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26 and needing to do some soul searching.

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26 and needing to do some soul searching.

Hi everyone,

I'm 26 and currently in grad school. I am in desperate need of some soul searching. I'm struggling to find out who I am, what I want to do as a career, and overall, to just take one day at a time. I've been researching some places here in the states, but would love to go abroad somewhere for 2 weeks. I don't have much saved up due to grad school and loans, so this would have to be a budget friendly place.

I've been looking at Kauai, HI, as several websites have suggested that as a great solo destination for solo female travelers. I also heard that Amsterdam is a great place to start out because they speak English. I have never travelled outside of the country before, but am willing to give it a go. I also heard that Japan has a website called Inside Japan and they help you build an itinerary. I just don't know if that is in my budget. I'd like to spend no more than $600 on airfare and have $2000-3000 for hotels and food. That's a tight squeeze, I know.

Thank you for your suggestions!

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1. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

What do you want?? Some kind of Retreat?? That is what I would read into the need for doing some soul searching....

I can't recommend anywhere but a bit of a google found this, maybe it will help you:


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2. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

Hi Essex,

A retreat for a few days would be great, but I would also like the opportunity to wander around on my own and do some spontaneous things. Thank you for your insight. :)

Houston, Texas
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3. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

A $600 airfare budget won't get you overseas, at least I don't think it will. You might want to rethink your budget split air vs. hotel, or add more air budget.

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4. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

I don't think Europe is what you're looking for. You are not going to get to Europe for a roundtrip airfare of $600. Besides, I don't really think of Europe as the best option for someone in the USA looking for "quiet contemplation," unless maybe you're thinking about holing up in the monasteries of Macedonia. Or the pubs of Ireland. But that's a long way to go.

I also think Hawaii would be a budget buster. Japan even more so.

Have you thought about South America? Colombia, Ecuador and Peru? The airfare should be manageable from the Western USA. Food and lodging are reasonable. And these countries are filled with spiritual sites that are perfect for soul searching and quiet contemplation. Plus, with the equatorial location, you don't have to worry about seasonal variations in the weather, as the climate is pretty consistent throughout the year.

A cheaper alternative would be the national parks of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, perhaps a trip to Santa Fe. The desert is a great place for self-examination and it has been throughout history.

You want something more exotic? I would look at Southeast Asia, but I'm not very expert on destinations such as Bali or Thailand or Vietnam.

Edited: 19 November 2012, 20:08
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5. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

I doubt you'll get to Europe or Japan for $600 round trip. You might still be able to do somewhere in Europe with your total budget though (don't know about Japan) if you move some of your food money to your airfare budget. I think it really depends on what you're looking for. Kauai is a beautiful place if you want to do outdoors, nature type things (hiking, snorkeling, sitting on the beach). I don't know that it's all that cheap, though.

I find that I have plenty of time to think when I go to Europe by myself as there's time walking around the city, riding on trains, buses, etc. Even in museums you can think all you want if you're by yourself as no one is hurrying you to get anywhere. I've found it really relaxing. So far I've only been to London and Berlin solo, but both were very enjoyable. Just about everyone in Berlin speaks English too (and of course they speak English in London...)

Here's a link to some of the costs of my trips a couple of years ago (I haven't kept track as well for the more recent ones) if that helps:


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6. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

I find Japan one of the best places for the sort of meditative trip that you seem to have in mind. In part because the places I like to stay often have few western travellers or speakers of fluent English, so I am left to my own thoughts and my Kindle stuffed with books set in Japan, fiction and non-fiction.

You can stay in a Buddhist monastery on Mount Koya or other traditionally sacred areas. You would have a traditional bed (futon) in a private bedroom, two delicious vegetarian meals a day and usually, an obligation of good manners to attend one service of about 45 minutes each morning.

My husband spent a week in a Buddhist monastery on Mount Koya this summer (I stayed 2 nights, then went on solo to other places) and found it wonderfully peaceful.

The abundance of beautiful gardens can also aid the sort of thinking you may have in mind.

One very helpful point about Japan is that you can eat inexpensively through convenience stores without eating junk food or getting ill and even the cheapest business hotel or hostel will be very clean.

I also find Inside Japan a terrifically helpful company. If you tell them what you want and what money you have to spend, they just might be able to sort something out for you. IJ particularly likes to put money directly into the community in Japan by sending you to the countryside, staying with local families. IME, the Japanese countryside is very beautiful and people are gracious and friendly without being intrusive. (No talking on mobile phones on trains or buses!) The practice in smaller places of nodding and saying "Konichiwa" to strangers can help you feel part of the community of human beings even if you can't speak the language.

IJ can sort out bus journeys for you, which can be considerably cheaper than the otherwise superb trains.

