Travel Gear Review: Osprey Farpoint 55 Backpack

osprey fairpoint backpack

I’m a firm advocate of those who need to figure out their own travel gear and how they can make the act of moving from one place to the next easier. Travel can be extremely uncomfortable sometimes, so finding some gear that makes it simpler and less of a hassle can end up making a big difference while you’re on the road.

One thing I do believe in is having a solid backpack and making sure it suits your needs and purposes. Not all backpacks are created equal, and everyone has a different shape and reason that they might need a backpack in the first place. For me, it’s a bit more complicated than picking out one randomly. I love to hike and I need something that is portable and light, but that I can still carry a few days’ worth of clothing when I travel.

I looked into the Osprey Farpoint at 55 liters. For me, it was important to have a backpack that I could carry on flights, but that was still substantial enough that I could take it up a mountain with me if I needed to. The 55 was a good size for that and although I’ve gotten some raised eyebrows from airline attendants on whether it would fit or not, I tend to have no problem with it. I also love how Osprey is tough enough that I can transport gear in it, as well.

It was the perfect option for hiking volcanoes in Guatemala. I was able to carry my food, tent poles and flaps, camera gear, and some extras with me, and easily pack it the next day to move hotels. The fact that it is such a versatile bag is one of the reasons I love it—along with its best feature, the removable daypack.

When the backpack first arrived, I didn’t think I would be much impressed by the small daypack that “came attached.” I was more interested in the large pack and how much I could hold overall inside. With a single zip, I found I could remove the daypack with no problem, that it was exactly what I needed for day hikes or toting my computer down to a coffee shop. I was not expecting the cushioned back and laptop pocket—which has made it so much better than hauling around a computer bag or trying figuring out another option for my electronics.

There are a few things I would change about the bag, or bags, but nothing major. The hip belt on the larger bag supports the weight a little, but if you are carrying anything over 35 pounds or so, it can start to fit weirdly on your hips. Part of this might be because I am so short and it’s hard to find a hip belt that isn’t too high or low. Also, don’t expect to fit as much in the day pack as you might want. This can actually be a good thing because it deters you from trying to stuff too much in there, but if you are planning on bringing more than a few items, you might have a harder time getting everything you need in there.

Other than these minor details, I’m really pleased with this backpack and how it can serve so many purposes for travelers. No matter what you decide to do with it, Osprey has consistently good products—even though they might seem expensive at the initial purchase. This has become my go-to pack for any trip less than 10 days, and they have a great refund policy in case something isn’t up to snuff.

Do you use a specific backpack? What kind?

You can buy the Osprey Farpoint Backpack at 55 liters here.

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

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Traveling to Areas with Difficult Political Climates: Why It’s Important

travel political climates

With everything in the news going on, it’s hard to believe that traveling to some difficult political climates might be a good idea. Compromised safety, foreboding news stories, and even accounts from other travelers can make your question whether you should visit a certain destination. Despite the fact that the likelihood of being involved in a terrorist attack is minimal and that most places in the world are quite safe, there is always a stigma of seeing places that might not have the best reputation.

However, I think we need to greatly rethink why we as travelers might have this mentality and how we can go about changing it. If some areas always remain off-limits, then nothing is going to change. It’s the people who choose to acknowledge that there are safety concerns and who choose to travel as safely as possible within the areas that make a difference.

These places don’t have to be sanctioned countries like North Korea. They can be spots that others might consider as unsafe, but have a record of treating tourists well. I’ve been to a few countries where others have encouraged me not to. Egypt was one, Morocco was another. I remember reading about tourist vans getting hijacked in Guatemala and how travelers were kidnapped and held for ransom money.

I won’t lie and say that reading about these events didn’t make me worried about my planned trip to Guatemala. I spent several minutes thinking over whether I was making the right decision or not and whether I would regret my choice to go later. I thought about the risk and balanced it with the fact that I didn’t want to let fear dictate my decision. I chose to go and take the tourist buses—and Guatemala ended up being one of my favorite destinations.

