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The Best Way to Get Around Your New Home

Rulosan CC0 via Pixabay.com

Why you should forgo Ubers and public transit in favour of your own two feet.

Traveling can come with a lot of stress, with most of it stemming from transportation worries. We've all had anxiety over whether we'll catch our plane or not, or rushing to train stations to keep up with an itinerary. I've had times I visited a place, just to feel like I spent half the time looking at the famous sites and the other half in a bus or train to get there. The bigger the city, it seems the worse this problem gets. 

When I've done this, it's always felt like I haven't truly experienced that destination. Yet, I noticed a commonality with every city I felt I knew personally: It was a destination where I had walked extensively. 

I studied abroad in Valencia, Spain for three months and during that time, I would often go on walks to the park and read. When I started doing this, I had to map out my route carefully, as I had no cellular data for navigation. The more I went I on these walks, however, the more I intrinsically knew my way around the city. 

Tokyo may be the largest metropolitan area in the world, but it really feels like a large collection of mini cities, such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara. When I would go into the city, I would usually walk around these individual areas, instead of going around the whole city. By the time I left the Tokyo area, I felt extremely familiar with the city and every area's unique features. 

Now, I live in Kyoto, an extremely walkable city in it of itself. Kyoto is known largely for its famous temples and shrines, and the city has designed its public transportation to centre around those locations. As a result, the spots tourists love to visit have a completely different feeling from the rest of the city. 

When I visited Kyoto for the first time as a tourist, there was one day where my friends and I rode the bus and subway to visit these famous spots, and another where we rented bikes and rode around the city. Without a doubt, the day that was more fun and the reason why I chose to live in Kyoto was the day we rode on bikes. I credit this to the fact that we actually explored and took in the city. 

Flash-forward to now, as a resident of Kyoto, I have once again adopted the hobby of walking to spots and reading. Because of how much I've done this, I feel I almost completely know my way around the city. If my phone were lost, I'd have no problems getting back to my apartment. 

But more than that, I feel I understand the city on a personal level. Because I've taken time to walk to just sit and watch the city move, I've noticed things like the species of birds that come to the river and how they interact with each other. I know what locations dance groups and skaters like to use to practice. While this information may seem trivial, knowing it has made me feel much more like a resident rather than a long term visitor. This feeling is why I far prefer long-term travel over short vacations.

The best part of travel is getting to truly experience another culture and to do that, you must give yourself time to soak it all in. I believe no activity better affords that opportunity than walking.  

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Parker Blair

Parker Blair is an American currently studying Japanese in Kyoto, Japan. He is passionate about all things tea and getting to see how other cultures experience life. His current stay in Japan is the third of his international adventures.

Website: https://borderlesssage.wordpress.com

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