Things I learned in Japan

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  • Having one card that works for all public transit in different cities is such a blessing
  • Bento boxes are amazing, because they let you try many different foods in one box
  • Japan is not a great place if you’re vegetarian (I’m not, but a friend is) – there are only a few restaurants in each city that will work out
  • Service delays for local trains do happen occasionally. In such cases, it can be difficult to leave the train station, because most of the time, the system requires you to tag in and out of your departure and arrival station in order to work.
  • Water bottles get more expensive the higher up Fushimi Inari you climb
  • Vending machines with beverages on streets are remarkably…considerate when you’re feeling thirsty.
  • The Shinkansen takes 2.3 hours to go from Tokyo to Kyoto which are 318.6 miles apart. Compare that with the Acela, which takes 3.5 hrs to get you from Boston to New York which are 214 miles apart
  • The phrase for Good Morning is exceptionally fun to say: Ohayo (Oh-hi-oh)
  • Cardholders from the US generally fare better with 7-11 ATMs than others where you’ll get an error message
  • Don’t eat too much tempura or you’ll end up with stomach problems for weeks after you get back home
  • Women sometimes wear kimonos in the summer in Kyoto when they go out
  • There are beautiful places in every corner of the universe
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On Traveling & Working Remote in Edinburgh

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STARBUCKS WIFI

Good free WiFi is hard to find. A Scottish woman joked with me that only 3% of Scotland has real high-speed internet. Regardless, Starbucks will always get you free WiFi and outlets to plug your devices into. There are a bazillion Starbucks in Edinburgh. The most spacious one I’ve encountered so far in on Princes St. Waverly Station Starbucks is quite cozy and generally a bit warmer, which may be important in the winter. The central Starbucks in Old Town (off High Street) is nice as well, but generally more crowded.

OTHER WIFI

McDonald’s has free WiFi as well, but you need to go through a verification process that involves them sending you a verification code via SMS, which you may or may not be able to receive depending on your phone’s messaging plan. Waterstones Cafe on Princes is also quite roomy and offers free WiFi (faster than Starbucks) without requiring a password. The Central Library in Edinburgh has free WiFi as well, but you have to enter a library membership number in order to reach it. The Cafe inside the Main Library has 4-5 computers with fast internet. Hostels generally have free WiFi, but they are as slow as winters in Boston. Some hostels have multiple WiFi hotspots. Find the one closest to you; don’t assume the one you used in the main lounge (e.g. “Hostel Free”) is the best one.

TRAVEL

Get up early, especially if you want to travel to neighboring cities. Edinburgh to Glasgow: £9.50 / Edinburgh to Stirling: £12.50 / Bus in Edinburgh: £1.50 / Bus in Glasgow: £1.20 or £1.90 depending on distance / Bus prices vary in St. Andrews, Stirling.

Umbrellas are definitely necessary in a downpour, but not particularly useful during the short bursts of drizzle and light rain Edinburgh daily. Get a good hat instead that will keep your head dry and warm.

CONVERSATION

For Americans: “Hiya” = “Hey there, how’s it going.” and “Sitting in or taking away?” = “For here or to go?”

Talk to people you don’t know, whether its shopkeepers or other hostel residents. They won’t all be from the city you’re in. You’ll find travelers from everywhere. If you don’t know how to start a conversation, I recommend starting with a question.

Use “Globish” (Global English) with non-native English speakers. They’ll thank you for it.

Call/chat/email your loved ones often. They miss you. Skype/Hangout/FaceTime will suck without good WiFi.

FOOD

Haggis is actually good. But eat some green stuff too.

For hostelers: get ready to spend at least the same amount of money on food as you would on shelter. Food for a day (if you eat out) will usually be more expensive than a night’s stay in a 12-person room.