Of course, there is a line of putting yourself in direct harm and choosing to go to places where something bad has a higher statistic of happening. Egypt just bordered that line. As tourists, we were well-taken care of (after an event a few decades ago caused them to tighten security), but a Coptic church was bombed only a few days after we left. You never know when something will happen, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t venture out.

I’ve always felt that as a traveler, I have a certain responsibility to the places I’ve enjoyed and traveled to. If I’ve chosen to visit that area and partake in the kindness of the people, the culture, and the sites that are offered, then it’s important to be open-minded and willing to see things from other perspectives. It’s not always easy, but recognizing that we are all individuals and dealing with difficulties is the first step to creating a better world.

Daniel and I have a trip booked to South Korea in October. We’ll be there for a month, and many have raised eyebrows when we’ve mentioned that’s where we are going. We’re not ignoring the risks—we’re thinking about how crucial it is that we show we are not afraid in this current political climate. We received the same skepticism when traveling to Egypt, to Morocco, to Spain. The truth is that the world is not as safe as we would like it to be and not as dangerous as we imagine it is.

Travelers should always be smart, but they shouldn’t be scared. Do your research and know what you might have to face when visiting a different country, but don’t let that stop you when it comes times to make the decision to book the ticket.

Where have you traveled to that has a difficult political climate?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Travel Photo Manipulation: Please Stop Doing It

travel photo manipulation

There’s been a large debate in the travel blogging sphere of what we should do about photo manipulation and whether or not we as travel influencers should employ it when we post about our journeys. As the internet usually makes things, it seemed to come down the idea of whether images that are manipulated are really truthful to what a culture and place is like.

The blogger who has received the most flack lately is Amelia Liana, who seems to have taken the World Trade Center building out of pictures of the New York City skyline, erased tourists and local Indians from the Taj Mahal, and stoutly defended herself and why she went to the effort to make these already sought-after destinations more photo-worthy:

“I would never wish to deceive you, and so I have established these principles and shared them with you, so that you understand that I am striving for authenticity as well as giving you imagery that is stylish, progressive, and inspiring.”

In theory, I see nothing wrong with photo manipulation. We all have times where we choose to crop out fellow travelers from our photos, and where we know the lighting wasn’t great and easily fixable. I’ve had gunk on my lens, have cropped some photos to work better with various platforms, and played around with settings on my camera to get the right shot.

But I do understand where the anger is coming from and why this has been such a huge issue on the internet. I’ve talked about traveling authentically before and how as a travel blogger, it’s important to be honest with readers about what’s going on. After so many years of escapism through social media, it seems things have been turned around and influencers have had to find new ways to appeal to followers.

Being straightforward about what traveling to these countries is like and the ethical concerns involved is important. While most of probably know that the Taj Mahal is jam-packed or that the World Trade Center Building dominates the city’s skyline, it’s the idea that you are manipulating a place that everyone shares (and not just an image of yourself) that has made people angry.

Personally, I find it hard to manipulate my photos. Even on my Instagram page, I don’t use filters because most the places I visit really are that beautiful—they don’t need all the extra technology in order to make them look worthy of visiting. I never did get a good picture of the Mona Lisa since there were too many people who were trying to take a photo alongside me. But that was all part of the experience. By photo-shopping other tourists or locals out, you are giving an inaccurate representation of what a place truly is.

Good photos take time and effort, and I love seeing beautiful pictures of new and favorite destinations as much as the next person. But the focus of travel shouldn’t be visiting a place because of the photo—but maybe in spite of it.

The anger directed at Liana might have been a little strong, and she was doing what she could to inspire her followers to travel. However, I understand the sentiment that many were feeling. Life is gritty and imperfect and travel is too. Showing all of it, including the bad parts as well as the good, is really what we should be doing as travel bloggers. It’s not always easy, but neither is choosing to really expose yourself as a traveler in the first place.

