Traveling in Asia: Don’t Go Without Your Phone!

Traveling in Asia: Don’t Go Without Your Phone!


Just by the title, I am sure you are thinking “why would anyone do that?” Traveling without a phone was not by choice I assure you! This is not a case of, ‘I can’t live without social media’, this story is about how important Google Maps, my clock, and my camera is and the lessons I learned a long the way.
It started early summer, four days before my big trip to Japan. I had lost my phone and didn’t have the budget for a new one anytime soon. So, there I was in Suzhou, planning everything step-by-step of where I need to go, how to get there and any important information I needed.

Day two without a phone: Shanghai

I stayed three days in Shanghai to get my JR pass for Japan. It’s a handy but pricey all access pass to any JR train, bus, and bullet train, with some exception.  Now, I just arrived at the train station in Shanghai and needed to get to my hostel. I decided to take the metro since I am used to traveling around Shanghai. The difficult part was when I got out of the metro stop and realized I forgot to check which exit I needed to get out of. I spent a good 30 minutes walking around before I asked a local for help.

Lesson #1: Write the metro line, stop, and exit down (there can be up to four or more exits)

My JR Pass and Passport without a phone
My JR Pass and Passport

Where’s the map?

Now, I wasn’t completely helpless. I did have my laptop with me. Why would I go traveling with it? The main reason was because I had a job interview the day I arrived in Japan. Funny enough, it was with the former IC Chengdu Branch Manager, currently the China Manager. My arrival post and this  post should be proof enough that I got the job!

So, there I was, at the Haneda airport checking which train I should take, to get to my hostel. I honestly thought I was completely prepared. Got my JR Pass, took my train and went my way. After arriving at my stop, I read my notes and I saw that I need to leave through the North exit. After walking around for 30 minutes, I asked a local for help. I was in the complete opposite area!

Lesson #2: Read the map at the train station to make sure what side is which.

Waiting at the Akihabara Station in Tokyo Japan
Akihabara Station in Tokyo

Can’t be too harsh on myself for this one though, I had been up for +20 hours and the only thing I can think of, was getting a nap in before my interview. This is where I truly realized how much more researching and planning was going to done.

A picture is worth a thousand words

I never imagined how much I needed my not-so good quality camera on my old Samsung S5 mini. The biggest regret would have been not buying a camera beforehand. My flight to Japan was around midnight (not including the delay) so, I was fortunate to see the sunrise on my flight. Being able to see Mount Fuji during the sunrise was surreal. A moment I’ll never forget, I just wish I had a camera.

Lesson #3: Get a camera to record the beautiful moments of your trip!

the view from the Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree

Eventually I bought a small Sony camera. It was awkward in the beginning. I didn’t get as much pictures because I’m not used to taking pictures with anything but a phone. However, I found myself enjoying the scenery a lot more.

Tik-tok, it’s check-out time!

For the most part, my sense of time was the most effected. I found myself waking up at the crack of dawn because I was afraid to sleep through the check-out time. Ironically, I didn’t need an alarm anymore! However, I still needed to know what time it was. As a result, I bought a simple watch to keep track of the day. In fact, I am not consistently looking at my phone anymore. This is one of the best habit I took from my trip.

Tatami room in Nagoya with futons
My hostel in Nagoya

Overall, these were the three things that really stood out throughout my travels. The next time you plan to travel without a phone, make sure you are fully prepared!