Ah, Tokyo <3. Admittedly, it wasn’t at the top of my travel list, but all it took was one visit for me to absolutely fall in love with its energy, cuteness, order, and all-around awesomeness!!

Tokyo has stolen my curious little heart, allowed for me to feel like a giant kid in a really cool (read: advanced) playground and just, honestly, live. During my short time there, I grew addicted to the little capsule machines, got into my element gaming at the Sega Arcade, and had some of the most fresh fish ever! Though we were there for just a few short days, I have gathered below what we did cover + absolutely loved the most. So if you’re looking for ideas, make sure to save room for these in your itinerary!


WHERE TO EAT

Robata Sho Tokyo (for the love of authentic & all things grilled)

We stumbled upon this place (and what great luck!) because it was one of the highlights of our trip. Located under ground of a pretty empty Tokyo street, this izakaya (Japanese Gastropub) is where locals (and the tourists who can find it) come for some authentic dining. It was very much like “Cheers” where everyone feels so welcomed and like it’s home!

The restaurant is lively with people sitting near each other, the chef in the center grilling all of your orders, and laughs with clinks of beer and sake with the staff (if you ask) is frequent! Food notes: the sashimi platter was the freshest fish I’ve ever had; be sure to order their potato salad (thank me later) and order the whole fish for a super delicious, omega-3 filled delight! Prices are very fair and it’s served “tapas” style, so pair with your drink + share :).

Reservations HIGHLY recommended as there are only 42 seats (we were lucky that there happened to be a cancellation when we walked in), but make sure to make a rezy to make things way easier.


Genki Sushi (for the love of fresh, cheap sushi & tech)

Locals go crazy over this spot! This was our first self-service, tech-loving conveyor belt experience in Tokyo with some super fresh sushi for an amazing price! Enter into the store and they give you a seat number, you walk down the aisles to your seat where you’re greeted with your own touch-screen waiter. The sushi (and ramen or whatever else you’d like to order) will arrive right in front of you; with a tap of a green button on the screen, the serving platter will head back to the kitchen where the chef will prepare your next dish! Complimentary green tea is at your fingertips and, don’t say I didn’t warn you, ordering can get pretty addicting! But, for about $8 USD I ate like a queen and all of the interactiveness made me feel like a kid in a candy store!

Directions/Note: At the time of publishing of this post, Genki Sushi is currently undergoing renovations, but you can check out their temporary spot (the one we went to!) at Uobei Dogenzeke (click here for the google map link). Tip: if going for dinner, get there between 5-6pm; after that, you will have a bit of a wait!


Kikanbo (for the love of ramen, juicy pork & testing your spice level)

Our friends Rachel + Nick recommended Kikanbo Ramen and what a treat this was! The experience starts outside, as you approach the ordering ‘vending machine’ of sorts and place your order (it’s where you also pay). You then take your ticket inside, sit down, and pass it to the chef who comes to confirm your order and ask you for your spice level. note: this place is known for their “devil spice” and my husband ordered “high” spice– it was love (and tears of heat) at first slurp (I ordered medium)! The décor, matched with the music of drums, helps set the tone for when your giant bowl of fresh cooked ramen arrives. It’s delicious. It’s super flavorful. And at around $10 for a bowl, you will certainly not leave hungry with the portion they give you!

tips: definitely use the little round container of spices found at your seat (next to the water). Add it to the ramen and make the experience EXTRA magical (they actually sell this stuff at the restaurant (so popular)) // there can be quite a line to stand in around 11:30am when they open; opt for a later lunch (around 1:30pm), no line! 🙂 // you may feel silly, but use the bibs they provide (!!) — those juicy slurps don’t just go anywhere ;).


ENTERTAINMENT

Robot Restaurant

Guys, I cannot stress how much fun this show was and how many times I was all “what the–!!”, giggling like a little school girl! TONS of colorful lights, loud music and people controlling GIANT robots with remote controls; what can get more TOKYO than this?! Oh, and you’re in some basement 3 floors underground or something. I meannn.

It may seem super touristy (note: it is), but tourists and locals alike love this place for its super funky feeling. The show is separated into a few parts that includes a pre-show performance (hello men dressed in robot costumes on the sick guitars and drums!) and goes into some more amazing percussion music with choreographed performances, a Power Rangers-like live performance, laser show, and a full-out dance performance on the floor with remote-controlled cars at the end. As touristy as it may have seemed, we honestly had such a fun time! Just remember, if you’re seated in the front row to lean back when robot arms come close so you don’t get sliced (LOL); but don’t worry, they make you practice before the show starts!

note: we read reviews that the food here wasn’t exactly the tastiest, so we opted out of having dinner here, but did order a drink (though pricey) for the show because, well, why not! (I had bubble milk tea — alcoholic drinks available for purchase, too).


