Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Travel with ease. (楽な旅行。)

Since I'm going to be making that ridiculously long trip to Japan soon (as my seemingly endless packing would have me know), I thought that I would share the knowledge that I have learned the hard way during my two past trips, to better serve you, my dear readers, should you ever find yourself making the journey in the years to come.

Mind, if you're moving, like I am this time, you won't be able to follow some of my rules. I'll point those out for you, and apologize... though not too profusely, because hey, we're in the same boat. Empathy is all you're going to get from me, punk.

Note that I have tagged this entry with my "gaijin" label; if you follow my tips, you may very well be one step further away from "painfully obvious gaijin before you even arrive.

Trust me, it's a good thing. No one likes the painfully obvious outsider. Heck, you won't even like yourself much, come the third day in. Ah, the pressure of the gaze. There's a paper in that somewhere, I just know it.

Anyway, let's get right down to business, shall we?

Edo's Tips for Traveling to (and from) Japan

(Alas, my sense of alliteration was merely titillated, and not truly satisfied. Next time.)

1)  Pack appropriately.

This is a big one, and it applies now matter what you're ultimate goal in traveling is. Plan outfits, check out weather conditions, and think ahead. Don't leave packing to the night before, and try to set aside at least half a day to get everything together, plus any number of extra hours if you, like me, have a tendency of finding things you've forgotten over a course of days.

Remember medications, and pack them in your carry-on. This seems like basic advice you can get anywhere, but don't write it off--pants, you can live without, but when you start bleeding from the eyeballs due to a few missed pills, you'll really wish you heeded my advice.

(This applies even if you're not on eye-vessel-clotting medication.)

2) Know yourself.

This actually fits almost entirely into the above, but is important enough to merit its own section.

Know what you need, and know what you can live without. Know what you can deal with substituting, and know what you absolutely, positively, must have no matter what. In my case, it's my particular Crest toothpaste and my Bed Head shampoo and conditioner.

What can I say, I like soft hair and superb oral hygiene.

...too much information?

This also applies to carry-on luggage. What do you need to entertain you for (possibly) eleven hours at a time? Do you need four different, massively heavy books, or would your iPod and the in-flight entertainment suit you fine?

Admittedly, this is something you're going to have to figure out with some experience under your belt; it helps if you're a regular flier. Look back and try to remember what you tend to do on flights. Do you really read your books, or do you inevitably leave them shoved at the bottom of your bag, best intentions lost in the jet stream?

I only bring this up because I have the problem of underestimating my ability to keep myself entertained. Though I often pack any number of books, at least two game systems along with my iPod in my carry-on, more often than not I just listen to my music for the entirety of the flight, with maybe a movie thrown in for good measure.

(I must admit, however, that the bursitis in my left hip keeps me up and moving for most of the flight; those of you with stationary habits may be more inclined to employ a number of different entertainment means.)

But... if you're moving? So sorry, you're going to be cramming everything you possibly can into that carry-on so as not to add on to your checked luggage's weight. Keep this in mind, however, and place your vital entertainment needs on the top of the bag. 

3) Move around.

In case you hadn't noticed, it's a long flight. Even if you're separating it out into a six-hour and eight-hour chunk like myself, sitting immobile for that period of time is not going to feel like such a good plan when you're trying to stand up after landing. Even for those without my accursed joint issues, a lack of movement and a funky angle (I swear they position those seats so as to obtain maximum pain from my poor abused body) are never good in the long haul for our tender frames.

If you don't, like me, enjoy wandering the halls, dodging attendants and children as you go, just try to get up and use the restroom every hour or so. It's a good schedule to keep for your back and hips, and hey. An empty bladder is a happy bladder.

This trip, I also plan on wrapping one of those handy-dandy Thermacare heat-wraps around my hip at the half-way point; I'll tell you how that goes, and whether or not the poorly jointed among you should consider the investment.

I myself received a sample package in the mail, so truly, this is a risk-free test.

4) Stay hydrated.

Man, I sound like every magazine article on the topic now, don't I. Oh, well; if it's good advice, you deserve to hear it twice.

Most long-haul flights will send attendants up and down the aisles every hour or so with trays of water, as airlines too understand the necessity of hydration in the common traveler. If, however, you find yourself a bit parched with no refreshment in sight, simply flag someone down and request some water. If they have a decent bone in their body, the attendant should be happy to fetch you some.  

It should also be free, so no worries there. You'll find there's a lot more convenience and customer service on any flight that passes the five-hour mark. After all, attendants know better--if they make you miserable, you have a whole flight to take your revenge.*

5) Bring a brush.

This applies to a number of vanity items, actually; deodorant, eyeliner, hairclips, sandpaper. Whatever will make you feel slightly less grungy when you have to get off of the plane and go through customs deserves a spot in your carry-on and no mistake. Remember, you're spending the better part of the day in the air, and while you may not be exercising or working up a swear necessarily, you're crammed into a metal tube with something like one hundred and fifty other people. There will be some funk, and some frump.

Be prepared.

Besides, it's always easier to handle immigration officers when you feel pretty. Or, at least, not like something that got mauled by a dingo on the way over.

This is also why it's a good idea to move around and stay hydrated. Oh, and maybe chew some gum during the descent; helps with ear popping and makes your breath palatable. A win-win if I ever saw one.

Well, I may think of some more before the big day, but these are definitely the five tips to keep in mind when making the arduous journey across the Pacific. Listen to Edo, and your trip should be as easy as it can be.

... I suppose I should have amended that title a little bit. No 14+ hour journey will ever be easy, dear readers, and I hate to be the one to break it to you.

This is Edo, signing off with years taken off of her life due to the stress of packing her life away into two suitcases and a carry-on.

(*I do not in any way advocate the exacting of revenge on bitchy flight attendants; this is merely an observation. Ahem.)

1 comment:

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