Have you ever manipulated a travel photo?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

5 Things United States Citizens Can Learn from Other Cultures

united-states-cultures

One of the things I love about how travel opens your mind is how it changes your perspective on your own culture. You start to notice the things you love about the place you grew up, and also what you wish you could change, as well. I think all of us need to experience that at some point in our lives. Whether it is a short vacation or living abroad more permanently, your ideas of how the world works are never quite the same after you’ve been someplace else.

Out of any group, I feel as though we as United States citizens can learn the most from being abroad and seeing things from other angles. We have a very strict idea of how governments should be run, how people should be treated, and how finances are so involved with our daily lives.

Here are 5 things that I’ve changed my mind on when traveling—and ways I think our system can change.

1. We need to slow the f*ck down

I’ve been to countries far, far more laid back than my own, and I can tell you from experience, being busier does not necessarily make you happier. It does make you feel like you can’t enjoy the things you’ve worked for properly, or to take a moment and appreciate the moments and experiences that make life worth living. We’re so focused on running around socializing, attending concerts, and hitting our required number of steps that we forget to enjoy what we’re actually doing.

2. We need to care less about money

Money can’t buy love—just as it can’t buy worthwhile conversations, beautiful sunsets, and laughter. There’s nothing wrong with working hard and making money, but if it is taking away from your life and what you really want to do then you might be doing it for the wrong reasons. I’ve known happy people who have lived out in the Sahara Desert with nothing, and miserable people with everything they could ever want. Things are nice until they are not—and you can’t purchase your time back.

3. We need to enjoy eating

Along with both these things comes with the fact that we take only a few minutes out of our days to eat. It used to annoy me living in Italy and Spain knowing that an afternoon lunch was likely to go on for hours. ‘Don’t these people have a better place to be?’ I always thought. The fact is that they didn’t—and that eating as a family and friends was a huge part of what made their days worth something. I’ve forgotten the meals I’ve eaten at a desk, but I will never forget the giant lunch I shared with some Greek friends in Thessaloniki and how I learned so much about them and their culture that way.

4. We need to be more spiritual

I’m not saying we need go searching for a shaman in the jungle who will read our fortunes and require us to say 10 Hail Marys (but if you’re into that kind of thing, go for it). What I am saying is that most places around the world do have some sort of connection to the past and what created the culture. Catholics in Italy might not go to church regularly, but they seek something beyond themselves. Hindus and Buddhists still meditate. We as United States citizens tend to believe that spirituality is a thing of the past, but it’s really a part of us as human beings.

5. We need to be more connected

I knew so little about the world outside my home before I started traveling. No matter how much I read, or how much I tried to know, it wasn’t the same as actually being there. We are an isolated nation, and we like it that way. But if we isolate ourselves too much, we can’t claim to be aware of what is going on globally, or more, how we can help one another and the planet. Travel opens doors and reminds us how small we are and how we all need to work together.

I love the United States in many ways. However, these are things I always hope I keep in mind once I have finished exploring the world.

What do you think we as United States citizens should change?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Back in Japan: Re-Exploring Tokyo Part Two

exploring tokyo two

Heading back to Tokyo was one of the major highlights of my travels last year. It’s always fun for me to visit a city where you can enjoy walking around. While it might seem like you have to hit certain spots when you visit a place, sometimes the most enjoyable days are the ones when you don’t have an agenda.

