yoga girl

okinawa islands, japan – the edge of the world

When my aunt invited me to tag along to Japan (specifically to the Okinawa Islands) with her and my cousin about four weeks before the departure date my first thought was, “there is absolutely no way I can make that work.” But after looking at a few flights and day dreaming of being transported to spectacular beaches at the other side of the world I just decided to make it work. Literally the only thing stopping me from going was myself.

And after the beginning of this year I decided a little break wouldn’t be half bad for me. I will probably never be one of those carefree people that throws everything to the wind and just goes with life. I like to plan. I like to plan the future. Or plan it as much as possible that is. I’ve also concluded that it’s okay to be a bit of a crazy, OCD, planner. It’s okay to like (slash love) to plan and have somewhat of an f-ing idea of what I want to happen. It’s okay as long as I’m open to the flexibility of those plans changing.

So in the end I decided I was just going to Japan, if not only for a bit of a brain break from my life, but also to just try to be present. So that is what I did. I went to Japan and attempted to let go. To let go of all of the planning, to let go of living in the future, to let go of living in the past and to let go of all the anger that I feel towards the world for the cruelty that happens everyday.

And when it was all said and done I would say I did a pretty good job. I wasn’t always present or not crazy with anger but I was there. And I tried to live every moment for just being there and being grateful for a new place, a new culture and a new point in life (literally and emotionally).

So here is a look at our INCREDIBLE trip (without any more self realization talk)!

off to japan!

off to japan!

the people. I cannot think of two better travel companions to go to the edge of the world with than my aunt, Heidi, and cousin, Kailey. Kailey was slowly making her way back to the states after being overseas for 9 months. She is now a PADI dive master after mastering all that diving business under the water in Thailand. She also has a tan that most would kill for. Can we all say jealous? And my aunt. She has always been there for me but in the past months has been one of those people that I know I can rely on. She is like a whirling combination of caring, empathy, reasonable and humorous that never stops moving forward. Both also happen to be great travelers.

Another wonderful part of these two ladies are the laughs. There were so many laughs and fits of hysteria had by all of us during our trip. A laugh a day definitely keeps the doctor away.

heidi & i surrounded by the clearest, turquoise water i have ever seen

heidi & i surrounded by the clearest, turquoise water i have ever seen

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refreshing afternoon drinks in taketomi

refreshing afternoon drinks in taketomi (we were asked to take a picture with a lovely japanese lady, who sat smack dab in the middle of us, shortly after….)

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trucker hats have infiltrated the furthest reach of the world

trucker hats have infiltrated the furthest reaches of the world

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please take note of my whiteness in comparison to the best tan i have ever seen

love these ladies

love these ladies

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idaho friends in japan (obviously)

idaho friends in japan (obviously)

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the hottub that was never hot...

the hottub that was never hot…

 

9 months of luggage

9 months of luggage

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the places. Japan. Japan is a new world. I have traveled through Europe and the Americas but Asia, never Asia. I flew from Sun Valley to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Okinawa. I was extremely surprised by the number of Americans on my flight to and from Okinawa (there is a ginormous base on the northern part of the island). Heidi and Kailey arrived a bit after I did and we made our way by bus a bit north on Okinawa to the Western side of the islands. We were tempted by a magnificent hotel and white sand beach.

But after arriving we realized that this hotel was not quite our dream. It was a very large hotel and very infiltrated with knick-knacks and large crowds. It was an adventurous night and we decided to book tickets to Ishigaki the following day. Ishigaki is a part of a smaller set of islands about an hour flight south-west from Okinawa. Rumor has it you can see parts of Taiwan from the islands. While in Ishigaki we stayed at the most magnificent place (after a bit of a miss booking when we booked a hotel in the middle of nowhere with a view of an alley). Side note: booking hotels is hard in Japan. Websites will say every single last room is booked when it looks like no one is at the hotel. Either everyone rolls in on a tour bus later in the evening (which is entirely possible) or the rooms are held by Japanese websites. A little planning of where you want to stay is reasonable if you are considering going to the Okinawa Islands.

