I'm Taking a Year Off

Today is my last day at The New York Times. Working here for the last two years has been the most incredible experience of my career up to this point. I have learned so much, I have grown as a person and as an engineer, and I have worked with the best fucking team that I could have asked for. I will miss you all greatly.

Tomorrow I get to start an adventure that I have wanted to go on for many years. I've waited for this, preparing financially and professionally for the day that I would feel comfortable leaving a steady income and jumping into a big unknown. I will be traveling for most of the year with few concrete plans, which is exciting and scary and I can't wait.

If you want to follow along I will be posting regular updates here and on my Instagram and YouTube accounts!

Japan Day 10 - Flying Home

Day 10 of the trip was the last day we were in Japan. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

Our Airbnb hosts had a lovely breakfast prepared for us when we woke up.

James had to leave super early that morning, but Nicole, Paul, and I decided to go into Tokyo one last time to see the Imperial Palace and eat lunch. The palace was closed but we got to walk around the grounds.

We then got on the Narita Express train to take us to the airport. I said goodbye to Nicole (who I would see the next day because we're roommates) and Paul and headed to Terminal 2 for my flight back to NYC.

This is the final video of the Japan 2017 Series! Look forward to a lot more travel content to come later this summer, as I'm leaving my job this week to start a new adventure.

Japan Day 9 - Chiba

On day 9 of the trip we headed back near Tokyo for our last night in Japan. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

Our bullet train left Osaka Station at 1:43PM and we arrived in Tokyo around 5PM. We then headed to our Airbnb in Chiba, which is on the north side of Tokyo and closer to Narita Airport, which we'd all be going to the next day.

The house we stayed in was a lovely traditional Japanese home where a family of three lived. The mother and daughter were learning English together, and one of the ways they practiced was by giving guests a tour of their house.

We headed out to find dinner, but on a week night this far outside of Tokyo most places were closing early. We ended up in a mall that was eerily empty but had some snack food to try out. For dinner we of course chose the place that spoke zero english, and google translate wasn't much help. The meal ended up being really good though.

Afterwards we walked in the rain to an American bar which was run by a Japanese-speaking Persian man. At the bar we watched the movie Bartender starring Tom Cruise, and enjoyed our last night in Japan.

On day ten of the trip: we leave our Airbnb and head into Tokyo one last time, before making our way to the airport to fly home.

Japan Day 8 - Eating Okonomiyaki in Osaka

On day 8 we travelled to Osaka, where we ate the most delicious meal of the trip and also rode on a ferris wheel. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

We left at 11A.M. to head to Kyoto Station. Our Japan Rail train left at noon, and the trip to Osaka was about 30 minutes long.

After arriving we made our way to our Airbnb, then Nicole and I went out to get massages. We had to make appointments for later in the day, so we wandered around a pet store in the meantime.

We all then met at a restaurant for dinner. We chose a place that served okonomiyaki, which is a grilled pancake / omelette from heaven. The restaurant had a map where customers could pin where they were from.

After dinner we went to ride on a ferris wheel!

Brandi then left for Thailand, so we said goodbye to her and then went back to our Airbnb to do laundry.

On day nine of the trip: we take yet another train ride, and stay with a family for our final night in Japan..

Japan Day 7- Part 2: Shrines in Kyoto

During the second half of day seven we visited two shrines in Kyoto. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

Before getting to the shrines, Nicole and I went in search of an afternoon meal. Most restaurants close between 2 and 5P.M., so all we could find was a cafe that had some alright spaghetti.

The first shrine, Kiyomizu-dera, was under renovation so we could only see part of it.

All of the the buses were packed on account of it being tourist season, so we decided to take a taxi to the next shrine. That shrine, Fushimi-inari, is famous for having thousands of gates winding through trails in the woods. The cicada bugs were really loud here too.

Afterwards we tried to get into a fancy restaurant but it required reservations, so nicole and I split off to get tacos while Brandi, James, and Paul went to eat at a hotpot restaurant.

On day eight of the trip: we eat okonomiyaki in Osaka.

Japan Day 7 - Part 1: Nishiki Market, Kyoto

We began day seven of the trip eating street food at Nishiki Market in Kyoto. All of us tried some interesting food, and we wandered around the little shops in the market as well. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

Nicole tried a fried octopus ball and did not enjoy it. Paul was very adventurous and tried just about everything.

After we'd had our fill we all got ice cream or slushies then went back to our Airbnb to take naps around 2. When we woke up we were hungry for a full meal but unfortunately most restaurants close at 2 and open again at 5. Nicole and I went to find a cafe that might be open. We found a place that had some okay spaghetti which held us over for a while.

During the second half of the day we visited a couple of shrines.

