We just found out that we need visas for Taiwan. We probably should have thought about that before, but every problem is an opportunity. If we can't take care of this while we're in LA then we'll take a side trip to the Philippines or something so that we're not there for more than 30 days.
The power cord on my laptop broke the other day. I searched around Panama trying to find a replacement, but there wasn't one in sight. Right now we have a system where Todd charges batteries with his laptop and swaps them out with my dying ones. It's kind of like buddy breathing.
It seemed like we had so much time here, but all of a sudden we're leaving in two weeks. I can't believe how fast the trip has been going so far. We're just starting to feel like we're settling in. We have our routines that we go through, all of the friendly people we've gotten to know at all the places we frequent, and we even know our way around the city.
Well... Todd does. You know my sense of direction... I'm still working on it.
Japan is going to be a total shock. We're scrambling now to try to find a good place to stay (so if you have any leads... let us know). Everything there is the exact opposite of Panama. It's meticulously maintained, super expensive, and incredibly advanced. Panama has its rough edges, is dirt cheap, and in a lot of ways feels like it's from 1980.
The food is so good here. I was really worried we'd have trouble finding good vegan food, but that hasn't been the case at all. We had dinner at La Novena tonight, which is just amazing. The chef is an engineer who became a chef, and you can tell when he cooks. He takes it VERY seriously.
I AM looking forward to restocking on supplies a little bit in LA. I'm going to get some more wool shirts, a universal power adapter, and a lot more of the toothpaste I like (Tom's of Maine). I'm running dangerously low and may have to start using "regular" toothpaste.
My RV is officially sold and gone. It was bought by a really nice guy who rescued some dogs in San Antonio and brought them back up North with him. He even sent me some pictures of the trip. Sad to see it go, of course, but I'm really happy it went to a good guy.
With the RV gone, my possessions are now limited to what fits in my backpack. Pretty incredible, especially considering how much STUFF I had just a year ago (or even worse, two years ago).
Somehow I still manage to cover every flat surface in the apartment with my stuff, though. I'm not sure how that works.
That's about it for now... we miss you guys!
T&T are dynamite.
Thanks for the coollest freakin blog ever, guys.
It's inspired me to see the world too.
If you're ever in Kuala Lumpur...
Check out Metropolis Magazine (http://metropolis.co.jp/). Good info for gaijin living here in Japan, including classifieds and ads for apartments.
A few links from their website follow:
Imagining Real Estate:http://www.imagining.jp/guesthouseE/apartments2.html
Mimosa Guest House (http://www.geocities.jp/mimosa_eg/)
Boute Japan (http://www.boutejp.co.jp/english/index.html)
Sakura House (http://www.sakura-house.com/) [site was down as of this afternoon - hopefully temporary]
Not sure how those places handle short term rents. When we rented our house, it was quite expensive. LOTS of cash up front. My wife had to go open a bank account, deposit a bunch of $$, convert to Yen, then go pay the landlord. Be prepared for a lot of up front costs (payment to company, payment to landlord for allowing you to live in his place, security deposit, etc). We are here with the military, so we got all that back (eventually).
Good luck. We're here till mid-April, outside of Tokyo about an hour. Will be pretty busy the first few weeks that you're around getting ready to leave, but things might slow down around the first of April. Contact me at the email if you have more questions.
Really enjoying the blog...keep it up.
Man... really happy to hear the good news! I'm pretty psyched to get back to my African roots in 2009.
We'll definitely take pictures of the pedicabs if we make it out there. Still trying to figure out our visa situation
Hey Ty if you hit up the Philippines you got to get me some pictures of the pedicabs and their drivers, as a Western pedicab operator I am more than willing to admit that we ain't got nothin on the Eastern drivers.
They work harder for less money and got better decorations.
Oh yeah and I settled with the insurance of the drunk girl that totaled my car and jacked up my shoulder, so I am a good bit closer to payin off the debt barrier and joinin up with life nomadic.
Your Favorite Pedicab,
Hey there, so with regard to living in Japan I actually lived there for 6 months before in a study abroad program when I was still in university. And I went back and visited a few months ago and went all over the country in 2 weeks.
If you're going to be there for 2 months or less, I would recommend staying in a good hostel. I know, I know, they have a bad reputation but all the ones I've stayed at were fine. Some of them will even have long-term living arrangements where you can get rent for really cheap.
I went on Hostelworld and used it to book a stay at the Khaosan in Tokyo (there are 3 different ones; I stayed at the Asakusa one). They speak English (unlike just about everyone else in Japan), owners are friendly and overall it's a great environment and only costs around $20 or less a night which is amazing for Japan. You can get a twin private shared room as well.
They also have long-term arrangements where you can live in larger rooms for months at a time and pay something absurdly cheap (I think it was around $300-400 a month) for rent. And they have a deal where you can do chores for them for 1-2 hours a day and stay there for free which is also pretty nice if you're on a low budget.
I wouldn't even try to find a real apartment or anything in Japan unless you're renting from another foreigner, it's a huge pain and you're going to face all sorts of problems from language barrier to generic foreigner discrimination to paying $2000 a month for about 10 square feet of space.
Feel free to email me for more details - I left my email address in this comment.
yeah apparently Taiwan has a long feud with China or something, so they need visas for security reasons etc
Hey don't worry too much about the Taiwan Visa Situation. It is primarily a rubber stamp process. If you are only staying for 30 days, you don't need a visa. Actually they call it a landing visa (When you land at the airport, they stamp your passport) and you need to leave the country for a day or so every 28-30 days and re-enter. The most common Visa Jump destinations are Hong Kong, Bangkok Thailand, Seoul Korea. Mostly Hong Kong ($200-$300US).