After a day filled with visiting the Asakusa Temple, viewing Tokyo from above at the Tokyo Skytree, and enjoying plenty of arcades and delicious ramen, we took to the streets of Shibuya to see an entirely new part of the city. Since Shibuya crossing is the busiest in the world, we spent several minutes in a viewing platform in the metro station, watching Tokyoites run to work and school. It’s moments like these when you are reminded how much of the world we don’t know about and what makes these individuals tick.

shibuya crossing japan

Journeying into the heart of the crossing, I loved seeing how the city had changed since I had been there two years before. In a city like Tokyo, there always seems to be something new to see. Between the new installation of a King Kong-like gorilla on one of the sides of the buildings to the advertisements for various anime shows, it was almost like visiting a brand new city.

gorilla tokyo japan

tokyo street japan

Moving from Shibuya to the edge of Shinjuku, we found ourselves fascinated by the shops and the variety. We found seedy sex shops, toy stores with innocent-looking Pokémon staring out at us, and some fun bookstores where you could pick up the newest manga. We explored all of these. I’ve never been much of a shopper, but it was impossible not to get up in the consumerism and the unique items available.

Of course, a visit to Japan wouldn’t be complete without some karaoke. Popping into one of the local spots, we enjoyed a free drink and picked some of our favorites. (Daniel, Eric, and I are big Billy Joel fans, so we queued up some of his greatest hits.) After about an hour or two of belting out some of the 70’s and 80’s best songs, we hit the streets again.

daniel eric japan

Walking by some sushi places, we found ourselves on a new mission—to find one that was within our budget. After using the Tokyo WiFi system (you can access it for a small fee over several days—or you can go to any 7-11 and get it for free), we found one just on the edge of the Shinjuku and Ginza neighborhoods. Climbing up some narrow stairs, we were motioned over to three places along the sushi belt.

sushi place tokyo

Ordering our choices on the tablet provided, it took a large amount of restraint not to order everything. Regular Japanese customers looked over at us and giggled. They showed us how to pick our order gave us some recommendations. After a few minutes, delicious sushi was delivered to us on the conveyer belt. Although we had tried to find a spot where we wouldn’t deplete our bank accounts, we all ended up spending much more than we wanted to because we couldn’t stop eating.

sushi tokyo japan

Happy and full, we began waddling back to the metro, where we would head back to our AirBnB that we had rented for the next few nights. It had been a day filled with new surprises, which is why Tokyo is a place I will always go back to if I have the chance. It’s fun to visit a place that is constantly evolving and that you can love in new ways every time you visit.

Do you have a city like that where you feel you can always go back to?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Post It: Why Social Media Is Necessary for Your Travel Blog

social media travel

When people ask me occasionally about starting a travel blog and how they can succeed, I always hate telling them that social media is a big part to making everything work. We all have our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, but knowing how to use them can be a bit more of a challenge. It’s a constant struggle having an idea of how to market yourself through social media, but unfortunately, it’s become a huge part of being a travel blogger.

When I first started blogging, I kept hoping that I could keep my social media and my blog separate. I thought that maybe readers would just be interested in the content—that the two didn’t have to be connected. However, the more time I spent writing, the more I realized that most the people who would care subscribed to my posts on social media channels.

This meant deleting pictures of my dog and my daily coffee on Instagram, learning to use hashtags, and rebranding myself as a traveler. No one cared about my daily life—they wanted to see the most exciting parts of my travels and the places I had gone. It took hours to go through my social media pages and narrowing things down to what represented my brand and what I wanted to share with others.

It meant bothering others by posting my newest blog post, any announcements relating to partnerships that I signed with, and things I found exciting. I felt guilty clogging up Facebook feeds, but with the way blogging works, I had no choice and realized that if people really didn’t want to see what I was writing, they could change the settings on their accounts. Facebook has become more of a promotional tool for me than a way to connect with friends (though I do that too).

It’s not enough just to write great posts filled with travel information and beautiful photos. While that will be what attracts readers over the long run (and the reason they keep coming back), they need to find a way to get there first. Social media serves as that conduit to attract readers initially. And if the message you share on social media is inconsistent, you aren’t going to have a steady stream of people visiting your blog.

