Rookie Travel Mistakes

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trying to keep a positive attitude, even though The Weather Channel is a baldheaded liar.

Greetings from freezing cold Seoul!

Back to the shit

I looooove Japan, but I will never again trade one cold place for another during my vacay time!

I am fresh off of a "quickcation" to Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. It was a series of unfortunate events, chile. I am nearly 40 countries traveled, and while Japan is a repeat country for me, I somehow managed to make every rookie mistake in the travel book during this trip.

Before I go anywhere, I usually do extensive research on a number of different platforms before committing to the trip. I had each day of this short stay mapped out almost down to the exact time [more power to those of you who land and figure it all out from there]. And yet that didn't stop Murphy's Law from kicking my behind. Some things I goofed on, and were totally within my control; others, not so much. I still had to be quick on my feet and act, or else.

Hopefully my experience can make someone else's life easier:

I didn't buy Yen in advance

I knew better the first time...consistency is KEY!

When I visited Tokyo last year, I read that foreigners could only withdraw money from 7-11 and post office ATMs. I bought some yen from my bank in advance just to be safe, and had no issues withdrawing additional funds from the 7-11 ATM when I needed to. I assumed this would be the case in Osaka, and got humbled when neither my Korean bankcard nor my U.S. card would work at the airport's 7-11 ATM. Thank God for Skype and timezone differences. I was able to call my U.S. bank and get the hold lifted, but no dice on the Korean bank. It's Lunar New Year and they're closed until next Tuesday. Additionally, the cards wouldn't work at the post office ATM due to an "external error". I was forced to use my U.S. bank's funds, which I rarely do here, for the entire trip. I used to be team airport ATMs upon landing before this, but not anymore.
Basically, don't get comfortable: buy some currency in advance to be safe!

I didn't purchase the JR pass in advance

The Japan Rail Pass is a sure thing for those who will travel to multiple prefectures. I knew I'd be doing so on this trip and intended to purchase one upon landing. Well, my bad for assuming that my flight would depart and arrive on time. It did not. It was two hours late, and by the time I got to Osaka, everything was closed. I missed the last train to the city by mere seconds fooling with the ATM fiasco. As mentioned, I hate using my U.S. funds for anything, and intended on purchasing a JR pass in cash by withdrawing $ from my Korean bankcard [can't make POS purchases with my Korean bankcard to non-Korean entities, don't ask]. I ended up using the funds anyway to make the purchase since KEB Hana had my other coins on lock, and I paid extra since it was purchased in country. 
Hindsight is 20/20: Just make the purchase in advance so you can head straight to the train!

I made assumptions

This one is on me. I assumed I could purchase a JR pass at my nearest station, wrong. Had to travel to another station to get it. I assumed I could just walk up and purchase one, wrong. I needed to have my passport to verify that I was a tourist and not a resident of the country. A waste of a trip back to the Airbnb and a subsequent return, when I'd read days in advance that you needed to have it, but forgot. I assumed you could use the pass to get around the entire Kansai West region, partially wrong. There were some exceptions in Hiroshima, namely on the streetcar and their local railway. It's the regular JR pass that they take, not the JR West pass, which is what I had. I still don't know the difference or why it matters considering the cost but Argggggggggggh! A little more attention to detail could have saved me time and money in both Kyoto and Hiroshima. It is so unlike me to not research things down to the bone, and I think I'm most disappointed in me for screwing this part up. 
Missing out on time is worse than wasting money, to me.

I didn't thoroughly read through my Airbnb's reviews

This one could go either way but I'll take it. My Airbnb had very high ratings and was run by a Superhost. It was conveniently located and had a really good price for the holiday. It was also a damn icebox. Previous reviews had mentioned that the heat in the unit wasn't strong but gingerly referenced it as not a big deal. I learned some time ago that people are overly generous with their Airbnb reviews, sometimes when they really shouldn't be. One person even specifically said that they were miserable without the heat but called the stay perfect otherwise. Huh??? How do perfect and miserable coexist?? That should have been a red flag in advance, but was only so after I arrived and spent a few uncomfortable nights in the icebox, and then went back to cross-reference the reviews. My host and I eventually worked it out, but I am usually good about looking for these oddities in reviews.

More assumptions: weather and food

So I'm clearly a glutton for punishment! I incorrectly assumed that Japan's cold would be warmer than Korea's cold, and while Japan is generally much warmer than Korea, it's still winter and it was still COLD! I should have taken my heaviest jacket but I wanted to be cute and took two, slightly  lighter ones. Though they were decent jackets for the weather, neither had a hood, and my poor ears and head suffered through windy conditions. The hawk deserved to have me.

I also inaccurately assumed that I would be in "foodie heaven" as when I was in Tokyo. 

A semi-decent meal of Japanese curry and rice, with salad.
I had to ingest beef, bleh.

The tea was good, but the cup design wasn't funny.
Arachnophobia is REAL!

To be fair, I have and continue to hear Osaka referenced as such, but this was no Tokyo. "Foodie heaven" is extremely, painfully relative! If you like chicken and veggies, and have no interest in squid, octopus, quail, pork galore, beef, and egg, you're gonna struggle. I struggled in Osaka like I struggled in mainland China, and that was peak struggle! 

Looks are deceiving.
Lured in by this dessert display, only to find that it consisted of frozen solid strawberry, soft serve and CORNFLAKES.
That's right. Those are frosted cornflakes underneath the completely frozen fruit!
I basically ate ice and sugar!

Basically, this trip was a freezing cold, time-wasting, avoidable, mistake-filled mess! And I am mostly to blame. I got a little too comfortable with assuming everything would work out. I'm usually on my toes about being prepared for the worst case scenario. See, cynicism has its perks! My mistakes didn't completely sabotage the trip, and for that I'm thankful. It did, however, remind me to be much more diligent, responsible and careful about my planning- as I usually am- and not to deviate from that ever again. 

Forever learning and re-learning!

You Might Also Like


  1. From your pictures I thought you had a great time. Good thing you were able to learn from your mistakes. That food DID look good though. lol

  2. Wow, this sounds like an intense trip! Who knew there were so many details to worry about? When I travel, I like to pore over reviews, pictures, and every little bit of information as possible. I should have been a travel agent, lol! Glad to hear you were still able to enjoy your getaway.

  3. Happy that you were still able to enjoy your trip, this gave me loads to think about for the next trip lol

  4. Thanks for sharing your trip mistakes. So glad that you still enjoyed your trip! xo