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Travel to Tokyo: How my first solo trip changed my life

A group of Female travel bloggers prompts me an interesting idea to write within 1 hour about a travel event that changed my perspective on life. ONE HOUR. Yes, you’re reading correctly! I normally need more than 5 hours for an article, so it’s surely interesting to challenge myself to write in a fast-speed. About the topic, I’ve had many memorable experiences during my trip, but my first solo trip to Tokyo was a total life-changing event. Let’s read my story below.

 

Background

Tokyo was actually not the first place that I visited in Japan. I first left my home country – Vietnam since I was 18 years old to study abroad. A flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Fukuoka was the first time that I ever got on an airplane, and Japan was the first country that I traveled abroad.
At that time, I didn’t start traveling alone or think about doing a solo trip. In Vietnam, I just visited some cities with my family, and in Japan, I did camping, field study trips, weekend trips, but I was always with a group of people. I was in my comfort zone and didn’t try to break it. With me, traveling alone was lonely and dangerous.

 

Why did I travel alone to Tokyo?

Tokyo – the capital of Japan with lots of interesting culture and beautiful places. Even though I live in Japan, Tokyo is totally different from my place, a small spa town in the South of Japan.

I was thinking of visiting Tokyo for a long time but didn’t have a chance to do it. Eventually, I had to go to Tokyo because I had to apply a visa to Denmark for my exchange. (I studied at Copenhagen Business School for 1 year as an exchange student)

 

Preparation

Since it was my first time traveling alone, I decided to do something differently.

  • No Mobile Data during the trip
  • Using Maps and asking people if I got lost
  • Not booking any accommodation beforehand
  • Preparing a small plan for the first day about what to do, where to go, what to eat

That’s it! I took a small backpack which I used daily to school with me, and went on a solo trip to Tokyo 🙂

 

Travel on a budget to Tokyo

1st day

I was overwhelmed when I first got to Narita airport. “Wow! There are so many people!” – I first thought.

I decided to spend my first day at Ueno Park, which is a popular park with lovely walking paths and several museums. There were so many people at the park that day, so I had to wait in a long line to get into a dinosaur museum. It was quite weird at first when being alone and seeing only couples or friend groups around, but I had a good time exploring the museum and the park on my own.

Solo trip to see Dinosaur

My first time seeing a dinosaur

Spending an evening in Shibuya area, I visited the famous Shibuya crossing. It was crazy to see how many people were crossing at that intersection at once. At some point, I did not feel lonely anymore. Instead, I felt happy that I could explore a new place on my own.

Shibuya Crossing Street

There are so many people crossing at the same time at Shibuya intersection.

On that day, I also went to a restaurant alone for the first time and enjoy some Japanese food. It was actually okay because that sushi restaurant offered single chairs for solo travelers. I could enjoy my dinner in my speed and not worry whether I ate too fast or too slow.

A sushi restaurant where you can enjoy your meal alone.

So, how did I sleep at night?

Trying to catch free wi-fi at McDonald’s, I found out the nearest Internet Cafe to sleep. I paid for a small area (2×2 square meters) for 8 hours and spent my first night there. The Internet Cafe had a corner for female travelers, so I didn’t need to worry about the safety. I then planned for the following day’s activities while eating free ice-cream from this place. Yes, Internet Cafe in Japan offers free ice-cream and drink bar!

A room at Internet Cafe

 

2nd day

On the next day, I woke up early at 6 am, caught a train and visited Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and Takeshita Street. Even though I got lost at first, I figured out where to go thanks to the help from a local man.

It’s an interesting part of traveling, right? Getting lost and let the road be your guide.

Takeshita Street in Tokyo

I accidentally came across Takeshita Street. This place was full of people!

At night, I chose to stay at the Internet café just like the previous day, but I couldn’t find the place. A Japanese girl offered to help me, and she even took me along the way to the Internet café. It was so nice of her to do so.

 

3rd day

I visited Shinjuku Gyoen in the morning and spent my time enjoy beautiful nature. Because I have a goal to try Vietnamese Pho around the world, I had my lunch at a Pho restaurant in Tokyo. I was surprised when the owner suggested me to visit a Vietnamese festival nearby. “Wow, what a coincidence! I’m in Tokyo and now there’s a Vietnamese festival”. I was so happy to attend my home country festival in this country since I missed Vietnam food a lot. Although it was a Vietnamese festival, there were food stands from all over the world, and many performances as well. I had a good time at the festival, talking with people and making new friends.

Vietnamese festival in Tokyo

Yummy food at Vietnamese Festival in Tokyo

 

My most memorable experience

I wanted to visit and buy cheesecake from a famous cheesecake store that I saw on Facebook many times. However, without the Mobile data, I got lost and couldn’t find the way. I tried to ask an old lady for the instruction, but she didn’t know the location. Luckily, a man nearby just offered to help me to find that store. We walked together in 30 minutes, crossed lots of street and buildings, and finally got to the place.

You know what, that mall has 7 floors and 5 underground floors! I was thinking about giving up but he still wanted to help me. We literally walked around the mall, went to 6 different floors, asking tons of people to find the place! We finally found this cheesecake stand on the 2nd underground floor after that.

That man asked me “How did you know about the place?”

I said “Ah… I saw the cheesecake on Facebook”

He was surprised by my answer and said that I knew more about Tokyo than him (haha!). He said goodbye to me because he had to get back to work. The cheesecake was really yummy, but 1-hour walking and finding were just too much!

Impression

I was so surprised by how nice people at Tokyo were.  They literally spent their time helping other people! That guy was a complete stranger, but he was willing to help. I heard the story from my friends that a guy went with them the whole way on the train to guide them to the correct place, and I kinda doubted it, but this experience made me believe in the kindness of people 🙂

 

How my first solo trip changed my life

Independence

Remember how I thought about a solo trip? I never expected that I would travel alone, and now I’m more than happy to do that. Now, I feel comfortable to travel everywhere on my own. Also, I know how to take care myself while on a solo trip.

 

Freedom

The freedom to decide where to go, what to eat and when to do it make my trip amazing. When traveling solo, I’m not tied to anyone’s plan or schedule and don’t need to worry about other’s feeling. Also, I can travel in my space, and enjoy the destination in my style. I’m growing my love for solo trip <3 

 

Communication & New friends

At that time, I was still super introvert and didn’t spend time outside my circle. When I traveled in a group, I just talked to my friends or family and didn’t try to communicate with anyone else or even local. I didn’t try to see the place in local eyes at all.

When I travel alone, I start to talk to different people on the road. I start making lots of new friends and learning how to interact with different people. I never thought that I could just talk to a random person and spend a good time with them.

 

Open-mindedness

Talking to different people out of my circle helps me become more open-minded. I started to accept the differences in people, and value the differences in cultures and living styles. Also, I tried different activities on my solo trip, rather than just being a “normal tourist”. I let the road be my guide 🙂

 

Now, I’m a big fan of solo travel. I’ve been traveling alone since then, and I’ve visited 25 countries on my own. Traveling alone gives me the power to do things that I cannot imagine of, and being a travel blogger is one of these. Now, I’m using my voice to encourage more female to explore the world!

More articles about Japan


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Travel to Tokyo: How my first solo trip changed my life | solo travel | Female Travel | Travel alone


What travel experiences have changed your life? You’re welcome to discuss with me in the comment.

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