6 June 2018, by Tan Li Lin
21 days, 4 cities, 3 people: In the last blog post I shared why it’s important to travel with kids, and some top tips on how I survived with my monkey toddler on the recent trip to Japan.
We were embarking on our goal to establish “a somewhat #nomadic” family-lifestyle.
I was in for a rude shock.
Before the trip I had romantic ideas of how I’d be cooking and experimenting with Japanese cuisine, how I’d get work done and sight-see at the same time, and maybe even get some creative work in; how I’d get to ‘live’ in Japan and do homey somewhat therapeutic things like cleaning up and planning our days.
Is that you sniggering I hear?
Well, I did get to do all that, except I forgot to imagine Lia clinging on to my legs, or making food messes, or rioting against her Dad, or having to quieten tantrums whilst Ron is on a conference call with a client just a few steps away (Japanese apartments are smalllll).
Here’s a scene that sums up this house-wifey-mom-businessowner lifestyle:
I’ve to get lunch done in an hour so that we can leave for sightseeing (zoos, parks, aquariums close by 4pm).
Everyone’s finishing up a slow breakfast. Lia’s running around all yoghuty.
I’m cleaning her and the place up. I’m also meal-prepping for lunch, slicing and dicing carrots and mushrooms.
I’m also checking my emails and replying work Whatsapp messages. Ron’s busy doing work and taking calls.
I’m hushing Lia. I’m trying to distract her with toys.
In between I go back to cooking rice. Then Whatsapp. Then running another dry cycle, and a new wash load. Then boil water for soup.
This insanity goes on for the next hour or so until we step out of the house.
Once out, my duties get slightly reduced. But at the back of my mind I’m bothered because I can’t get my work done.
When push comes to shove, what is my priority? What is ‘ours’ as Women? Do we choose to carry the world on our shoulders, or is it inbuilt in us?
What I did find out is, humans are made to adapt, and women are made to adapt to adaptation.
Yes. We are lean, mean, sexy machines who can figure out how to somehow make all things at all times work. And if all else fails, snap at the husband and throw tantrums and things fall into place.
Here’s a rundown on how we made our #japanlife work and how you could to.
Ron’s really proud that we traveled and lived well, within our budget of S$5k (2.5 people, 21 days). This included airfare, transport (the bullet train rides really costed us though), accommodation, food (we ate well and whatever we wanted), and sight-seeing expenses.
2 adult air tickets (Silkair, flying to Hiroshima) + Lia’s fare (10~20% for kids under 2 years old) amounted to about $2500. It worked out to be about $120/day for all expenses. Honestly, you won’t spend that much a day. Some days we’d spend between $50-$80 whilst other days we’d max the budget out due to the bullet train prices, so it evens out if you’re relatively disciplined.
If you’re working and traveling for 2 weeks instead, you might be able to make do with a S$3.5k budget (shorter trips = less intercity traveling that costs the most). Of course, that doesn’t include shopping sprees at Uniqlo (not that much cheaper anyways) or Kit Kat/Glico specialty shops…
Where we stayed
The main factor to keeping within budget is choosing economical accommodation.
We stayed in 4 cities (Okayama, Nagoya, Kobe, Hiroshima). Budget per night was S$60-$80.
In Japan, hosting standards are high so even in lower-cost accommodation, you still get a really clean place, basic but much-needed amenities and great bath facilities.
We stayed in Airbnb apartments (always chose ‘Superhosts’) for 18 nights, and hotel rooms for the last 3 nights.
We didn’t stay in the city center; we’d stay just outside of it where it’s usually still well-connected to key places and never short of food options.
In Nagoya and Kobe, we stayed 10 – 15 minutes walking distance from the town center, so still happening and convenient yet didn’t have to pay city prices.
The serious perk about traveling with babies/toddlers is that they go in free practically everywhere – buses, trams, the Shinkansen, rides, sights and parks. That’s a lot of expenses shaved.
For long rides (trains and buses), top tip is to make sure you have snacks. Seriously.
Biscuits, juices, chocolate, bread, Onigiri, chips, cheese, yoghurt – all life-savers.
My suggestion is not to get over-worried with ‘healthy/unhealthy’ snacks or thoughts of “I’ll spoil the kid!”.
You might end up with a spoilt mood if your kid is fidgety and bored and hungry for attention or things to do.
I kept Lia busy with things in her hands and mouth. I just made sure to watch the salt content, but otherwise, she had all the ice-cream and chocolate she wanted (they can mostly regulate their intake).
Once she’s done eating, she’d either fall asleep, or sit on my lap and we’ll talk about what we see outside.
2.5 hr train ride, done and dusted with ease. Oh, tons of wet-wipes are a must.
Being a massive Instagram-user, I take my outfits very seriously. I won’t share packing tips here, but more so wanted to give you a sense of how we stayed organised amidst all that moving around.
1 large luggage = Ronald and Lia’s clothes and diapers
1 large luggage = My clothes (and hats and scarves and boots and shoes and accessories….) and miscellaneous shared things like a mini-cooker, toiletries, medication and first-aid, plastic bags, camera etc.
Ron’s carry-on = the laptops
My carry-on = baby bag and whatever we need for the day (snacks, raincoats, picnic mats, water, etc.)
So moving between cities, we’d each take a luggage and swap the 2 carry-on bags and Lia in her Tula (carrier) between us.
Very manageable. Somewhere in all of that we even managed to lug a $7 umbrella with us all the way back to SG.
I cooked for 4 lunches, and that was fun. Groceries are not expensive at all (really good sliced beef at only $6!) and always works out to be the most economical. This allowed us to splurge on some good meals, and pig out on any snack we wanted to try.
Some days we went along fine with convenience store food, or noodle bars ($5/bowl).
Lia loved seaweed, as well as mushrooms, tofu, rice, ramen and miso soup. It’s very easy to cater to kids in Japan.
It’s funny how displaced I felt throughout the trip.
The balance between care-taking, traveling and working got really challenging.
It was rewarding in that it made me reflect on the way I am in my life, and how I choose to spend the time and energy I have.
The 3 of us forged some really strong bonds figuring this whole thing out together.
I love that this is the story of our family taking shape; this is us adventuring through life together, because family isn’t only about living under the same roof.
Lin Tan is an Entrepreneur and an Executive Coach who dedicated herself to others and her career, until family changed all that. Follow her blog on www.ilovechildren.sg and journey with her as ‘life after 30′ opened up a completely new chapter.