Ishigaki and the surrounding islands literally felt like the edge of the world. We rented bikes that were a bit used (to say the least) and explored Ishigaki port one day. We also scooted over to Taketomi by ferry and explored for the day by bike. Taketomi was by far my favorite place of the trip. It has a village with about 300 inhabitants. The roads of made of crushed coral and wide enough for a water-buffalo cart. The island has spectacular turquoise water, white sand beaches with star sand and apparently hundreds of deadly spiders and snakes, none of which we encountered thanks to some lucky stars. If you ever find yourself on Okinawa you must go to Ishigaki and Taketomi. You will not regret it.

And our last night we stayed back on Okinawa by the airport and went out with some Idaho friends. We had a great dinner followed by karaoke singing in a closed bar, with Mana-sans and Tokito, that our Idaho friends had been to before. We were given copious amounts of chips, strawberries and tomatoes, chocolate and sake. If that’s not a great way to end an incredible vacation then I don’t know what is.

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beach for days

beach for days

star stand from taketomi (we had high hopes of collecting our own sand until we saw a nice man with some for sale!)

star stand from taketomi (we had high hopes of collecting our own sand until we saw a nice man with some for sale!)

the cutest little bar/drink shack in taketomi village

the cutest little bar/drink shack in taketomi village

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bike parking

bike parking

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the hotel in ishigaki (it may or may not have been owned by the japanese mafia)

the hotel in ishigaki (it may or may not have been owned by the japanese mafia)

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exploring at low tide

exploring at low tide

we were kindly given slippers upon entering our room

we were kindly given slippers upon entering our room

shoes off, slippers on = very japanese of us

shoes off, slippers on = very japanese of us

ishigaki street market

ishigaki street market

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chairs wear socks in japan

chairs wear socks in japan

the world peace bell in ishigaki for a non-nuclear world

the world peace bell in ishigaki for a non-nuclear world

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our handy companion bikes

our handy companion bikes

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mongrove forests

mangrove forests

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the edge of the world

the edge of the world

 

the new friends. We made a ton of new friends in Japan. Upon arriving on Ishigaki there was significantly less English spoken. But we got by quite fine. Most people tended to look at us like we were possibly the three craziest, whitest ladies that they had ever seen and I think most questioned how we had gotten so far without a lick of Japanese or a clue of what we were doing. But we didn’t let that stop us.

We quickly realized that the Japanese are very reserved and quiet. We were likely neither. There were very few public displays of emotion that we encountered. But after starting to say “hi” to locals that we passed on our bikes most of the locals would literally light up and give us the most genuine and beautiful smiles. Interacting with little to no verbal communication was literally one of my favorite parts of the day. Imagine the hotel clerk who also cleaned the windows and the pool, gardened and bartended, depicting a water buffalo with his hands and head after we told him we were going to Taketomi. How can that not be a highlight of your day?

Here are the many friends we made along the way!

a horse with an afro at the edge of the world

a horse with an afro at the edge of the world

 

water buffalo are friends too

water buffalo are friends too

 

water buffalo are friends, not food

water buffalo are friends, not food

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i asked in english if i could ride with him, he didn't respond so i gestured and everyone laughed (how all communication went in japan)

i asked in english if i could ride with him, he didn’t respond so i gestured and everyone laughed (story of how all communication went in japan)]

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goat friends!

goat friends!

 

dive master friends who happened to be sitting at our table at dinner

dive master friends who happened to be sitting at our table at dinner

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dogs that sit at the entrance of most buildings as protection

dogs that sit at the entrance of most buildings as protection

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hermit crabs are friends too

hermit crabs are friends too

tony noodle taking a peak

tony noodle taking a peak…

tony noodle how apparently is a japanese comedian who worked on a spanish fishing boat and was in lonely planet...

tony noodle who apparently is a japanese comedian who worked on a spanish fishing boat and was in lonely planet…

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idaho friends

idaho friends

the food. I am self admittedly a picky eater. The boy tells me frequently I’m picky and I prefer to respond that I just know what I like. Which I do. I like fresh fruits, vegetables, some grains, beans, tea and coffee, lots of coffee. It’s not a bad diet but definitely not the Japanese diet. For someone that hasn’t eaten meat (or fish) for over 12 years, everything tasted a bit fishy in Japan. But I just went with it and tried to be as accommodating as possible of my crazy, freak eating habits.

