So, the Liebster Award.  Hate it, love it, think it’s a good laugh?  Either way it’s a fun thing to get involved in and is great for all us newbies just getting used to the scene.

The Liebster Award is an online recognition given to new and upcoming bloggers to help motivate them and gain readers.  Participation is optional and you can politely turn down nominations should you chose.  If you do accept, you need to follow these simple rules:

  •     Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their site on your blog.
  •     Display the award on your blog (as a post and/or in the sidebar)
  •     Answer the 10 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  •     Nominate 5-10 other bloggers for the award and inform them via social media.
  •     Create your own set of questions for your nominees.

With all that official stuff out of the way, I’d like to send a thank you out to the wonderful Wiebke over at MissAbroad who nominated me and came up with these questions.  They certainly got me thinking and my answers cover everything from kind old couples to Japanese pop music to being stalked.

 

So without any further ado, these are the Liebster Award questions she asked me.

 

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I love Japan but I honestly would never want to live there.  Ok, maybe if I was rolling in cash and didn’t have to work, but I couldn’t do it while needing to work to support myself.  The idea of the Japanese work/life balance makes my head want to explode.

In my Travel Whispers answers I said Sweden, but that was because I had to pick somewhere I’d never been before.  This time I’m going to say Amsterdam.  I loved that city and I’ve never come across a place that I have felt so comfortable and so at home, while still getting little doses of the unexpected that we travellers love.

 

What are the 3 most important items you always take with you when you travel?

My I-pad – I never use it at home, can’t stand typing on it at all and it does nothing that my phone can’t do, however it is the first thing I pack when travelling.  I load it up with movies and TV shows and it becomes my own personal cinema.  I download e-books on it and turn it into a library.  It has seen me through days and days and days of bus, train and plane travel.

Sunglasses – I swear I need these more than I need air.  A lover of wine, vodka and crazy party nights, a pair of sunglasses while travelling is utterly essential.  Add days at the beach, or time in the mountains with sunlight filtering through the trees… not to mention that they hide all sorts of travel baggage; you know those overstuffed black bags you carry around under your eyes.

A pair of heels – Yes, I am a bit of a glam traveller.  I’m happy to rock out in jeans and sneakers for days adventuring, but I’m also the type to hit up clubs and head to nice restaurants for dinner.  I’d never be caught dead wearing a skirt with flat shoes, especially not at night.

 

Which culture fascinates you the most and why?

I’m sure you all know what this answer will be.

I’m totally fascinated by Japanese culture, and I mean all of it.  From the ancient to the new; from Ronin to the mundane salaryman way of life.  How about the crazy pop Idol culture that the whole country seems to love, or the dark Visual Rock with their old school Glam/Punk Rock look?  Then there’s the idea of hosts and hostesses, young adults who want to be westernized and pockets of despair, like Kamagasaki in Osaka, where disgraced salarymen go to live in shame on the streets.  Geisha, Kabuki, Samurai and more myths and legends than you could possibly hope to remember; everything about the place is utterly fascinating.

 

Why did you start travel blogging?

It’s something that I have been thinking about for a long time.  I have a long history with writing but generally lacked the time to really sit down and get myself involved.  Motivation was also a key issue for me as well even though I knew I had some amazing stories to tell.

Now that I’m on the road full time as a professional nomad (very different to a digital nomad) and spend my time in strange, lazy little towns with nothing else to do, getting this blog up and running seemed like a logical step and a great way to pass the time.  With my crazy end of the year trip also in the works, I decided that it was now or never… so here I am.

 

What is your most favourite city you have visited so far?

Despite the story that I tell a little further on this list (or maybe because of it) my favourite city is Osaka.

I look at it as Tokyo’s little brother; that inquisitive one full of adventure and wonder.  Excellent nightlife, amazing food, superb shopping and warm people all combine to make Osaka my main stop when in Japan.  While it is still a large tourist city, there are fewer expats living there so you do tend to stand out that little bit more.  And, unlike Tokyo, there is less of that hustle and bustle rush of game-faced people with ‘important places to be’.

Even the accent and Osaka-Ben (the local dialect) makes me happy.

What is the best thing that has happened to you while traveling?

There are seriously too many to count!  I do have a few highlights though.

– The lovely old couple who ‘adopted’ me from a temple in Kyoto.  It was pouring rain and I had no umbrella and the waterproofing in my shoes was gone.  I was miserable.  They asked if I needed help; I must have sounded like a child when I told them about my shoes.  I spent the rest of the day with them, first going shopping to get some waterproofing spray (Omg, lifesaver!) and then they took me to this amazing restaurant in Gion.  It was like being in a movie; private rooms, rock gardens and pools; servers in kimono.  It was the sort of place that didn’t seem all that welcoming to foreigners unless you were there with company.  They shouted me lunch and drinks and we sat there talking for hours.

– That time I walked into a rock bar thinking it was a clothing store and ended up drinking with ACDC.  I made lifelong friends that night and after stumbling out of the bar well past sunup, those friends followed me back to my hotel to help me pack my stuff, get me checked out and to the Shinkansen station in time.  Pretty sure I’ve never been so hungover in my life.

– The old guy in Yoyogi Park who asked me to be his model for the day while he practiced his photography.

– That time I ended up spending an evening hanging out drinking and getting cooking lessons with a bunch of yakuza guys in the loft of a 24 hours jeans shop, all because I’d stopped and asked to borrow a lighter.

