5 Things I Learned in Tokyo

5 Things I Learned in Tokyo

Keep left, get good walking shoes, and let the country reshape your soul.

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1. The cleanliness

A local path hidden within Harajuku's Cat Street.

Japan is clean. It's a weird thing to notice, but you just can't help but notice. The moment your plane touches down, and you enter the airport, everything is just so spotless. The streets are clean, as are the subway tunnels that run underneath the city. Can't help but feel a little ashamed at the mess that was waiting for me at home.

2. The people

Mirror installation at Tokyo Plaza Omotesando

There wasn't a day in Tokyo where we didn't walk at least 8 miles. It was hot and my vans had absolutely no arch support. All around me were men and women in full business suits, or heels and looked effortlessly put together. I learned quickly that the people here had very little excuses—they took pride in their jobs, with it, came the expectation of always being professional and willing to make long commutes. It was interesting to see how so many individuals, from young to old, fit into their profession or status.

3. The tradition

Mt. Fuji as seen from the top of Owakudani "Hell Valley".

"Fuji-san is out today!" There was a young couple next to me when I took this picture, and they addressed the mountain with honorifics. Japan is a country steeped in culture. From Buddhist temples to Shinto shrines in the most random places, Tokyo is the epicenter of all these religions and faith. Everyone comes to these shrines and pray—for good health, and even for good luck in school. I unashamedly bought a charm to do well in any upcoming exams.

4. The food

Chirashi-don at Tsukiji Market

Tokyo is a vertical city. It wasn't uncommon to see shops and businesses stacked on top of each other, with the narrow stairways or two person elevators completely packed if there was a popular restaurant on the 8th floor. Food is cheap, plentiful, and diverse. Highlight of my trip was going to the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish and fresh food market in the world, and being able to sample so many delicious dishes and snacks. Vending machines are prolific there, and isn't uncommon to grab a quick snack or hot coffee in the morning.

5. The nightlife

Omoide-Yokocho in Shinjuku

The smell of cigarette smoke still lingers on my favorite jacket. Tokyo has one of the highest concentration of smokers in the world thanks to the aggressive advertising of big tobacco. Omoide yokocho or golden gai are dense alleyways in Shinjuku, packed with foreigners and natives alike, grabbing a drink to end the night or merely beginning their adventure as they prepared to head to the seedier red light district, Kabukicho. Tokyo's Roppongi Hills is also a hot spot for city's youth, as there are many popular night clubs there that play an eclectic mix of EDM, hip-hop, and even jazz. There's definitely something for everyone looking for a fun night out.

I knew I wanted to travel this summer. Preferably solo, if not, just without any immediate family (sorry mom and dad). I got my chance and embarked on a week long trip to Japan. I found a country and a city so rich with culture and interesting sights, sounds, and tastes. It was a life changing experience. I honestly felt so blessed to see the things I saw, and return home with mementos to tide over my wanderlust for the next few years.This was not my first time in Tokyo, and it most definitely won't be my last. From missing my train stop and being carried out to the countryside on an express subway car, to walking around Shinjuku at 4am, watching the city go to sleep and wake up, this trip was the perfect way to round out my second year of college, and restart a passion for traveling and exploring.

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If You Give A Girl A Little Brother

You've given her the world.
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I remember back to my childhood, standing at the top of the steps yelling down to my parents "Why did you decide to have another child?" I remember riding in the backseat yelling "Mom, was I not good enough for you?" as my brother threw snow at me .

I remember crying when my mom made us share our first cell phone. I remember playing in a pool at a waterpark, and my dad couldn't play with me because my brother couldn't swim and needed my dad to be with him. I played by myself, thinking "They must have not wanted a girl when they only pay attention to him."

But now, at almost 22, I realized that the best gift God has ever given me was my little brother.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a pain in her ass.

Oh, he'll be annoying. He'll get in the shower just because you said you were going to. He'll start talking every time you do. He'll pull stupid pranks, he'll make you listen to bogus music, he'll make you watch stupid tv shows, he'll smell up the bathroom (and probably smell himself.) and boy, I promise there will be day's you will resent him. But he's just training for living with your husband one day.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a role.

As a big sister, I had somebody copying all my moves. If I did something, so did he. If I didn't eat something, neither did he. If I didn't like somebody neither did he. He was like a little shadow that did everything I did, so I was always motivated to make good choices and make him proud of me.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a rough side.

I wouldn't have done half the things I did if it wasn't for him. Play basketball in the drive way, spend hours on our bikes, spend the summer days in the pool, or down at the park. I wouldn't have learned that it's okay to get in the dirt and have some fun. I wouldn't have played half the made up, imaginary games we played every day. I wouldn't have played with Hot Wheels, or Lincoln Logs, or Leggo's. I would have played with Barbies by myself all day long, and what's the fun in that?

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her the best friend she'll ever have.