Japan has quite possibly the most beautiful fruits and vegetables you will ever see. The Okinawa Islands are famous for having the longest living inhabitants. This fact is quite understandable as they just eat the most amazing fresh produce, fish, sweet potatoes, seaweed and a bit of rice. That right there is the diet of champions. We visited several markets on the islands and each time were met by beautiful, clean and clearly not GMO/hormone/antibiotic ridden fresh fruits and vegetables. Most even had baked sweet potatoes for a to-go snack. (Side note: it was clearly not a social custom to munch on the sweet potato as you shop and then pay for it…). However, like the rest of the world Japan has a TON of pre-packaged food. Almost to a point of insane consumerism. We chose to focus on the fresh food instead and feasted like champions…

breakfast of champions with the most incredible view

breakfast of champions with the most incredible view

the only food to be found at 'family mart' that wasn't pre-packaged were giant, crunchy carrots

the only food to be found at ‘family mart’ that wasn’t pre-packaged were giant, crunchy carrots

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the most amazing ginger-ale

the most amazing ginger-ale

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starbucks is everywhere

starbucks is everywhere

you hand the barista a "soy" card in japan for your drink

you hand the barista a “soy” card in japan for your drink

coffee machine?

coffee machine that was literally on every corner next to a beer machine

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never enough coffee

never enough coffee

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a feast we prepared

a feast we prepared

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broke out the translator for our last night in okinawa

broke out the translator for our last night in okinawa

the best beer ever from our hotel clerk friend

the best beer ever from our hotel clerk friend

the handstands. So many handstands were had. Kailey has a bit of an inversion to being inverted (understandable). She is more of an underwater hand-stander. So Heidi and I did handstands all over Japan. I’m certain the locals thought we were insane. But it provided a great new perspective and a bit of fun to be had literally everywhere we went. We are now both on a mission to master the handstand.

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handstand succession fail to follow....

handstand succession fail to follow….

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If you happen to ever venture the world of Okinawa, Japan please feel free to contact me! Also huge thanks and enormous gratitude to my aunt and cousin for letting me tag along to the edge of the world. I can’t think of anyone else I would have rather shared the time, laughs, sore butts and adventures with. Love you both!

And I will leave you with some wise words from Tony Noodle:

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taylor brass

brass blossom

weekend love it – globe trotting & gratitude

I have super exciting news. Like take a seat news. I am off to Okinawa, Japan. Yay!! I slightly hinted about my upcoming travels in my last weekend love it (because I just couldn’t resist) and have pretty much been thinking and talking about Japan since I booked my ticket.

Spontaneous would likely never be a word anyone would use to describe me. But when my aunt invited me to tag along to Okinawa with her and my cousin I just couldn’t say no. One thing that I have come to terms with this year (and not willingly) is that life keeps keeping on regardless of if you are on board. Four months ago I imagined I would be prepping binders and color-coded folders for grad school and not jet setting off to Japan for the vacation of a lifetime. But life happens. I don’t know if I will ever go as far to say I’m blessed to have experienced what has happened thus far in 2015 but I will say that I am gracious. I am gracious for my current status, mindset, physical location and supposed projected course in life.

So with that exciting news out of the bag, here is what I have been loving!

1. globe trotting – okinawa, japan. Japan has not once ever been a destination that I have thought about going to. But after doing a bit of research, I literally cannot wait to touch down in Okinawa. Something else that I am looking forward to is just checking out and enjoying what our travels have to offer. I have downloaded several books, packed my bag and am just along for the ride at this point. Plus sitting on a beach with incredible company and a view that is worthy of a postcard won’t be half bad either.

