I’ve been, fire away!

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