If you are adamant about getting a 60-180 day visitor Visa just for peace of mind, It is easy to get one for the purpose of studying Chinese. By the way, Taipei Taiwan is one of the best places in the world to study Mandarin Chinese. They use traditional Chinese characters and have an easy to replicate, neutral accent. My favorite School is ???????? (Shi-Da for short, National Taiwan Normal University in English) Not to mention the Taiwanese are extremely hospitable.
If you are staying less than 60 days, you may just need to apply for a 60 day tourist visa. I'm sure you'll figure it out.
If you need more advice, Forumosa.com is a huge Blog of Expats living in Taiwan and they have an entire forum on Visa and residency issues.
My wife and I will be moving there in June, we should meet up and talk about travels, eat interesting Taiwanese food etc...
OBY: Thanks... I know where to find you if we need some advice!
Eric: Thanks for the tip. I'll find some when I'm in LA and give it a shot. I've been really happy with Tom's, but I'm interested in trying something new.
I have two weeks left in Austin and ten days in Boston. When we first decided to go on the trip six months ago it seemed like it would take forever. Now every day seems to fly by before I can make any progress on my list of stuff-I-must-do-before-I-go.
Of course, the one thing I've had no problem doing is buying the gear necessary to leave. I'll post a complete list of every single thing I'm bringing with me... some of which will probably surprise people.
We still haven't found anywhere to live in Panama yet. I send e-mails to people on Craigslist in Panama, but nothing good has surfaced yet.
In high school I was given the opportunity to leave the country, twice, on school trips. One of my friends was always unable to go, not because they couldn't afford it, but because her parents didn't "believe that kids should leave the country at such a young age." While I respect their right to their opinion, I completely disagree. I think the best time to travel is while you're young.
As I said in my first post, I left the country for the first time when I was in the third grade. I went to Mexico. Many people think that when we are children we are too young to appreciate other countries or famous landmarks, or too young to remember the trip when we get older. I remember that trip vividly. It changed my life.
We stayed south of Cancun. I remember driving through rural neighborhoods and seeing the poorest people I'd ever seen. I remember we had a maid and a cook, who lived in a house with their kids which was connected to our rental house. I remember speaking no Spanish whatsoever and communicating with the kids, who didn't know how to swim. I remember playing with the kids in the shallow end of the pool and I remember that the language barrier meant nothing. I remember drinking powdered milk. I remember playing with dogs who lived in the neighborhood but didn't really belong to anyone. I remember climbing an ancient Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza. I remember hiding in a roped off temple at Chichen Itza with twenty other tourists because the lightning storm was so close and I remember watching stranded tourists at the top of the pyramid. I remember the heat, I remember building sandcastles on the beach. I remember there were hermit crabs everywhere. I remember eating scones for breakfast every morning. I remember the cook coming over to cut the tail off of the scorpion for us, and then he picked it up and carried it outside. I remember Coca-Cola was everywhere, and I never liked it until I tried it in Mexico (that real sugar makes a difference!). I remember driving down dirt roads. I remember we drank Fiji bottled water because we couldn't drink the water in Mexico in case it made us sick. I remember playing the Pokémon Sapphire edition, and I remember teaching the cook's kids how to play. I remember the smell distinctly. I remember hanging up our swimsuits to dry, and how it was so humid that they were still damp the next day. I remember the cook made us Mexican pizza, and his wife taught us how to make real tortillas. I remember not liking Mexican food until I went there. I remember journaling in a Hello Kitty notebook. I remember kayaking in the ocean with my friend and I remember her stepping on a sea urchin, which went through her shoe and she had to go to the hospital. I remember the water in the ocean was as warm as bathwater. I remember my mom went with the cook to drop the kids off at school, and I remember her telling me about the poverty. I remember seeing the poverty for myself, and being so thankful for what I had. I remember laying out on the beach beneath the stars and watching the lightning storm that was taking place across the ocean. I remember tourists wearing sombreros at the airport and I remember we had a layover in LA, and the hotel we stayed at smelled like green beans. I remember loving it. I was only eight, but don't you dare tell me I was too young.
Since then I 've seen the countryside of Japan, eaten massive amounts of crepes in Paris, France, touched the Mediterranean Sea and travelled Spain on crutches, and sat on the steps of parliament in Victoria, Canada. Each one incredibly unique. I could write pages on every single trip. I did wait until high school to leave the country again, but I don't think I appreciated these trips more simply because I was older. I appreciated each and every trip equally. I don't think that we need to wait until after high school to travel. In fact, I think it's incredibly important to experience other cultures while we're young. I so firmly believe in this that one day I hope to start a non-profit program which takes young students outside of the United States and shows them how to experience the world.
Mexico changed my life because I very quickly became aware of people outside of my situation. I appreciated what I had more. I gained a much greater understanding of the world, and it gave me an entirely new perspective of the world. You don't know something until you've seen it or experienced it. These trips killed stereotypes for me. I've learned to travel without cultural expectations. I've learned that rural areas can be just as cool as tourist locations. We can say we feel compassion towards those who are starving in Mexico or Africa, or that we understand there is poverty in India. But how can we know? Experiencing other cultures, breaking the language barrier, that is how it's done. When we're young we haven't quite formed as many judgments or expectations. We don't know what to expect, and we are more open to accepting these other countries. I have a greater understanding of the world because of these trips, a greater appreciation for my own country, a deeper love for those across the world, a sense of pride in my country, a passion for travelling, an acceptance of other cultures... It's important to break down stereotypes while we're young. It's important to understand others while we're young. I'm only eighteen now, but I'm not too young to travel. I'm going to study abroad. I have travel plans in the future. Many travel plans in the future. I don't plan on ever stopping.