Social media also takes up a lot of time. That was one thing I didn’t realize when I starting to promote myself. In fact, I spend more time scheduling my social media posts than I do writing. Promotion has taken over the majority of my time—and much of that has to do with how I show off posts on social media. I don’t like spending hours on Later when I could be traveling, reading, or pretty much doing anything else, but social media and Instagram is a big part of how I share any announcements with readers and work with companies.

So how do you put together a solid posting plan for social media? First, always bring it back to what you are writing and why. Who do you want to read your blog? From there, you’ll want to craft social media posts and campaigns around that. My main readership is ethical, environmentally-conscious travelers who like adventure. So I post a lot of content about ethical travel and how we can be more conscious about our footprint on the world on our adventures. People have come to expect that, so a picture of my dog (no matter how cute) doesn’t fit.

Social media has become such a necessary evil for travel bloggers, and I still have a lot to learn. Things are always changing, and we’re always looking to find the best way to promote what we believe in as travelers.

How do you brand yourself on social media so your readers know what to expect? Any tips for newbies?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Travel Book Review: Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

travel book review1

One of my very favorite activities other than travel is reading. Combine these two things together and you’ve made one very happy camper. I always head to the travel section of the bookstore when I can. It’s always fascinating to see how others see locations I’ve already been to or ones that are on my list. Whether I always agree or not, it’s nice to hear about how others view the world and learn something new.

I picked up Vagabonding by Rolf Potts the other day as a suggestion. What drew me to this book was the way it advocates long-term travel as a lifestyle choice. For those who might be hesitant about trying a digital nomad lifestyle, this is a book worth looking into. Potts makes a strong case for this type of lifestyle and how it can suit those who have been looking for a way to travel the world over a long period of time.

Part philosophical, part self-help, this book lays out some options and idea if you are planning on leaving your job behind. Written in 2002, it was published a bit before the internet was perceived as a resource, so some of the information is a little outdated for those looking to live a more digitally-inclined lifestyle. However, the ideas based on the philosophy of long-term travel is spot-on even today.

Potts is honest and straight-forward with us about how we should go about enjoying our experiences abroad—even though at sometimes it might be uncomfortable.

“Thus, the question of how and when to start vagabonding is not really a question at all. Vagabonding starts now. Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tinge of possibility.”

–Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

 This no-excuses attitude can be a little grating if long-term travel isn’t an option for you. Even though this can be a little irritating if you don’t see yourself on the road anytime soon, Potts does have a point and some valuable advice for those who want to get the most out of their travels. His section on interacting with locals and how to approach cultural differences is extremely helpful—especially as a millennial traveler looking to be socially and environmentally ethical.

Potts also offers a fair argument for the traveler versus tourist debate, which goes to show that it is a long-standing argument how we should choose to see ourselves when we travel. Potts agrees that this is something we as travelers need to get over and that we can learn much by being both at various points in our journeys.

Most of all, Vagabonding encourages really getting to know a culture. Quality is better than quantity, which isn’t an option for all travelers—long-term or short. When it’s possible, I do believe slow travel offers more benefits than rushing from country to country, but that is an individual choice based on budget and time. Is it better that a traveler takes an opportunity to visit a place instead of not, even if it is only for a day or two?

These are all good questions that Potts raises and if Vagabonding made me think of anything, it was that I’m not the first to adopt a nomadic lifestyle—and that it can be a legitimate life choice for those who want to take it up. To be encouraged to try long-term travel is not a common thing, and it was refreshing to read a book that championed an alternative lifestyle.

You can buy Vagabonding here:

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Have you read any books that encourage a nomadic lifestyle? Any recommendations?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

I Respect Siesta: That Doesn’t Mean I Like It

hate siesta spain

Leaving a culture where you have grown accustomed to a certain kind of lifestyle can be hard. After all my travels and after living abroad in two countries now, there are always some aspects you love about the culture and wish to adopt, and others that you are happy to leave behind. I hated the rush and bustle of New York, but I loved the culture and the open-mindedness there. Montana felt so empty to me in many ways, but I love the harmony you experience with nature and the people.