Japan Day 6 - Hiking (near) Mount Fuji

On day six of the trip we hiked to a waterfall near mount fuji and then traveled to Kyoto. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

We woke up at 4:15A.M. to watch the sunrise, because we were told that it is the best time to see Mount Fuji before the clouds roll in.

After eating breakfast, we packed our bags and left them in the front office of our villa. We needed to store them for a few hours while we went on a hike to a local shrine and waterfall. The shrine was a 15 minute walk from our villa, and the waterfall was a 30 minute hike from there.

After cooling down at the waterfall, we decided to walk down the road that led back to where we started instead of taking the trail down. We also met a solo traveler from Luxembourg who hung out with us for a few hours.

When we got down to the road we were pretty hungry so we found a place to eat lunch. We were told to try the local Yoshida Udon Noodle which is only available in this area. It did not disappoint.

We then got caught in a downpour, so our villa was nice enough to send a van to pick us up and take us to the bus stop so we could make our way to Kyoto.

The 3:20P.M. bus ride was about 45 minutes long, and took us to Mishima station where we got on a bullet train. This bullet train ride would be our first on the trip. The train ride was a couple of hours long, and we got to Kyoto around 8P.M.

On day seven of the trip: we eat street food at an outdoor market in Kyoto.

Japan Day 5 - Leaving Tokyo

On day five of our trip we leave Tokyo and travel to Mount Fuji! You can watch the video on my YouTube channel. It took us most of the day, and a few trains, to get there, but the views of the countryside were worth it.

To get out of Tokyo, we first took the local subway to Shinjuku station, where we got on a Japan Rail train at 1:30PM. This train took us about an hour outside of the city to Otsuki station.

Once we arrived at Otsuki station, we waited for our 3:15PM train towards Kawaguchiko station. This trip took about an hour as well, and we made many local stops while passing through smaller towns along the way.

At Kawaguchiko station, a van from our hotel was waiting to pick us up. When we got in the van, we were informed that we were being taken to a supermarket, and that we had 30 minutes to buy groceries for dinner and breakfast. Apparently, the few restaurants that were nearby closed early and opened late. The supermarket was a godsend because they had real peanut butter!

After we unpacked everything at our villa, we walked across the street to Lake Kawaguchiko. Typically the clouds part after sunset, unveiling Mount Fuji, so we waited by the lake and took in the scenery.

We got back to our villa after dark and made dinner. I believe it was some sort of burrito / stir-fry hybrid. We also found out that we'd accidentally bought alcohol-free beer. Oops.

After dinner we played cards, then went to the hot spring baths at our hotel. There were separate rooms for men and women, and we had to get naked and take a shower before getting in. Apparently the water was directly from the lake, and meant to have healing powers.

On day six of the trip: we hike to a waterfall, we leave Mount Fuji, and we ride on our first bullet train!

Japan Day 4 - Tokyo SkyTree

On the fourth day of the trip I met up with my cousin who was also in Japan, and we went to Tokyo Skytree. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

Day four was our last full day in Tokyo. We took it easy since the next morning we were leaving for Mt Fuji. My cousin Lauren and I met up and spent part of the day together. She wanted to check out Shibuya Crossing so we went back there. We then got lost trying to find the sushi restaurant the rest of the group was at, but eventually made it.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the Imperial Palace (which was closed) and running into a popup Oktoberfest, before heading to the Tokyo SkyTree Tower to get a birds eye view of the city at night. Tokyo SkyTree was pretty neat, and showed how huge a city Tokyo is. I'd be interested to check that view out during the day.

After saying goodbye to Lauren, I headed back to the house. Unfortunately I didn't get any video, but we then went to a local bar for a couple of hours. We had a very fun conversation with the bartender and another guy there, using their bit of english, James' bit of Japanese, and a lot of assistance from Google Translate. It was a great evening.

On day five of the trip, we leave Tokyo and make our way to Mt. Fuji!

Japan Day 3 - Shinjuku, Shibuya, Sumida

On our third day in Tokyo we attend the Shinjuku Eisa Matsuri Festival, walk around the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, walk through Shibuya Crossing, and see the Sumida River Fireworks. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

I woke up around 8AM today, so I got a lot of sleep. I was still laying in bed at 9:15AM, and everyone else is pretty tired as well. We have two festivals to go to today so we are taking it easy this morning. We left around noon to go towards the Shinjuku festival. We hung around there for an hour or so watching the drum and dance performances. It was possibly the hottest day of the trip, and incredibly humid, so we only lasted so long in the crowds.

To cool off we headed to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. I bought a lemonade for 350 yen and we got in for 200 yen. We walked around for an hour or so, before heading to Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world. We stopped in the Starbucks that has a view of the crossing from above so we could take some video. There's a timelapse in the video I linked at the beginning of this post.

