Preparing For a Long Journey

So what does travelling for 16 hours look for me? Is it stressful? Am I scared to travel by myself? Am I nervous about studying in a country where I can’t speak their language? These are the various questions I faced before I left. I took a flight from Minneapolis to Detroit and barely made it to the connecting flight from Detroit to Seoul. I almost gave up on being there on time, but luckily all the running didn’t go in vain. I ended up wheezing and coughing for the next hour on the flight. So, of course, it gets stressful and maybe it would have been more stressful if I didn’t catch the flight. That’s when I might worry about being by myself and having to handle it. I will never know, but I’m sure it would have worked out some way or the other because the company you fly with should arrange something for you if you’re late for a flight because of a transfer. To be honest, my mind and body do not coordinate when it comes to travelling. I have travelled so much by myself that it’s just the way it is. I might be packing up to travel, but my mind was way too relaxed because I am so busy thinking of what to take with me. Hence, it didn’t hit me that I will be in a strange country until I was at the airport security check. Yes, it was stressful the first time I travelled abroad by myself, but here’s an advice that I follow: Get help by asking anyone in the uniform at the airport if you feel unsure about anything. They will be able to help you or know where to find help.

Now, when it comes to studying abroad: Yeah, I don’t know the language, and I am all by myself from my school. I prepared by downloading some special apps for Japan.

FIRST OF ALL, GET THE GOOGLE TRANSLATE APP


It allows you to translate anything using your camera with its photo to text feature. I’m sure it’s going to be pretty useful especially if you can’t read Japanese and plan to try out local restaurants. Also, use this app to show someone what you want. People read and understand their own language, even when it is broken.

GOOGLE MAPS


Google maps will not only give you directions but will also show ways to get to a specific location. Get the local taxi apps or transportation apps like HYPERDIA by LINE.

TRANSPORTATION


If you plan to arrange your own transportation from the airport to your destination after reaching Japan, get access to data. Find out about the roaming deals offered by your carrier. Also, don’t forget to call your service provider to unlock your phone if you plan on getting a local sim card. Otherwise, you can purchase a pocket WiFi, a tethering device that is commonly used by international students in Japan. Ask for ground transportation information at info-desk at the first floor (1F) at the Kansai Airport near the North Entrance.

CASH AND CREDIT CARDS


Don’t forget to contact your bank to let them know that you will be travelling so that your transactions are not blocked. This will let you use your VISA MasterCard for any transactions at the Japanese stores, restaurants or ATM. If you’re wondering the best way to get cash upon arrival, I have come to a conclusion after a thorough research that it is best to carry out an ATM transaction at the airport. Carrying currency with you is risky and inconvenient. The ATM will charge a standard currency exchange rate plus the transaction rate. Converting currency upon arrival can prove to be pricier as there will be an extra convenience fee for the transaction. You can also use the multi-currency prepaid cards; I use Thomas Cook’s borderless payment. The card can be loaded with various currencies and can be used to pay like a credit card without any currency exchange rate or can be used to cash out at standard ATM rates. Using credit cards at the stores is another option. I know companies like Discover do not charge any currency exchange fee, but with my research, I have concluded that cash comes in handier than the cards in Japan. Make sure to have an access to the apps or the websites for online banking for any option you choose.

The ATM machines will usually have the accepted credit card logos like the following which will also be at the back of your card.


What To Carry on the Flight

How do I prepare for my trip and how do I spend my time on the long flights? What is in my backpack? I always have my camera because I love having pictures of everything. I also have polaroid because who wouldn’t like some cute pictures for their travel journal.  My mom bought me a travel kit that I carry around everywhere I go. It is one of the most useful things I have in the backpack. You can easily find one of these on Amazon, just search for “travel kits” and look for one with a lot of pockets. I fill this kit up with travel-sized facewash, a bar of soap, deodorant, one or two tampons/pads (just in case), an oral kit, an extra pair of socks- because my feet get really cold, earphones, a pack of cards – so I can engage my neighbor, a book of poetry with a tiny journal, and a pen. Remember the TSA 3-1-1 rule of carrying liquids and aerosols. Check it out at https://www.tsa.gov/videos/travel-tips-3-1-1-liquids-rule.

Other than that I have a portable charger and a hard disk drive just in case I need to back up my laptop. I also carry a multiple folder file, usually known as Harmonium folder file. I have printed all the addresses and important information with directions which I can use once I reach Japan. I reserve another folder for all my immigration documents and one for all the school documents regarding my classes. Such a folder file will prove to be very useful for even future use in Japan.

I keep a neck pillow, blanket, and a water bottle with me. I also carry an extra handbag in case I want to put these things away. Even though the airline usually provides a blanket and a pillow for a long flight, it is nice to have your own.

My flight from Detroit to Korea was 13 hours long. For a such a long flight, I suggest you eat in small portions and drink a lot of water to avoid getting dehydrated on the plane. Think about reserving yourself an aisle seat if you’re like me who likes to get up now and then to stretch or use the bathroom. I watched a lot of movies, read and wrote poetry, and of course, wrote in my journal.

Follow me on iTunes at “ayushikalyani” to find my playlist for Japan.


Ayushi Kalyani