A post-travel blog post will definitely be in order!

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2. yoga girl. One of my good friends who is not only brilliant but also beautiful on the inside and outside recommended that I read (and stalk) Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen after reading my last post. This friend has also been dealt her fair share of “wtf life” and come out on the other side with such an amazing soul and outlook on life (and she isn’t just all rainbows and sunshine either, which I just so appreciate, she is real life). So when she recommended this book and that I checkout Rachel Brathen on Instagram, I knew it had to be good. Maybe it’s the yoga and all the gratitude speaking but it felt like one of those signs from the universe pointing me to exactly what I needed.

So after a probably not so healthy stalking of Yoga Girl’s Instagram I ordered her book. I have thus far loved following Rachel Brathen on Instagram and reading her blog and cannot wait to dive into her book on the plane. Go follow her on Instagram (if not only for some amazing pictures) for some self love and restoration because everyone needs it at one time or another.

yoga girl by rachel braken

yoga girl by rachel brathen + white vacation nails

3. bikini. Growing up swimming competitively I have a true appreciation for swimsuits. I searched for the perfect bikini for my travels and at the last minute came across this beautyI had never heard of Khongboon Swimwear before and discovered them on Instagram (by far my favorite form of social media). I was immediately smitten by the style of their suits and the fun patterns. Think Mikoh bikinis + amazing patterns at half the price.

Unfortunately the bikini I ordered didn’t arrive in time for my trip, but a trip to Japan can simply not be ruined by a bikini. And perhaps it was for the best though as I was e-mailed just after my order shipped that the bikinis run about 1/3 size small. An exchange may be in order but I plan to wear this suit (if all goes swimmingly – pun intended!) at the pool and lake this summer.

khongboon swimwear - nerja bikini

khongboon swimwear – nerja bikini

4. four five seconds. I cannot tell you why I really like this song. I cannot even tell if I’m even embarrassed that I listen to it on repeat and don’t even know what the song means. It’s just one of those songs that resonates with me and makes me car dance and sing in a way that I should be embarrassed about. Cheers to having a guilty pleasure every once in a while.

Also I’m still confused about what part Paul McCartney plays in the song…

5. balayage. As a natural brunette I have never felt that there is much I could do with my hair without losing it’s natural color. That is until I heard about balayage. Balayage just confirms that blondes aren’t the only ones that can have fun. So I decided to drink the cool-aid and got the most fantastic, hand-painted color in my hair last week by Danielle at Vertu. For anyone looking for a little change without huge commitment I highly recommend balayage!

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waiting in the chair

balayage

balayage

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so many hair pictures

6. spring time sunny hikes. Most people love Sun Valley, Idaho for the winters. There are literally so many snow-filled activities. But I just love the summers. I would love Sun Valley summer all year long and I understand this probably offends many. One of my favorite parts about Summer is hiking. A dirt trail to somewhere breathtaking (since mostely everywhere in Idaho is breathtaking), some people or dog company and the tranquillity that comes with immersing yourself into full on wilderness (ish) is something that is difficult to beat.

I have enjoyed several hikes recently but perhaps my favorite was one that took us off trail in the general direction that we wanted to go with spectacular views of Baldy. When he summited (makes me feel like a badass to say that) we took a hot second to enjoy the view and snap a few pictures. Channeling my inner yoga girl I decided yoga on a mountain was necessary and took a hand stand. Obviously it went on Instagram and then it was miraculously retweeted by Visit Sun Valley. Cue fifteen minutes of fame.

hiking up the backside of taylor canyon

hiking up the backside of taylor canyon

maude pod posing like a good girl

maude pod posing like a good girl

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love these ladies!

love these ladies!

yoga on a mountain

yoga on a mountain

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my fifteen minutes of instagram fame

pugger walks

pugger walks

proof my pug can actually walk by herself

proof my pug can actually walk by herself

love bugs

love bugs

I am off to enjoy my travels now but I wish you all a wonderful weekend and week!

taylor brass

brass blossom