After living in Spain for six months, there are definitely some things I’m going to keep in my current life and others that inherently frustrated me. Tapas? The laid-back attitude? A constant stream of music coming out of a neighbor’s window? This I all loved about living in Granada.

But, to be frank, I hated siesta.

I’ve blogged a lot about how North Americans can be more open to other ways of living, and why that is important. However, coming from the United States definitely contributes to my way of looking at things—sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively. Siesta was a part of living in Spain that annoyed me. In between working, fitting in the gym, grocery shopping, and daily living, it was frustrating to have to base my schedule around this system where everything was closed in the afternoon.

It wasn’t just Spain, either. I can’t remember how many times when I lived in Italy that I had to base my life around siesta hours. Forget picking up items on my way back from my daily run or trying to call the computer repair shop during dead hours. It was something I would constantly forget about until I had to deal with it.

The thing is, especially after living through the hot Andalusian summers, I totally understand the concept of siesta and why it was so needed in the past. With things so hot, it would have been impossible to get anything done in the afternoon. (And, let’s face it, we all love afternoon naps.) Siesta makes sense in the framework of the culture and why it was needed in the past. With air conditioning and most of work done indoors in our modern society, it doesn’t anymore.

I had been thinking about this when I walked to the gym in Granada the other day and it was closed. Usually, it had been open during afternoon hours, but had closed for siesta in July because if the brutally hot weather without warning. I was frustrated since it was quite the walk to get there. As much as I understood why this was the case, there was part of me that was still angry that this was a part of the culture.

It’s a good reminder that although you can respect a certain aspect of a culture and you can understand why it exists, that doesn’t mean you have to like it. You have to prescribe to those rules because you have no choice—you are a foreigner within that environment, but that doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy them.

Siesta was something about Spain that wasn’t my favorite. Late (or non-arriving) buses in Italy drove me up the wall. I hated being harassed as a woman in Egypt and how café culture had taken over Croatia and I couldn’t find food.

But the thing I’ve learned from this is that it doesn’t have to be the defining characteristic of the country you visited or lived. Siesta was such a small part of living in Spain for me. And who knows? I might learn to miss it over the next few months of being back in the United States.

What aspects of a culture have annoyed you when you’ve traveled or lived abroad?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Helping Others Right: How to Volunteer Correctly on Your Travels

volunteering while traveling

What I love about having this blog is connecting with other travelers who want to help the world they travel in. It’s been so amazing to hear stories from others on how they have made the planet better through their travels and connections they have made on the road. This blog is a bit of a celebration of how many people truly care about making the world a better place.

For those who might be looking on how to volunteer abroad or make a difference, it can be a little confusing about how to get started. I wrote a post about a year ago on how voluntourism can sometimes end up hurting a location and the people who live there more than helping it. As conscious travelers, we want to avoid that as much as possible on our journeys and make sure that our efforts are helping rather than harming.

So how do you know which ways you can end up contributing to the world positively? It’s taken me some time and research to find which ways I can personally help others. Every traveler has various interests and certain ways that he or she wants to contribute, so finding out what you are passionate about and what you feel you can lend can add a lot to your volunteer efforts.

Also, checking out long-established organizations that have partnered with reputable non-profits is a great way to narrow down which programs are only in it for the money. The voluntourism industry often tends to skim some of the profits off the top for their own gain rather than giving it to the people or animals who really need it. This isn’t always the case, but it’s always a good idea to do some research before you sign up for a program.

Many tour companies and programs now strongly oppose to volunteering in orphanages. While children are often the people you want to help the most, a whole industry has been created around having tourists visit for a few days, only to leave the kids behind. It’s been shown to encourage the sex trade and children make connections with volunteers—only to have them leave a few days later. Instead, donations through organizations like Children International can encourage children to stay in school. 90% of your contribution goes to helping kids, which the price of flights, room and board, and much else does not when volunteering at orphanages.