In the end, when our parent's both pass away, I won't be alone, because I will have my little brother. When the world gets tough, and everyone turns away from me, he will always be there. No matter where he end's up in life, I know he will drop everything and come running when I'm in need.

For Christmas this year, I bought my brother his first tattoo. We got matching tattoo's on our sides. Our lives our different now, because we're grown up and live on opposite sides of the state. But no matter where we go in life, if we look up, we will be looking at the same sun and moon. We are made up of the same matter, 'made' by the same people, and love each other more than I think we'd like to admit.

Alex is my true other-half.

Give a girl a little brother, and you made her whole.

Cover Image Credit: Abby Engel

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​10 New York City Brunch Restaurants I Love A Waffle Lot

Trust me, breakfast is overrated, even if it is at Tiffany's!

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You guys knew it was coming! If you know me personally or follow me on Instagram you would know that the thing that I love most in the world is brunch. My life motto is "Mimosa es su mosa" or maybe "On Sundays, we drink mimosas." Just kidding! However, there is nothing I love more than having waffles, poached eggs, and a latte on a Sunday with my girlfriends. Brunch is a long-held tradition for us, it's a great way to relax and it honestly just brings everyone together. So I thought I'd share a few of our go-to spots!

1. Dudley's

This is my favorite place of all time to get brunch. Dudley's is right on Orchard Street, it has a quaint little interior great for dinner, as well! However, I suggest going during the summer to enjoy their outdoor seating. The food is just so delicious! The first time I went was actually at the end of August with my best friend Alexia. She had just gotten back from traveling and we wanted to brunch, go to The Met, walk the Brooklyn Bridge and go thrifting all before we went back to school the next day. We got brunch and were full pretty much the whole day, it was insane. It was also really fresh. Alexia even says when she comes home from Greece no meal ever compares to the food she eats back home, but this really hit the spot. The cuisine is American with an Australian twist. I normally get the chia muesli, a burger with a salad on the side instead of fries. Also if it's later in the afternoon, I'll just do cauliflower tempura with green aioli! For drinks, I suggest a latte or their cold brew.

2. Buvette

I literally just went last weekend with my friend Emily, so if that doesn't tell you how much I love it here, I don't know what does! Buvette has extremely friendly staff and great food, the portions are a tiny bit small but they are super filling, definitely try the specials! I suggest the Belgian Waffle with berries and a latte. My friend Emily got a lemonade and avocado toast!

3. Victor's Cafe

Best croquettes and burger to date. I also got yuca fries on the side. Best brunch ever, oh my gosh! Of course, I got a latte with that, too! The paella de vegetales and platanos are to die for, as well. Victor's Cafe has my heart!

4. Your Mother's House

I actually just went to Your Mother's House on Sunday. It's not the best brunch ever, but they have such a great menu with tons of variety. I even had this Groupon for bottomless brunch if you are of legal drinking age. The Groupon definitely makes it worth it!

5. Sarabeth's

This has been a long-standing tradition between my friend Sara and I. The first time we went was actually when I was like 13, I want to say. It was December and at the time Sara was like 17 and she bought me tickets to see the Radio City Rockettes. However, the only reason I took the train at that point was for work so I wasn't going to be allowed to go. So we devised a plan to convince my mother that her mother was going and it all turned out quite splendidly.

We went to Sarabeth's, I got the lemon ricotta pancakes, and Sara got the crab cake benedict. I would recommend both. Then we saw the Rockettes. However, the reason this is a funny story is that a month later on Christmas Eve, she and her parents came over and our mothers are extremely close because Sara and I have been friends since I was five years old. Sara and I went to my room to hang out and left our mothers to talk. After a few glasses of Chardonnay, Sara's mom told my mom that we went alone. I was grounded for three weeks. Well worth it though, not only did I see the Rockettes, but I found a regular brunch spot!

6. Chat Noir Tea

I know I'm a coffee girl, but I needed some tea to spill it at this brunch! Chat Noir Tea has an amazing Croque Monsieur and a great English breakfast tea. I suggest getting the tea service for two!

7. Juliette

I've told you guys once and I'll tell you again, all great things reside in Williamsburg! I'll be back here with my girlfriends in two weeks. I recommend the french toast at Juliette if you have a sweet tooth like me!

8. The Cheesecake Factory

This is probably one of my favorite places to eat, for dinner here I usually get the crusted chicken romano but for brunch, at The Cheesecake Factory they have plenty of sweet things, so I'll normally order a few things and split it with whoever I'm with!

9. Milk & Honey Cafe

I know this one is a throwback to the "10 Instagram Worthy Cafes" article I wrote but the Milk & Honey Cafe does have some great brunch options and come on, you can try one of the best cafes and brunch places in New York all at once! (Fun fact: My Odyssey profile picture was taken here!)

10. Cafe Mogador

So I wanted to include Cafe Mogador in this because it was actually recommended to me and will be my next brunch stop, so I figured why not leave this here as a little surprise for us both!

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