They have organised 3 trips for me so far, each a gem of smooth travelling. I have picked the places to go, with some advice from them, set the budget and found myself hooked.

The traditional Japanese Inns are probably beyond your budget, but Minshukus (Japanese B & Bs) can be a delightful source of good food and a glimpse at Japanese life styles in smaller places.

Staying away from the western tourist hubs of Tokyo/Kyoto/Hiroshima can keep your costs down and fascinating as those places are, they are busy cities. (although I notice that the Inside Japan "price cruncher" self guided adventure is set in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone, which makes me think that you could beat the price staying in less busy places)

For a very special experience, look into walking part of the 1200 year old Shinto pilgrimage trail on the Ise peninsula. Walking a few hours a day can take you from one Minshuku to another, ending each day with delicious food and a traditional Japanese hot bath.

I agree that you may be able to take some of your "visiting" budget and apply it to your flight budget. My husband's budget for just over 5 weeks this summer was the equivalent of just over $7000 all in for his first trip to Japan, which included Tokyo, Kyoto and quite a bit of travelling.

One thought about when you chose to go. Japan has a temperate climate, with snow in winter and hot sticky summers. However, IME, May and October are magic and even the summer heat was helped by the festivals and flowers everywhere.


The Interactive Map on the right hand side is particularly useful in finding places you might not have thought to want to go to.

However, the Shinto trail is probably best walked in spring or autumn.

Edited: 20 November 2012, 16:13
San Diego...
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7. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

Hi S_S,

I can totally relate to your predicament, as my baby brother was in the same boat as well. Straight outta college, he got this awesome job at NASA, and then was laid off 3 years later, and it really devastated him. Of course, he'd go surfing at our house in San Diego, drink beer, then play the market, travel, play the market, and finally (after +3 years) he a has a very successful SF startup. =) (thank god he's outta the house. =P)

anyway, he sent us a sh*tload of postcards. like 10 countries / year, for 3 years. Japan, Australia, China, Philippines, South Korea, Western Europe, Russia, Israel, Jordan, South Africa, etc. etc.

We're also travellers soo...hmm...$600 airfare and $2000-$3000 on food/hotel? I'd switch that. Try $1200-$1500 airfare, and ($20/day): food ($50/day): hotel (assuming you don't stay at a nice hotel).

it depends where you go as well, and if you use hostels or not. My "baby" brother -- note the "quotes" since he's such a princess -- hates hostels but we don't mind it (or didn't in the past).

Japan: everything is expensive here, but it's absolutely the safest place on earth.

Western Europe: you won't get killed, but you'll get pickpocketed if you're a novice.

If you've *never* been outside the US, then:

[1] do not go to Mexico.

[2] try Canada. or NYC. Toronto/Vancouver.

[3] Asia: hmm...I'm hestitant to recommend Thailand, but Seoul, South Korea is a pretty good area. Safe. not that expensive but not jungle either. good locals.

[4] Europe: Amsterdam i think is a good place to start. London as well.

My $0.02 cents:

you'll learn alot.

money is a universal language. don't let anyone take it from you.

smile alot.

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8. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

Consider Cuba for lovely people and music. Very varied countryside and rum.

London is a place of great variety. Great nightlife, calm and beautiful churches. Big sights and quiet parks.

Reconsider your budget - especially your airfare if you want to get to Europe. It's a long way.

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9. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

What kind of trip are you looking for? Japan is probably one of the most expensive countries in the world. Are you going to backpacking or is it more a relaxing trip?

It seems like you are wanting to have new experiences. If I was you I would take my backpack and head off to Europe. However western Europe is expensive so if your own a tight budget maybe eastern Europe or south east Asia. Another option is central america as the flight there would be cheaper for you and the prices are comparative to south east Asia. Staying at hostels you will meet other young travellers doing the same as you.

Good luck

Chula Vista...
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10. Re: 26 and needing to do some soul searching.

Hi Soul Searching,

I'm going to buck the trend here and suggest something that will be less likely to undo all of your soul-searching meditation two weeks after you return when you get the credit card bill outlining the cost of your reflection...

I'd suggest a trip up the coast to Portland and the Oregon coast. Portland has an amazing Japanese Garden (proclaimed by some to be the best outside of Japan), that is a very serene and calming place.


Strolling the beach near Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach (or any other Oregon beach) can also be very mind-clearing.


Or perhaps sitting by a mountain stream in the national forest around Mt. Hood.


Each of those are within a 2 hour drive or so of Portland.

For me, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city always helps. The fewer the distractions, the better. If you go to a foreign land, you may get so caught up in the wonderful experience of being someplace new for the first time and forget to carve out the time for reflection.

Finally, you didn't mention when you want to do this--what time of year? Soon? Winter? Spring? Summer? That certainly may influence your destination.

I wish you success in finding your answers...