Some of the best ways to help the world while traveling is by making conscious decisions when you do so. Take buses and trains if you can instead of flying. Use reusable containers for shampoo and body wash when you can. Pack light and donate old clothes after you’re finished with a journey. One of the best things I ever did was buy a refillable water bottle. Even if I had to purchase a plastic one in countries where water isn’t always clean from the tap, I could make sure the plastic bottle was recycled properly.

Most of all, being respectful of the place you are traveling to is the best way to show that you care. Be open to seeing things from other perspectives, buy gifts from local artisans and be a patron at local businesses. Ask the locals if they would recommend a good place for you to help out if you are unsure about which places are positively impacting the area.

I’ve also learned that volunteering at home helps, as well. Plant a tree, pick up trash, participate in a local food drive. You don’t have to travel around the world to do some good!

How have you chosen ways to give back while traveling (or at home)?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Back in Japan: Re-Exploring Tokyo

It always surprises me how sometimes you end up going back to some places that you never thought you would. After journeying to Tokyo two years before, I was shocked when we found some unmissable deals on flights there. Daniel had never been, and Daniel’s brother, Eric, decided to come along too. Booking our tickets, I was thrilled to be going back to a place that had such meaning to me.

My initial trip to Japan was one of my most eye-opening journeys. It taught me a lot about myself and how capable I was as a solo traveler. While I stayed with a good friend (one of my oldest from childhood who was going to school there, Trevor), much of the navigation and sightseeing I did on my own. Japan was much further out of my element than any place I had been, but it was also the most exciting.

Flying out of New York, we arrived in Japan twelve hours later. For those interested in going and staying in Tokyo, I would recommend looking at AirBnB. Hotels are notoriously expensive, and hostels are few and far between. For a bit more room and a glimpse at a typical home in Tokyo, you can find a place to stay on the AirBnB sites for less. Although I’ve had my issues with the site in the past, there wasn’t really an alternative for our budget.

asakusa lantern tokyo

Revisiting some of the tourist sites of Tokyo brought back strange memories. Strolling through the Asakusa Temple reminded me of who I was two years previously and how I had changed. That’s one of the things I love about traveling—revisiting places can sometimes add even more meaning to the location than just visiting once. I was in a much different place when I first witnessed the beautifully-carved temple with incense in the air and tourists in the crowd.

daniel eric tokyo

lanterns asakusa tokyo

We snapped a few photos, and it was fun to see the look of wonder on Eric’s and Daniel’s faces. I remembered that they hadn’t been there before, and that they were forming their own experiences with the place. With its peaceful atmosphere and devotion of the worshippers who came to have their fortunes read, it was a place that would astound you—and it still remains one of my favorite places to see in Tokyo.

alex daniel eric

After a few hours there, we stopped at some local arcades. Gaming spots are huge among the Japanese people. Daniel loves video games, and it was hilarious to see he and Eric try and accomplish a win or two on machines where they couldn’t understand the language. Strolling through the shopping arcades, you know that you are in Japan—there is no place quite like the shopping areas of Tokyo. We hadn’t yet made it to Ginza (which more than shocked me the first time), but even seeing how much capitalism is a part of their country now is worth a peek inside.

arcade tokyo japan

shopping arcade tokyo

Finally, we ended the day with a trip up the Tokyo Skytree. Again, there is always a reason to return to places that you’ve been. I was too broke to experience the Skytree the last time I was in Japan and I had skipped it. But this time, I was happy that I could make the trip up the tallest tower in the world. Tokyo stretched out miles before us. No matter who far you looked, you couldn’t see the end of it. It’s a reminder of how much we as Americans forget about others in this world and how many more cultures and people exist outside our bubble of pop culture and media.

tokyo skytree japan

tokyo birdseye view

It was a perfect (second) first day in Tokyo for me, and a reminder to always be willing to see a place with new eyes years later.

Have you ever returned to a favorite spot? How did you see it differently?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander