We are constantly growing and evolving with each new day, each new person we meet, each decision we make and each journey we take. All of these little changes come from the experiences we have and having the ability to open your mind and allow the world to change and influence you. And for me, Japan did just that. It’s these experiences, people and places that have shaped me into a more confident person.
Japan forces you much further outside of your comfort zone than most other countries will. You get the chance to try new and delicious foods (some maybe not so delicious), to experience their deeply rooted culture and traditions, and you get to see their incredible landscapes, architecture and sculptures that are typically very different than home. Japan and its people have a lot to teach the world and the only way you are going to learn from it in its entirety, is if you are open and willing to do so.
For me, the thought of going to Japan was actually pretty scary. Going to somewhere so unlike home, by myself, with only a handful of my ‘necessities’ was daunting. My stomach twisted in knots and my brain constantly asked if I was ready to go on this trip. Exploring Japan meant; trying to read a language made of symbols, attempting to understand their deeply rooted culture, showing the level of respect that the Japanese live by, trying some extremely unique foods, and navigating some of the largest megacities in the world (Osaka and Tokyo are two of the world’s most populated cities). Japan is nearly three and a half times more populated than Canada and over 26 times smaller, as a Canadian I’m certainly not used to that many people in such a small area! Regardless of my fears and doubts, I stepped foot on that plane never to return to that comfort zone I have spent years building. In return, Japan allowed me to grow my self-confidence more than any other country I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to, including New Zealand where I gave up the majority of my possessions to live and travel in a van for six months. After my trip to Japan I noticed my self-confidence had grown in four main ways – four main ways that everyone who visits Japan will see growth in too..
A Sense of Independence
There is nothing more glorious than navigating the Japanese transit system by yourself, only to then conquer the Japanese streets to find your destination. That feeling is the feeling of pure independence – an independence that can only come from maneuvering through streets where the names are symbols and the subway map looks like a tangled spider web.
You’ll also become more comfortable doing things alone while travelling. There are a lot of things to do and see in Japan, more than you’d be able to see in a typical 2 week vacation. Which means even if you are going with a group, a few friends or on a Contiki, you may have to split off for a while to see things that are important to you. This time alone combined with your newfound navigation skills are enough to build a solid sense of confident independence.
Improves Decision Making Skills
Living in a normal routine tends to limit which decisions we need to make on a day to day basis, most of these decisions are already made for us. In our everyday lives we know (for the most part) where and what we are going to eat, where we can get water, how to take transit, how to get to a specific destination, that people around us will understand what we are saying and so many other little things. But when you’re in a different country, those decisions are made in the moment. Sure, you might have a few of them planned out but we all know that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Which means you have to make decisions on the fly and be flexible in those decisions. You have to trust that the decisions you are making are the right ones. You quickly learn to adjust your old thought processes, habits and reactions to accommodate new situations and surroundings.
It’s Okay To Be Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
There is really no other way to word it, you will be out of your comfort zone while traveling in Japan. And if you aren’t you are not diving enough into the culture.
Does the idea of getting on a train so packed you literally ask yourself ‘can one more person even fit on this thing?’ only to find out…”yup they sure can,” send shivers down your spine? Or does trying extremely interesting foods like roe-ikura kushikatsu (deep-fried fish eggs) or creamed corn in a can from a street side vending machine make you a bit queasy? No matter what it is, you will be uncomfortable at some point and are going to have to deal with it.
Dealing with these uncomfortable moments while in that moment helps teach you that in the end everything is going to be okay and realistically, life is a pretty epic adventure.
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Make New Friends
Making new friends is always a confidence boost especially because as humans we thrive on social connections. Some of the people you meet on the road end up becoming some of your best friends as you build valuable and meaningful connections. Not to mention they become places on the map for you to visit!
Even while you’re in an extremely foreign place like Japan, there are still people you can connect and share memories with, and the Japanese are extremely friendly! This new circle of friends helps to give your perspective on your life and relationships back home. Friends I have met abroad have taught me how to appreciate what I have and where I live. Some might even be closer to home than you think! For example, my roommate on my recent trip to Japan happened to be from a city only three hours from where I live. This instantly allowed us to bond on not only the experiences we were about to have but similar ones we shared growing up in the same region. She instantly became someone I felt I knew for years, instead of someone I had only known for days. We still talk everyday and she has truly become one of my best friends.
So, if you let yourself open up to others those mystery faces will become friends, your self-confidence will grow and you’ll share some incredible stories and memories with some great people.
Venessa travelled on Contiki’s Japan Unrivalled trip as a result of submitting this article to six-two’s community contributor program. Do you fancy winning yourself a Contiki trip, anywhere in the world, through just sharing a story? Head here to find out how.