GENERAL ADVICE / TIPS

Tokyo Metro: as a foreigner, you are allowed to purchase (with proof of passport) an unlimited subway card (BUY IT AT THE AIRPORT NEAR THE METRO)– it gives you access to both the Toei and Tokyo Metro lines. I cannot stress enough how much this was useful because as you enter/leave stations/switch lines, you will have to enter your ticket into the machines, and if you don’t have the correct ticket, you’ll have to purchase new ones a few times; it can get pretty confusing, so eliminate it with an unlimited card! Available for 24/48/ or 72 hours, it’s honestly the easiest way to get around Tokyo! (Also, at first glance of the Tokyo Metro map, you may start to feel uneasy, but TRUST; after an hour or two, you’ll be a PRO! And it becomes to easy and FUN!)

pro tip: station names are great, but utilize the station numbers (ex: C11, T02, S01)– so much more easy! And, when you’re unsure which platform to board the train on, the platform walls will tell you the direction of the train by noting what the next number is! (ex: you are at C12 and you need to get to C8: the wall will say C12->C11 (which means it’s decreasing, so C8 is in this direction; board this platform) voilà! // Follow the lines and stand in line when waiting for train + when boarding (Japanese are super organized and it’s polite!!)


Rubbish Bins: you won’t really find any in Japan! So, if you make garbage, you’re supposed to take it with you and dispose of it at your home/hotel (and recycle!). While it’s a very conscious effort on reducing public waste, let me let you in on the-more-you-know: back in 1995 there was a sarin gas attack that left thousands injured (the gas capsules were hidden in the rubbish bins) and locals pleaded for rubbish bins to be removed for their safety. Since then, they’re pretty much been gone! But it’s so crazy to know that even with no rubbish bins around, the streets and metro are so clean!!!


Basic Japanese Language: we don’t speak Japanese, but these very basic phrases were always appreciated when used– and we got by just fine! (ps: don’t expect everyone to know English; it’s taught in school, but Japanese is their official language, afterall!)

Kon’nichiwa – Hello – pronounced CUN-KNEE-CHEW-AH!

Arigato – Thank You – pronounced AH-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE!

Arigato Sai Mas – Thank You Very Much – pronounced Ah-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE-SIGH-MOSS


Body Language: a smile goes a long way and so does a bow. When greeting and thanking, always bow. When in doubt, smile and bow. // when handing anything over (money, a postcard you want to purchase, sushi bento box, etc.) always use two hands and give a little bow; handing things over with one hand is considered rude! Don’t be that person :).


xx,

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Brooklyn native, Latina, and founder of Enlightened by Bravery, an adventure/travel and wellness blog that focuses on drawing inspiration from adventures around the world back into your life // iPhoneographer // Francophile

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5.

5 Best Places to Eat in Ubud

Let me tell you, there is no shortage of places to eat in Ubud; it is both absolutely fascinating and exciting!! With that said, whenever we go anywhere to eat, I always rank them and keep record of it so that I can (1) remember them for next time and (2) share them (because nothing makes me happier than being able to share some reccos with you!!). Below you will find 5 of the best places we ate at during our time in Ubud, so you can kickstart your yummy eating! And I’m sure you’ll find more as you explore around, so please comment below on any others you absolutely found to love!! Enjoy the recommendations!!!

The Clear Café

I love this place so much that I came here three times. Vegetarian, vegan, and raw-diet friendly, this place has all the healthy, delicious goodness and charm one could hope many restaurants everywhere could offer. For starters, you are welcomed by this beautiful hand-carved circular door where you “shoe check” your footwear, are given a number, and then are seated either on the first or second floor. As you descend up the stairs, where on each step lays fresh flowers at your feet, you come to a daily motivational quote sure to pick your day up even more (written entirely out of flowers, I should add). The food is absolutely healthy and delicious (did I say that already?!). It may be a little pricier than most regular joints in Ubud (meaning your meal may be $10 USD), but it is absolutely worth it. You will fall in love with the menu as there is a diverse offering in cuisine. I highly recommend the Bali Berry, Tropical Twister, Chai Iced Dream, Twilight Tonic, Fish Fillet, Dragon Bowl (my fave — I live for that mango chutney), and the Chocolate Platinum!


Warung Città Ovest Pizza & Pasta

This pizza and pasta joint is LEGIT. Not only is it crazy affordable, it is even crazier delicious. You don’t have to jetset to Italy for a pizza craving because this place ‘got you.’ The only caveat is that the seating is very limited, so get there before the lunch or dinner rush to score a seat — and a scooter parking spot right in front. For pizzas, the Basil Basil and Vegetariana were legit. Pastas? Can’t go wrong with Pomodoro and Pesto. ps: they also do take away, just keep your grip tight on your pizza box as you’re scooting on back to your place like we did :). pps: yes, they have WiFi!


Café Pomegranate

Located a little ways away from central Ubud, this place will require you to take your little scooter on up to narrow paths, but leave you highly rewarded with a feeling of freedom as you drive past the beautiful rice fields. Café Pomegranate itself is located in front of a rice field and boasts some wonderful al fresco dining. Park your scooter up front, remove your shoes at the entryway, be welcomed by your server (and probably one of the friendly cats just strolling around), and be seated to your place of preference. I highly recommend taking a seat at the perimeter of the restaurant where you’ll be seated on a cushioned chair on the floor, overlooking the beautiful green fields in front of you. The menu isn’t too extensive, but still boasts some very delicious foods. We highly recommend the curry and their fresh fruit juices. It is the perfect spot for anytime during the day, but I think going for sunset would be even lovelier, too.


Gaya Gelato

The heat is certainly going to be up while you’re in Bali, so why not cool off with some of the most delicious, artisanal gelato in the area?! With two locations to choose from in Ubud (or, why choose? go to both ;)), Gaya Gelato will certainly hit that sweet spot without feeling like you’re about to go on a sugar high– plus, they also serve sorbets for all of my dairy-sensitive friends out there :). They have classic flavors like vanilla, pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate, but also boast some local and artisanal flavors such as: durian, chocolate + orange, and mangosteen. Speaking of local, all of their ingredients are locally sourced and only the freshest of them all are used. So, how will you choose? Well, here’s a little hint: even if you get just one scoop, you can choose to do two flavors. Not too shabby, huh?


Toro Sushi

If you have a hankering for some sushi, Toro Sushi has you covered. We actually stumbled upon this place and were pleasantly surprised with the sushi as it was super tasty! It was also a nice break from trying all of the local Balinese food non-stop in the two towns we were at before hitting up Ubud: Uluwatu and Sanur. I will admit, the service could have been a little bit quicker, but maybe it was just the New Yorker in me, and maybe it’s just the Bali way ;). I’m more of a sweet potato, yellowtail and rainbow roll kind of girl, but can tell you that my rolls were all delicious and fresh. // bonus: if you’re feeling like a refreshing treat afterwards and don’t want to venture too far, right across the way from Toro Sushi is a place right across the way called “Açai Queen,” it’s great for a little something sweet (both for the palette and the eyes) if you’re craving a finishing touch to your meal ;).

xx,

D.

Dealing with Post-Travel Depression

travel, depression, mental health, blogger

Editor’s note: I always want my posts to come with a learning rather than be a vent session, so I laid low for a while to be a student to life, learn some of the lessons in private and come back with advice – I hope this helps anyone out there who may be dealing with the same.

After living abroad for a year where we: drove THOUSANDS of miles in our van, rental cars and busses, boarded 12 different flights and visited 6 insanely different (and beautiful) countries, I came back to New York a totally changed person. My mentality changed. My pace of life changed. But New York? It was the same. And that was the start of it.

To be honest, these have been some of the most confusing and difficult two months in quite a while for me. Coming from a state of mind of constantly being stimulated with “new” to having pretty much nothing stimulate me back home, well, I really didn’t have much motivation to do anything— truthfully.

I soon found that all of the things that used to bring me joy and happiness here (before I left) no longer did that for me. Instead, I felt stuck, lost and was going through the motions. I’ll be the first to tell you that I was lazily waking up at 10/11am every day and never really left the house. I wasn’t active on social media much, nor did I really want to be social– not online and not in person. If I wasn’t sitting on the bed playing Matchington (iPhone game similar to Candy Crush), I was in the kitchen just cooking all the time so I could release my frustrations in a more creative way.

There really wasn’t much will for anything, just enough to get through the day.

I wasn’t feeling like myself and it really made me frustrated. I LOVE being outdoors. I LOVE exploring. I LOVE being social and active. I LOVE seeking the new, the different — but none of that was jiving with me. It also didn’t help that it’s the dead of winter and if I wanted to go out NYC would give me the gift of hyperthermia. Thanks, but no thanks.

I started looking at my life and started questioning everything. Who am I? What’s my purpose? I felt absolutely useless and purposeless (and that’s such a sucky feeling to have). What did I want to do? I didn’t know. I didn’t want to know. I just wanted it to be night time so I can sleep and not have to think about anything.

travel, depression, mental health, blogger

I came across a handful of post-travel depression articles in my research BEFORE we left for life abroad, but I really didn’t pay much attention to them. “Nah, that won’t happen to me; I’ve traveled a lot before and never felt that way,” is what I’d always say.

