International travel reminds you that no matter your ethnicity, you are a part of a global community which is generally filled with friendly faces.
As summer is fast approaching and graduation is right around the corner for some, you may be considering stretching your legs, hopping on a plane, and exploring the exciting world of international travel over our well-earned summer break.
Long before I decided to go back to school and become a respectable citizen, I was a wayward, wandering hooligan. This was an unproductive and selfish time in my life, but it wasn’t a total waste of time. My waywardness brought me to lots of places, like parts of Europe, South America and Asia.
So, if you feel the itch of the travel bug this summer, here are three recommendations from my own experience.
Japan, Takatoriyama Magaibutsu:
Located south of the town Yokosuka and just a 45-minute train ride from downtown Tokyo, this is a great location if you fly into Tokyo and want to escape the city. This 4-mile trail is filled with hidden wonders and is an excellent example of the unique brand of temperate rainforest which covers much of Japan.
Spread throughout the mixture of unique vegetation are high cliff walls that make this spot a popular location for rock climbers. Yet carved into the rocks themselves are the true attractions, Buddhist shrines and imagery are spread throughout the park, some buried deep into the nooks and crannies of the cliff walls. The most impressive of which is the “Magaibutsu” or giant Buddha. This Magaibutsu stands 26 feet tall and is carved right into the side of the cliff.
Deeper into the park there is a high tower that serves as an observatory and is open to the public from dawn to dusk. From the top, you get an impressive panorama of the Kanagawa Prefecture, including a majestic view of the famous Mount Fuji.
Japan is truly a unique place. According to the United Nations Deforestation Report despite having such a large population density, 68% of the island chain is forested, more than twice as much as the global average of 29%. As a result, Japan offers just as many attractions in its wild places as it does in its bustling metropolises.
Before planning a trip to Japan, be sure to review Japanese etiquette as respect and social norms are of the highest value to the Japanese. Personally, this was one of the most interesting things to observe while I was there. Japanese society functions very differently than what we are used to.
I do not recommend Amsterdam for the stereotypical reasons, although if that’s why you would want to go, I am sure you’ll find everything you want there. I recommend Amsterdam for the magnificent architecture, the beautiful canals, and the collection of some of the greatest museums Europe has to offer.
Much of the Netherlands was spared the worst destruction of the World Wars. So, if you are like me and can’t get enough of medieval architecture, stained glass windows and crappy cobblestone streets which wind and weave through crowded alleys with no discernible pattern, you will love the Netherlands.
There are many things to enjoy in Amsterdam. One of my favorite attractions was the pristine Vondelpark, a gorgeous and massive park in the heart of the city. Surrounding this park is the world-famous Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, both of which house priceless examples of the Dutch Golden Age.
Honestly my favorite day in Amsterdam was spent sitting outside a canal-side café near my hostel, playing chess and sharing beers with fellow travelers, and watching the boats pass by on the canal. You don’t have to work very hard or go very far to find a good day in Amsterdam.
If you find yourself wanting to explore more of the country, you are in luck. A train from Amsterdam’s central station will take you anywhere in the country. Rotterdam and The Hague are certainly good options, but if you want to find a more quiet, traditional Dutch experience, a forty-minute train ride will take you to Alkmaar. This town is a small, picturesque slice of the Netherlands which shouldn’t be missed.
Costa Rica, The Jaguar’s Jungle Hostel and Lodge:
Costa Rica is world-famous for its ecotourism, biodiversity, and outdoor attractions. If you are willing to make the journey to one of the most remote and untamed regions I have ever been to, you’ll see why this Central American paradise deserves its reputation.
Located in the heart of the Corcovado National Park, this jungle wilderness is home to abundant and exotic wildlife, from tapirs and pumas to monkeys and parrots. From the hostel’s central location in the thick of it all, you have exclusive access to countless trails, guided jungle tours, and boat rides to the uninhabited Cano Island which offers incredible diving and snorkeling.
If you are very lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the rare and elusive Central American jaguar as the Corcovado National Park is one of the last refuges for this elegant and imposing apex predator to roam free in the wild as it was meant to.
The hostel itself is right on a pristine Costa Rican beach with coconut trees swaying in the breeze and dozens of hammocks spread out between them. The lounge offers gourmet-quality food day and night, and an extensive library with something great for any reader.
Arriving at this remote location is an adventure all by itself. If you don’t want the hassle of traveling to one of the most remote hostels in the world, you can stay in the nearest town, Drake Bay. You couldn’t go wrong if you choose to do so, Drake Bay is a lovely resort town which offers many similar attractions without being in the middle of nowhere.
International travel is difficult to describe to those who have yet to try it. It’s not always easy either. Navigating foreign cultures and language barriers can be difficult. Air travel itself is an exhausting experience. Yet these facts should never dissuade you from planning that trip you’ve always thought about. Travel is an incredible experience, and solo traveling for two months a few years back changed me for the better in countless ways.
Get out there this summer, you’ve earned it.