We all struggle to become closer to “understanding ourselves,” and to fathoming what exactly that phrase would mean for each of us. Navigating life in the twenty-first century and all the issues that accompany it for most maturing twenty-somethings, makes it difficult to interpret personal thoughts, sometimes confusing actions, and puzzling and shifting wants and needs. Taking advantage of traveling abroad to get to know the most up-to-date you could be one of the best things to come out of your overseas adventures. There are a few places I discovered that boast a quiet escape in Japan, but these spots may give you ideas for potential paradises in any place you visit. Finding activities that allow you to embrace “me time” to its full potential will contribute to an overall relaxing and rewarding journey abroad.
Pull Over at Parks
Take a chunk out of your busy schedule and set it aside for breathing in anything green; chilling at a park and even taking a short stroll through tree-lined streets will help to ease your system, especially if you have a lot going on during your time abroad. Near the campus I attended, there was a semi-hidden bagel shop next to a small park. Grabbing a bagel there and heading over to sit surrounded by the stone and trees created a bubble in time that I could use to reflect on my life as a whole while abroad. Making the outdoors a part of your weekly routine—whether it’s walking down suburban streets and taking the long way home, or going all-out to visit popular parks or nature spots—gives you the opportunity to tune out and really take in all that you experience.
Touring and seeing the sights with your buddies or an organized group can be a lot of fun, and you may see or learn things that you wouldn’t have been able to catch if you were going it alone. But sometimes trekking to a crowded tourist spot or visiting sprawling temple grounds all by your lonesome can bring out the best in these travel moments. In Japan I took a spontaneous subway hop over to Hachiko, a station exit that hosts the loyal pup’s statue. I was surrounded by the city lights and the buzz of indistinguishable voices, snug up against passing bodies and poofy winter jackets. As I stared up at the statue and spun to look at those around me, I felt the enormity of life in that fully unexplored country. It offered a nugget of the “me time” I forgot I needed.
Find Your Favorites
If you end up traveling with a group, you’re bound to find restaurants or other places that you’ll add to your list of favorites. In your free time, look for your own set of faves—a thrift store, a brunch spot, a coffee shop—anything that you can enjoy as your own private discovery. My favorite bowl of ramen waited for me in a little shop along the crowded neighborhood streets near my dorm in Tokyo. When I happened upon it after the first few weeks of classes, scouting for food on a cool night, I opened the door to a silent sanctuary: a place where I could mesh with the rest of the town while still occupying a personal bubble of time. I spent many breezy evenings doodling in my sketchbook while sipping the remains of my ramen, and mapping out my schedule for the weeks ahead while a Japanese game show roared in the corner. The ramen shop and my time touring solo were just a few of the ways I found I could pump up my “me time,” and they all allowed time for independent reflection—something we should all seek as we take on big changes, big steps, and big dreams.