I have amazing friends that inspire me to see the world and live a meaningful life. Their stories are worth being shared as well. I will be featuring some of my favorite people here on the blog to showcase a community of like-minded travelers!
Today, I'm featuring my good friend Ashley. We recently traveled through Europe together, but we go wayyyy back. She's one of my really good high-school friends that I still keep in touch with. Ashley has the most beautiful heart and her laugh is contagious. She enjoys traveling just as much as I do and and we'd been wanting to do a trip together for a while. I'm so glad that we pulled it off, because we had the best time exploring Portugal & London. We rented a car, slept on the beach, couchsurfed for the first time and just had so much fun exploring(VIDEO COMING SOON:)).
Just before our trip together, Ashley spent the summer in Japan. This was her second time traveling to Japan by herself and she loved it more than the first. I've never been to Japan, but I am definitely inspired to go after hearing her stories. Her experiences were extremely personal, which make this interview really special. Knowing that her experience was unique, I asked her to share a bit about it on my blog. She happily agreed and I'm excited for you all to read! Check out our mini interview below!
1. You spent the summer in Japan. What were you doing there?
I initially went because I have a cousin who is only a few years younger than me and I wanted to build a relationship with her. However, I unfortunately only saw her once in the 2 months I was there. I also went to build a stronger relationship with my grandmother and to hopefully meet the rest of my family.
2. You traveled there alone. How was that experience?
The experience was phenomenal because I have amazing friends in Japan and I also made two American friends who were staying in the apartment next door and volunteered in the same coffee shop. I am an extrovert and love being around people. So every night I stopped by their apartment and relaxed and talked with them for a while before heading next door to solidarity. I always had a friend to meet up with, but I also had the freedom to explore and be alone on a crowded subway with my book.
3. What was the greatest cultural barrier that you had to deal with?
Bowing to people instead of hugging them. I also sometimes wished they stuck to their culture of bowing and not shaking my hand like Americans do. I hate shaking hands because I hate getting other people’s germs on my hands. It prevents me from being able to touch my face, rub my eye, ect.
4. Favorite meal/food in Japan?
The food in Japan is so delicious and I indulged everyday! It was okay, because I walked many miles a day. My favorite sushi place in Oyama had plates for 100 yen each which is roughly a $1. You can get full off of 3 or 4. My grandma took me to really nice restaurants in the train stations where I had amazing Tendon, which is a rice bowl with tempura meat.
5. With a Japanese mother, I know that you knew quite a bit of Japanese before spending the summer there. How did your Japanese improve after working & living there?
I was able to express myself better and quicker without stuttering so much. I have a limited vocabulary. Since my mother is the only person who spoke to me in Japanese growing up, I don’t many synonyms which can make conversing difficult at times. For example, my mom always tells me that I’m kawaii or kirei (cute/pretty). So when someone called me gorgeous, I was confused because I never heard that word before. Synonyms throw me off. I may be used to hearing the word “quick” but when you say “fast” I have no idea what you’re speaking of. I also can’t understand the news well because my mother doesn’t speak to me in a formal, professional way.
6. What are some things that you learned about yourself during your time in Japan?
I don’t think I learned much about myself per say. I think I learned a lot about God. At the beginning of this trip, I didn’t have a relationship with my grandmother and I honestly didn’t like her. However after reading the bible and praying, God kept encouraging me and moving me to love her with enthusiasm - the way he loves me. After that, I started writing my grandma letters; sharing with her my favorite memories, my first job and other things she missed out on. When I met up with her for lunch again we had an amazing time. My heart overflowed with love for her. I realized that when God tells you to do something and you are obedient and faithful in it, it will never end in gain. I’m glad that I followed God, because I gained a beautiful relationship with my grandmother.
7. What were some things that you learned about others during your time there?
When you don’t care for someone, ask God to show you what he loves about that person. I had to ask God what he loved about my grandmother, because at the time I couldn’t see it. Then he showed me and I adore her.
8. Is there an aspect of the Japanese lifestyle/culture that you’d like to introduce into your every-day life?
Walking or biking instead of driving everywhere.
I wish others would take off their shoes in their home.
9. Do you see yourself returning? Why or why not?
Definitely. I have to. I want to continue getting to know my grandmother and also reaching out to my cousin.
10. What was your favorite part of our trip together?
All of the friendships that I gained. I truly have life long friends. Good friends who supported me and loved me during my stay in Japan.
11. If you could spend time anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I want to go back to Costa Rica and visit friends and see La Fortuna since I didn’t go there. I would like to go to Istanbul and Morocco. Visit the southern part of Spain. I want to go back to Italy - I have wonderful friends there that I’d like to see again. Tokyo of course, I will always want to go there.