The Aha Moment:

But you know what I learned? That you need to, 100%, admit it to yourself, in the mirror, that this is real, happening to you, 100% normal, and that you will get through it. And it was at that pivotal moment that I started to recover. You no longer are in denial. You accept. And as simple as it sounds, it was extremely hard to come to that conclusion and admit it to the one person who needs to hear it the most: you.

Forget the taboo. Years ago, seeing a therapist was seemed as if something was wrong with you. With the increase in mental health awareness, the fact that you get to see a therapist is amazing. It shows strength. Power. Will for a better tomorrow and thereafter. The same with admitting that you have depression. Admit it to yourself and keep moving forward for your better tomorrow and thereafter.

Proof is in the Pudding:

That kickass person that saved money, was finding the best deals on travel/experiences, went away, communicated (even if BARELY) with strangers in a foreign language in order to survive, adapted, took chances on the craziest ideas, was extraordinarily nimble, was curious about life and beyond — that kickass person is STILL in there!! The skills, perspectives and everything else you learned will forever be a part of you. Just because your environment changed doesn’t mean that you suddenly became (sorry for the harshness) stupid/worthless/less valuable than a piece of chopped liver. I once had a marketing executive give me an example at my previous job once where he woke up one day and his wife, all concerned, was like, “omg what if you lose your job today?” and his response was “so then I get another one? I move on and figure it out. Just because I lose my job doesn’t instantly make me stupid and forget all that I know and have learned.” And that’s a good mentality to have, because though your environment has changed, you are still A FREAKING BADASS AND FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH!

You see, when you travel (and especially live) abroad, you notice different values, patterns, customs and people. The beautiful thing about traveling is that exposure to ‘different’ makes you think past the superficial and into the depths of your soul. And oftentimes, changes you — for the better. That’s why we bring back souvenirs and have a whole story to tell along with them; experiences from afar strung such a chord with us that we just needed to have a way to remember them back home. Even if it isn’t physical, the memories are just as sweet. It’s a beautiful moment in time, really.

Getting back to New York, I was picking apart all the things that I saw was ‘wrong’ with it. And by ‘wrong’ I meant ‘what was not normal to me anymore.” AND THAT’S OKAY. What else would you expect after you come home to the ‘ordinary’ after living the ‘extraordinary?’

MOVING FORWARD WITH LIFE:

Initially, when I searched the web frantically for some consolation to my woes, a lot of the advice I saw out there was “leave again ASAP” and, personally, that didn’t jive with me. To me, that was escaping. And I SO BAD wanted to do it. SO BAD. But, the average American gets two weeks of vacation a year; are you expected to burn through that in one fell swoop?

After admitting that I had post-travel depression, my mentality shifted to this:

if I was able to adjust in other parts of the world on a different mentality than those of the locals, then I am capable of getting stronger with my mentality here back home, getting my sh*t together, and putting myself on a more sensible track to doing what I love and getting to where I want to be.

I don’t think NYC will be our forever and ever home (or only home), but it is my home right now, and until I figure out the rest of my life’s plans, I’m going to make the best of it. Let all of the amazing experiences away catch up with you. You’ll soon start to see yourself getting creative again, motivated. And the universe will continue to guide you to where you’re meant to be. You ran a marathon. This is your recovery period. Recover, because the kicking of a** will continue!!!

Summary

  • When you get home and are back from your trip, chill. Take it easy on yourself. This is normal. This process takes time.
  • Stay afloat. Don’t spiral too downwards in your woes. I mean, hey, we all have our days, but know when to come back and just… float. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Have honest conversations in the mirror about your frustrations, concerns, and be open about how sad you are. Consult a therapist or, as I did, a loved one. And journal. Journal as often as possible.
  • Start working out. I KNOW. You have no will or motivation. But after month one, start moving that body around. I promise, it will help. Even if just a bit. AND KEEP MOVING.
  • Find just one thing you find pleasure in doing and keep doing that one thing. For me it was cooking. What’s your one thing?
  • Admit you’re not only depressed but that you’re a freaking BADASS. Sign up for a class. Watch some GaryVee or Tony Robbins. Get pumped. These guys believe in you.
  • Create a mini plan for what you want for yourself in the near future and start planning for that. Small goals, moving to bigger ones down the line. I want to drink more water, start up French lessons again, and eventually go to South America to visit family at some point before the year’s end. Even if I get just one checked off, it’s one in the right direction.

It’s not such a fun story that I’m sharing, but it’s something super important, super real and is a mental state that definitely needs to have some more light shed on it. We all go through our own post-travel depression levels and it’s important to do what works best for you. But remain honest. Stay positive. And just know that, like all of your bad days that are now behind you, this, too, will be something you will overcome. It will be something we will overcome. And you know why? Because we’re beautiful, global citizens that need a little reset before we go back out there again, learning more, sharing more, and doing more life-changing things.

xx,