Finding Gems Walking Tokyo

One of my favorite ways to explore is finding a place to start and just walking. Anywhere. For me, this beats all other types of tourism. It’s like trying to find hidden gems when you’re in sensory overload with new sounds, smells and sights. Here, I’ll share some of my favorite walks in Tokyo so far through photo stories and brief descriptions*.

*To be sensitive of privacy, I’ve either cropped or only used photos of people without their faces turned to me.

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Quarterly Review: A Travel Postmortem

I found myself trying to plan out the next few months this Monday and realized that it has been a little over 3 months (!) since we started our year of traveling. In some ways, it’s felt so much longer than that; in other ways, I’m slightly panicked that our year is already a quarter of the way done. Since being on the road, there have been some things that have gone as expected — we miss our friends, family and community; our reliance on one another has intensified, and our relationship has strengthened (it’s like doing a trust fall with your partner every day); we miss not having to think about whether we’re fitting in culturally or not; and I would go slightly crazy without work.

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Las Vegas, 2018 when we were planning the trip.

In an effort to document my own learnings on this trip, I wanted to share a list of things that surprised me about our travel along with what we expect the next 3 months to bring. I hope I can read back on this when I am far wiser and more experienced, shake my head and say, “Oh, look at how naive I was,” or, “Wow, I was pretty perceptive about that one!” Continue reading “Quarterly Review: A Travel Postmortem”

Impressions: The First 48 Hours in Tokyo

We landed in a rainy Tokyo in a daze at noon after a sleepless night on the flight from London*. I had known we’d be in good hands the minute AirFrance had pulled out edible food – a Japanese curry – and after we had watched the translated version of Inuyashiki, a story about a middle-aged Japanese salaryman who is turned into a cyborg and saves humanity.

Anyone who has done that flight from Europe or North America to Asia knows that the first 48 hours is filled with a wondrous daze of “WTF and where am I.” Part of it is the jet lag, and if you don’t sleep on the flight, you’re hit with double confusion – the smells, sights, language, and customs with the compounded effects of no sleep make you feel as if you’ve stepped in Alice’s Wonderland of Weird, Tasty and Awesome. I was born in China and yet every trip back still fills me that same initial shock for at least the first 48 hours. This would be my first time in Tokyo proper. The initial landing felt no different in that sense, and yet it was very different compared to any trip I’ve ever made to Asia before.

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Harajuku at night

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Lessons on the Road: Balance in the Extremes

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Edinburgh, 2018. Must. Keep. Moving.

Starting this June, I took advantage of an opportunity of a lifetime to travel. When this opportunity landed on my lap, my first reaction had been hesitance until a friend had said, “Are you crazy? Do you know how few people in the world can do this?”

“But my career,” I had replied, “A year off would slow that momentum down, and it feels so self-indulgent.” In the end, opportunity won, and I gave notice to my job where I had a close group friends and community, a sense of purpose and an independent pay-check*. This would be the first time I was without a job since age 16.**  Continue reading “Lessons on the Road: Balance in the Extremes”

Where the Wild Things Are: Scottish Highlands and Edinburgh Fringe

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I have no known connection to Scotland. For all I know, my ancestry goes back to when the first humans arrived in the land that is now mainland China and settled there until 1990 when my mother boarded a plane and arrived in La Guardia, Queens in New York City with two suitcases and $300 in her pocket. My Company, on the other hand, has traced part of his lineage back to the Mackenzie clan of the western Scottish highlands. Steeped in mystery with emerald green mountains, navy oceans and lochs with an unsettling fog that moves through the land during early mornings, Scotland would be the next destination in our exploration. Continue reading “Where the Wild Things Are: Scottish Highlands and Edinburgh Fringe”

London and the Coming of Age

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A real castle! Circa 2011

Every person has a coming-of-age story. If you’re lucky, yours would not be very exciting. While I wish I could say that I reached adulthood when I moved into my dormitory in college or the moment I graduated and picked up suits from the mall like a grown woman to head to my first job in New York City, I’m afraid I – like the rest of the Ding/Fan family household – appeared to be a late bloomer.

Childhood and young adulthood is filled with emotions that rise and drop like waves, unfettered idealism, and an enormous confidence in one’s untested convictions. Perhaps that is why the young will always be more creative, brash and exciting than their older peers, and because of this, I look back on some misguided events in my younger days with a mix of embarrassment, pride and at the end of the day, a shrug, “Oh to be young.” Continue reading “London and the Coming of Age”

Bavaria: Pretzels, Dirndl, and Platzes

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No, unlike most travelers who want to see iconic German towns, we were not going to Bavaria, München (Munich) and Nuremberg to be exact, for the Bavarian Alps, famous castles, biergartens, wursts of all flavors and dirndl.As most tourism to Bavaria reaches peak hysteria in September and October for – yes, you guessed it – Oktoberfest, my Company was headed there in August for the Prometheus Conference. Now this isn’t some Greek mythology fan-club but an open sourced monitoring conference (if you’ve lost me here, don’t worry…just continue on). So the top technical brains from all over the world communed here to Germany’s industrial capital in peak heat wave weather to share knowledge and, of course, drink themselves into semi-oblivion on watered down German beers (which they make up for in size of beer). Continue reading “Bavaria: Pretzels, Dirndl, and Platzes”

Three Days in Berlin: A Lesson in Hipness

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Through the wall at the Berlin Wall Memorial, Mitte

What makes sense after spending nearly two weeks in a small Southwestern German village where every neighbor knows one another and the largest employer is the chocolate factory? Head straight to one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan, historically rich and diverse cities of course! Continue reading “Three Days in Berlin: A Lesson in Hipness”

Switzerland: The Ultimate Retreat

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View from our dining spot on the Lake. We ordered crepes from the pop up food tents during the festival.

Switzerland has appeared and reappeared in my life several times over in the past 10 years, and for that, I’m deeply grateful. Each time I arrive in this heavenly paradise of snow-capped mountains, pristine alpine lakes, decadent chocolates and oh-so-on-time trains, I feel a sense of escape from the dirty, loud and chaotic world outside this tiny slice of heaven.  Continue reading “Switzerland: The Ultimate Retreat”