2014 and I never met. I blinked, and the year was over. What’s more, it has been a while since I’ve really taken a moment to say hello or fill you in on what I’ve been up to. Let’s change that right now, shall we?
At the end of each year, I like to take some time away from my family, my friends, and the internet to reflect on the year’s events and figure out what I want to accomplish in the next set of 365 days. My recent trip to the Philippines was just that. It was 10 days in a neutral environment away from everything familiar where I could just relax, talk to myself out loud, have fun exploring a new country, and breathe. On December 31, I sat kneeling on the floor of my hotel room, sending my wishes out into the universe, and making peace with the Heavens above for a happier, healthier, more balanced new year. As I began rewinding through everything that happened in 2014, naturally, I started to cry.
December 2013 brought the devastating news that that my mom’s breast cancer had come back for a third and what turned out to be a final round. I spent the first half of 2014 in turmoil watching her body deteriorate until she eventually passed away in June. Family from different parts of the country flew in to see her through to the end and help plan her celebration of life. Shortly after, I received an incredible offer to go live and work in Japan. Between coping with mom’s passing, feeling excited about moving, and packing my entire life up to move overseas, I spent the summer feeling emotionally confused and completely drained. To top it all off, right before I left for Japan, my father faced some health challenges that took 3 months to resolve, and then my great aunt passed away in November.
That is A LOT for one human being and one family to deal with in one year. The roller coaster of life broke down and left us hanging upside down in a constant state of shock, sadness, confusion, and numbness. Now that I’m moving forward right side up again, I’m left with nostalgia, gratitude, an overwhelming sense of “holy sh*t,” and a better understanding of the importance of taking care of myself and living now instead of later.
New Website Design and Focus
I’m going to be blunt here. I don’t want to talk about solo travel or budget travel anymore. There are plenty of blogs out there that write about budgets and standard itineraries for X amount of days in one country, offer tips on cutting costs, or post top 10 lists. And that’s great. I too will always have advice to offer on those subjects, but I’m returning to my original intent with this blog, demolishing comfort zones. I want to focus on unique cultural experiences, learning, growing, and finding adventure through travel. After all that’s one of the many reasons why we travel isn’t it? To do something out of the ordinary, something we don’t get to do or see regularly at home, yeah?
So, from here on out, the types of posts you’ll find on SYT will include Friday snapshots, photo essays, and storytelling as it pertains to unique adventures and experiences abroad. Adventures will fall into 3 categories:
- Exploring Nature – This section of SYT will cover hiking, mountain climbing, scuba diving, and snorkeling.
- Adrenaline Rush – From heart-pumping activities like skydiving or bungee jumping to things that terrify me like holding a spider or singing karaoke, this is the place to come for a good shove out of your comfort zone.
- Unique Cultural Experiences – Experiences like cooking classes, tea ceremonies, and festivals can be found here.
At the end of each adventure themed post, there will be a note box that will have information about the adventure including location, company (if applicable), and notes so you can recreate a similar experience.
With a new focus comes a new website design. Ever year since I started Sushiyama Travels, I’ve given it a makeover because after the redesign, I’d find a layout I like better. As is life. This time though, I’m really happy with the new look on SYT. It’s sleek, simple, and here to stay.
As they say, new year new gear. Or maybe that’s just me. During my first month in Japan, I went on a camera shopping spree. Because I now live in one of the most photogenic countries in the world, I felt I needed to upgrade my gear to properly capture Japan’s spirit and beauty. So, I am now shooting with…
- Sony A6000– After reading this review on Mashable, I splurged and bought the Sony a6000 as a birthday gift to myself. Let me tell ya, this is a gorgeous and intelligent camera for shooting everything from nature and landscapes to street photography and night scenery. When it comes to best practices, I’m still learning the ropes, but so far, this camera has proved to be a very worthwhile purchase.
- Gopro Hero 3+ Silver – My sidekick that captures all the action while I’m free falling through the air or diving down low in the ocean, the GoPro is the ultimate adventure camera. I used it in Banff for the first time and found it to be great for panoramas. Plus, the camera itself is TINY which makes it perfect to take along anywhere.
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 – This camera has become my favorite new toy. I mostly use it as my “people camera” for snapping happy moments and memories with friends. It’s the modern day polaroid that creates vintage photos just like the ones of my childhood. You know I love sharing my travel photos on Instagram, but it’s nice to have a stash that’s just for me that I can hang on my wall or refrigerator.
The SYT newsletter has been reinstated and renamed. SYT Dispatch is a quarterly newsletter that will go out on the last Wednesday of January, April, October, and December. Why not monthly? Well, because I am currently teaching English full time, I don’t have enough travel updates to warrant a monthly newsletter so I’m not going to clog your inbox more than necessary. In SYT Dispatch, you’ll find exclusive updates including upcoming travel plans, links I loved from around the web, the latest SYT posts, HQ photos, and occasional travel deals and tips.
Sign up on right here, and you’ll get a free copy of my first photo-ebook that will be released at the end of this month.
Remember the t-shirt designs I had made last year? There’s a reason why it took me so long to do something with them. It’s because I DIDN’T WANT to do anything with them. A few months ago, when I hit “publish” on the Teespring campaigns, immediately I could feel my heart wasn’t in it. I thought to myself, “This isn’t special. I feel like I’m just doing what everyone else is doing. I’m just trying to find a cheap way to make money.” And boy, was that an eye opener. Since then, I’ve begun to narrow in on what I want to share with you, how I present myself, and thinking long term about how I want SYT to be remembered. Needless to say, T-shirts are not the way. I don’t want to sell you something I wouldn’t buy for myself, and since that is how I felt after seeing the finished products, I nixed the campaigns. In short, no t-shirts.
Destinations Visited in 2014
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Chicago, Illinois
- Banff National Park, Canada
Where to in 2015?
The first half of the year will be spent getting to know my new home. I’ve got a bunch of long weekend trips planned in various parts of Japan including Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Okinawa, and Kagoshima. In July, I intend on taking an extended vacation to visit Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo to see some friends, attend Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri, and *DRUM ROLL PLEASE* climb Mt. Fuji.
While I do have some new destinations on the list for the second half of 2015, we all know how life can get in the way and how wanderlust can take off in unexpected directions. For now, it’s a secret, but I’ll keep you in the know as plans solidify.
I don’t take enough time to say this online or to myself even, but I really love Sushiyama Travels. At the end of a long day, nothing makes me happier than to come home, hop into bed with a hot cup of tea, and just write. Often, I find myself paralyzed by how much I have to do or want to do, but when I open my browser and just start typing, everything else melts away. It truly is my happy place. I’m really looking forward to learning and showcasing all sorts of adventures and experiences next year in the hopes of encouraging you to explore and do more outside your comfort zone.
So are you coming along for the ride or what?