In the afternoon some rain set in so we went to find some food. I didn't realize how long it'd been since I'd last eaten so I was getting a little out of it and rather hangry. We found a nice place though and the noodles and shrimp hit the spot.

Newly energized, we walked to the Sumida River Fireworks Festival. Sort of. We walked down a street next to the park the fireworks were at because there were so many people. There was zero standing room, and the police were making sure nobody stood in the street so we had to keep walking. It also was raining on us. When we left we had to walk past one subway station because there was a mob of people trying to get into it.

We went to Ropongi Hills for dinner. Turns out it's a really expensive area so we went to a German place. I got a beer and pesto German noodles with smoked salmon. We headed home around 11PM.

On day four of the trip I meet up with my cousin and we check out Tokyo SkyTree.

Japan Day 2 - Akihabara, Tokyo

On the second day of the trip we explored Akihabara, Tokyo, The Miraikan Science Museum, and Rainbow Bridge. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

We left around 10AM to make our way towards Akihabara. Our first stop was a giant 6 story arcade. It was loud, smelled like cigarettes (smoking is still allowed indoors in Japan), and dark because there weren't any windows. We walked through all of the floors, and some of the group tried out a game or two.

After wandering around some more we ended up at a Maid Cafe. It wasn't lunch time yet so I had a waffle with ice cream. They didn't allow filming so we couldn't get video or pictures. I didn't quite understand the Maid Cafe thing, but James and Paul went back later in the trip and had more authentic experience. Our next stop was the Don Quixote, a multi-story Walmart-type store that has tiny aisles and anything you could need.

We'd had our fix of the area, so we took a driverless monorail over a bridge and to The Miraikan Science Museum. On our way over we saw people dressed up in Mario character costumes driving go-karts down the street. At the museum we saw a demo of Asimo, Honda's robot that can walk, kick a ball, and hop on one leg, among other things.

When we left the museum we saw that we were near a BMW driving experience course so we stopped to watch people drive cars around cones. It seemed rather lame, or the drivers were timid. From there we walked to a mall to sit inside and relax because it was really hot and humid outside.

After spending an hour or two at the mall we regrouped and made our way to Rainbow Bridge. When we got there it wasn't lit up, and an internet search told us that it only lights up during a certain time of year. We did, however, sit on the beach and enjoy a nice view of the Tokyo skyline and a lot of really colorful boats out on the water.

At this point it was way past dinner time so we went to a ramen place then made our way home. I picked up some bananas at the supermarket across the street from our house, dumped my camera card onto my computer, and went to sleep.

On day three of the trip we attend a couple of festivals.

Japan Day 1 - Ueno, Tokyo

On the first full day of the trip, James, Brandi, and I explored Ueno, Tokyo while waiting for Nicole and Paul to arrive. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

After waking up at 5AM local time and being unable to fall back asleep, I put on my eye mask and laid in bed for a couple of hours. After we all decided that sleep wasn't going to happen, we left our Airbnb around 9AM to head to the Ueno Zoo. The train/subway ride was 30-45 minutes.

The Ueno Zoo is in a massive park with a museum, a few shrines, some statues, and the biggest standalone Starbucks I've ever seen. We primarily went to the zoo to waste time while waiting on Nicole and Paul to arrive later in the day, but we were also there to see the giant panda. Along with the panda we saw a polar bear, tiger, elephants, birds, and gorillas.

After the zoo we wandered around the area for a bit, stopping by a shrine. We then made our way to get lunch at Cocoichiban, a chain curry restaurant. I ordered the vegetarian curry with spinach and eggplant, and a scrambled egg. Spicy level 2.

From there we walked to a nearby lotus pond that was at least 5 acres in size if not larger. It had a floating dock which we could walk out onto that was surrounded by lotuses. We spent some time there, still waiting on Nicole and Paul to land, then headed to see Tokyo Dome City. On our way there we stopped by another shrine.

Tokyo Dome City was FULL of k-pop fans. I think there was a signing or something to get ready for upcoming concerts, but people were lined up for autographs or pictures in what looked like at least a two hour line. After spending an hour or so people watching, we walked to Tokyo Station to meet Paul and Nicole!

We walked around some fountains near the Imperial Palace, then headed back to our Airbnb to drop bags off. After hanging out for a bit we set out looking for dinner. I was getting really tired at this point but was also hungry. It was probably 6PM or 7PM.

It took us probably 30 minutes to find somewhere to eat. We passed another shrine that we walked through, then landed at a local spot where they spoke zero English. We used the Google Translate app to sorta read the menu but that didn't work. Luckily the waiter knew salmon, tuna, octopus, and sashimi so we ordered those roles and a sashimi plate.

I was fighting off falling asleep at this point, but we made it back to the apt. I dumped the footage from that day onto my computer and then fell asleep immediately.

On day two of the trip we explore Akihabara and Rainbow Bridge.