– I once ended up in a really, really, REALLY fancy French restaurant at a prime table with an Israeli guy I had known all of twenty minutes.  Try explaining that to the wait staff, especially when every table around us was celebrating wedding anniversaries, birthdays and popping those important questions.

– Or how about the sweet old man in Florence who took me on a walk while reminiscing about his younger days and the Australian girl he’d lost his heart to years ago.  He then took me to this amazing old church.  Luck had it that there was a university group there with a historian, so this man translated all the interesting details the students were being taught.

Clearly I am friend of the elderly!  While I always exercise caution and remain aware of my surroundings, I never say no to a strange opportunity or odd chance.

 

Did you ever face a scary experience while travelling?

I was stalked in Osaka.

I’d been in town for two nights visiting friends and it was my last night there, so we’d all gone for dinner and drinks and had a great old time.  We’d bar hopped and wandered around aimlessly, enjoying the always busy streets and nightlife.

When we all said goodbye, I headed to a friend’s bar to wind down before heading off back to my hotel.  I was waiting at a set of traffic lights when this American guy approached me and asked me to go for a drink with him.  Tired, pretty drunk and knowing I had to be on an early train, I politely declined.

Then he got nasty.  He was drunk and off his face on god knows what else.  He started having a go at me about how I’d spent the last days parading around with ‘all my little Asian boys’ but wouldn’t go anywhere with him.

Feeling more than uncomfortable, I smiled and apologized and agreed to go for a drink with him.  I, of course, had no intention of letting it get that far.  The issue was that my hotel was down a dark side street and had a lockout, which meant that I needed to use a small pin pad to enter a security code to gain access.  That’s not an easy thing to do after drinking, let alone if I had some creeper chasing after me.

So I took him back towards the main streets, telling him I knew the perfect place.  I wasn’t sure what to do at that stage, but I figured I’d take him to my friends bar and all would be fine; Nov would have none of that creeper stalker shit and the guy would be out on his ass.

I never made it there though as this guy just kept getting worse and worse.  He commented on the dress I had worn the night before, kept trying to hold my hand and pull me to him and kept asking invasive questions.  When I flat out refused to tell him where I was travelling to next, where I came from and how old I was, he got really angry and started trying to get physical.

I had previously told him that I spoke no Japanese, so you can imagine the look on his face when I just started yelling back at him in Japanese.  Every head on the street turned, both from the things I was saying as well as the way I was saying them (my Japanese is far from polite, so having a foreign girl screaming like a movie gangster really draws attention).

The Dotonbori Bridge went nuts.  Hosts and flyer guys pushing their shot bars flocked.  It was a sea of perfect hair and shiny, pointy shoes that separated me from this creeper.  One promo guy (who I’d talked to the night before) gave me a hug and acted like my best buddy and him and his friends just walked me off while the others flagged down a policeman.

While all worked out well (for the most part, because I ended up hanging out with the boys at their bar for the rest of the night, had drunk morning ramen at 5am and then they walked me safely back to my hotel where I had yet another very drunk train ride out of Osaka) it was a big wake up call for me.  It could have gone a lot worse.  Having said that, it was also empowering knowing that I can and will stand up for myself and that I am smart enough to both devise a plan and improvise while under great stress.

It was also shocking to think that a foreigner would act like that; it really put a damper on my want to interact with out travellers.  How despicable!

 

Would you rather go on a road trip or train journey?

Oh, this is a hard one.  I love a good train journey; there is just something so amazing about it, and I am currently planning to do the famous Trans-Siberian trip later on this year.  However, a road trip also has a hugely alluring pull to it.  Windows down, music up, trees and speckled sunlight and going at your own pace.

I think for me the deciding factor is company.  If I’m travelling alone then I’d pick a train trip any day.  A road trip is something that I associate with my best friend and the little day getaways we take to get out of the city.

What is your favourite cuisine?

I have to stay with the answer I gave in my Travel Whispers Blogger Challenge.  Japanese food is amazing.  I could eat it for the rest of my life, and I’m saying this as someone who is allergic to seafood as well.

 

What is your least favourite part of travelling?

Is it weird if I say travelling?  Ha.

I honestly love to travel, but the idea of being on the move all the time also drives me crazy.  Mad dashes between hotels and airports, packing and unpacking and saying goodbye to places I love gets pretty hard.  I also don’t like to look like a typical tourist (I like to blend in; hang with the locals) so I hate pulling out maps and looking lost.  It’s also pretty hard not to seem like the ‘annoying traveller’ when you’re running people over with your luggage or leaning your backpack, and thus yourself, against anything you can find.

And… that’s me in a rather long-winded nutshell and now it’s time to pass this along.

 

I nominate the following blogs:

Josie over @ Josie Wanders

Nuria over @ Where’s Nuria

Ioanna over @ A Woman Afoot

Amanda over @ The Boutique Adventurer

Meghana over @ City Slicker Web

 

And my questions for you all are:

  1. How many stamps do you have on your passport?
  2. What was your worst flight experience?
  3. If you had the chance to visit a place for the first time all over again, where would it be and what would you do differently?
  4. The pictures are awesome but the reality is not; what place has failed to live up to the expectations set by travel blogs/magazines/etc?
  5. Smart phone or camera?  Which do you prefer and why?
  6. Beach, country or city?
  7. What’s been the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
  8. Blogging isn’t easy, so what has been your biggest struggle?
  9. Is there anything that you always pack for holidays and yet never seem to use?
  10. Is the glass half empty, half full or twice as big as it needs to be?

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