Japan (and South Korea) be kind to this nervous foreigner please!

Japan (and South Korea) be kind to this nervous foreigner please!


Why Japan? Japan was never EVER on my radar until the son at age 17 planted the seed. I asked him if he could go anywhere where would it be? He answered Japan and it turned into an obsession for me. He likes their culture. From everything I’ve read, I already like it too. Since South Korea is in the area, I figured why not make that a short stop too, and it looks amazing as well. So high tech! I look so forward to a layover at one of the world’s top airports, Seoul’s Incheon.

The son and I practiced with chopsticks. I bought books. I read. I became obsessed. So I saved and saved for years. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people that can afford to do this every year. And no, I don’t have one of those cushy jobs where I “travel for business” (OK, whatever) either.

This is my first trip to a foreign land, not counting cruises to Caribbean Islands (where natives have always spoken English and used the American dollar). I always wanted to go overseas/international, but now that it’s booked I am getting terrified. I love traveling yet I am a huge chicken in general. I am NOT a risk taker or one that generally likes change.

I hate flying. I hate the TSA. I hate being jostled and man-handled. The airport is to me is one of if not THE most stressful parts of a trip. I’m nervous about losing things. I’m nervous about customs. About remembering the terminal I have to go to (there can be a long distance if mistaken in major airports).

I’m nervous about making my 5 flights on time, finding where I’m supposed to go. About having the right power converter. I’m most nervous about using public transportation ( I have a hard time in a new city in AMERICA, where people speak my language). Now add confusing customs forms, surly customs officials and extra jostling I’m sure.

I am terrified of missing flights, or having one delayed. Of missing a flight and as a result missing my reservations and museum tickets I have paid for. Of the maze of trains and busses. (I have spent HOURS just trying to figure out the best way to and from the airport).

Nervous about my feet being my only transportation for 2 weeks. I think that hours long plane ride back to the U.S. will actually be appreciated so I can rest my feet! I’m happy about forced boredom on the plane. My anxious mind keeps having dreams that I am there.

There’s so much to know just about riding the Seoul subway, which I was unaware of until I googled- “can you bring suitcases onto the subway”. It brought up a PLETHORA of things to know that I didn’t even THINK to ask besides my basic bag question. Like what to do if your bag doesn’t fit through the turnstile? If you accidentally go onto the wrong platform and then have to exit? (first of all, WHERE to exit in this case, and to do so you are not charged for a trip you didn’t even take. SIGH).


I worry about getting 2 beds, and for people NOT to mistake us as a couple! (Weird!) I worry about wi-fi. Well I will of course pack my chill pills. LOTS of them. For the mantra and goal of this trip will be- “no meltdowns!” Anything can be figured out or fixed. It won’t be the end of the world. (unless there’s an earthquake maybe).

snacks so I don't starve!

snacks so I don’t starve!

Some people are so casual about their out of the country travels. I’m worried about earthquakes. (small ones happen many times a month is Japan). Finding water (I drink water all day long). Being groped on a train. Making a faux pas due to forgetfulness (don’t dare stick the chopsticks upright into the rice!) Being treated or looked at rudely because I’m obviously foreign, slow, and confused.

Then there’s the issue of being tired. I remember when I visited Hawaii, which was 5 hours earlier, and the entire week I was SO tired. It would be dinnertime at 6PM in Hawaii but in reality at home it was 11PM. My beddy bye time. So yes we went to bed at 9PM most nights in Hawaii like seniors.

I will often glance at the time here and then think of what time it is in Tokyo (14 hours ahead!) So at noon (lunchtime) here in Chicago it is 2AM there, middle of the night! Or here at 11PM (my bed time) it is 1PM there. How does one get used to THAT??? Basically I have to reverse my sleep and awake times.  There is just so much to learn and know. And then try to find a suitable time to call home too! (and still remember to take my crazy pills)

I feel guilty. The husband agreed to take time off and watch the kids for me so I can satisfy my wanderlust. Plus he has agreed to watch our 3 pain in the butt cats that I normally care for. (daily litter box scoopings!) If that’s not love and altruism, what is?

Not to mention he has no interest in Japan, he seems to be biased against it for various reasons, a main one being the food (though when we visited a hibachi steakhouse the first time he enjoyed it). I hope to come home so excited and wanting to go back to show him he is wrong!

I think this trip will either cure or exacerbate my wanderlust.

Filed under: fears, Japan, travel

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