I Spent My 40th Birthday Alone in Japan and it Totally Rocked
Lara dashed out of the U.S. (in disguise?) to celebrate her big birthday overseas (Photo: Thinkstock)
“You need to start thinking about planning your 40th,” said my friend Chuck as he gazed out upon his own gigantic 40th-birthday celebration. His featured an open bar, a seated lunch, a DJ, a dessert table, and about 150 of his closest friends.
I was about 34 at the time, so the only response he got was a dirty look. Maybe an eye roll. But as my 40th approached, I noticed a lingering feeling of mild panic. Not about actually turning 40 but about throwing a party. I’ll spend any party thrown in my honor worrying about whether everyone else is getting along and having fun. My neuroses suck the enjoyment out of the whole thing.
So I thought, “Why spend a bunch of money on other people throwing a party I won’t enjoy when I can spend the money on myself?”
Now, I could’ve bought myself some bauble or luxury item. But that would not have solved the problem of well-meaning friends who wanted to throw me a party because they love parties. To escape the party situation, I would have to get out of town. And one night, as I was listening to Gwen Stefani on my workout mix (from the couch), I thought, “I’ve always wanted to see a real live Harajuku girl.”
Expect the unexpected during a solo trip to Japan. (Photo: Universal Studios)
So I pulled up my frequent-flier account to see if I had enough miles to take me to Japan. I clearly hadn’t been anywhere in a while, because not only did I have enough to get to Tokyo, I had enough to get there first class! But I had to book immediately. I didn’t have time to wait for friends to see if they had enough money, or could get the time off of work, or even felt like going. So $48 later, I was the proud owner of first-class, round-trip tickets from Newark to Tokyo. And because I booked more than four months in advance, I got a 20 percent discount to stay at the Cerulean Tower in Shibuya (about $380/night).
Now, I couldn’t expect that lightning would strike twice for a potential traveling companion. And that kind of ticket normally goes for about $10,000. So I decided to go it alone.
Lara’s early planning enabled her to score a sweet (and discounted!) room at Tokyo’s Cerulean Tower (Photo: Teruhiro Kataoka/Flickr)