Let's Rent a Van
Posted by Tabitha Yeasley
…and drive through Japan!
This post is long overdue. If you follow along on our story you know that this past spring we spent a month in Japan. We thought we’d share a little more in depth about what that adventure was like.
We chose to explore the island country by van. Turns out #vanlife is pretty easy in Japan. We found a service online in advance of our flight to Tokyo that builds out different size vans with a bed in the back, so we had our transportation and accommodation for the journey all in one little package. It even came with GPS (in English!). The whole country is pretty well equipped for van life, since the roads are kept up well, road signs are international and almost everywhere you go you’ll find some sort of Michi-no-Eki on the outskirts of town. A Michi-no-Eki is a roadside station, basically a road stop with public restrooms open 24 hours a day, and it’s perfectly safe and legal to sleep in your car in the huge parking lot. And the vending machines. OH the vending machines. These are EVERYWHERE in Japan, whether it’s hot or cold, you can get pretty much any kind of beverage from these. So your morning coffee is only a few yen and a brightly lit button away.
We showered in Onsens, or public bathhouses. We were nervous about the idea at first, but ended up loving it. These are traditionally built around natural hot springs, although these are everywhere around the country so some of them are probably artificial. There are separate bathing areas for men and women, as swimsuits are not allowed. And while we could write a whole blog about the Onsen experience (and there are blogs out there!) the basic concept is this: You choose your own bathing space where you sit on a stool in front of a mirror and shower off, then relax in the hot spring pools, often for a small fee. We had apps on the included iPad that came with our van that we could use to search for the closest Onsen and Michi-no-Eki as we traveled.
The country roads and smaller towns were much easier to maneuver than the big cities, so we spent less time in the big cities than the average tourist, and more time exploring the country side (which we love to do when traveling anyway!). Tokyo was the exception to that as we started and ended our trip there, and stayed in an Airbnb and a hotel before and after our road trip. And something you might already know - we also got engaged in Tokyo!
Japan is a beautiful country, with kind and polite people, weird but also really good food, and a super interesting culture. Our trip was definitely one for the books, and while I could go on and on about it, it’s probably best shown through some photo highlights below. But first, people often ask us how we travel long term, and a few key things are important for keeping us going.
1.) Find wifi. Without cell phone service, it’s honestly nice sometimes to be able to decide when to plug in and when to disconnect socially, but this is especially important if you’re trying to run a business on the road like we do. Luckily the iPad in our van had a hotspot we could use in a pinch, but the best option for reliable wifi turned out to be the probably-definitely-too-many Starbucks locations that we visited around Japan.
2.) Find a gym. We do this pretty much anywhere we travel long term. It’s easy to get in tourist mode and walk everywhere, and that’s great exercise too. But for us, finding a gym at least a few times during a month long trip is important to us for staying healthy and helps us reset.
3.) Take some time to refresh. It can feel like a LOT mentally sometimes to travel abroad long term and work while you’re at it. But taking some time to go on a hike, explore a new neighborhood, have a nice dinner, share a bottle of wine (or sake!), etc. makes you feel a little less like you’re on the go, go, go constantly and gives you an opportunity to take a deep breathe and really enjoy where you’re at.
Now, the part you’ve really been waiting for. Pictures!