June 9, 2016

I Went to Okinawa, Did Nothing—And Loved It

I consider travel and vacation to be two very different activities. I usually prefer the former, which involves integrating oneself in the culture, meeting the locals, learning a bit of history and getting off the beaten path. Traveling, to me, means attempting to blend in and wanting to leave as an altered and more educated human being.

But sometimes it's okay to go to a place and not travel. Sometimes its necessary.

Not remembering the last time I took a real vacation, I seized the opportunity to do so earlier this month over the long holiday weekend.

I impulsively booked a rather affordable plane ticket (around $300US) with Peach Aviation, packed a bag, went to Okinawa and did absolutely nothing.


In fact, this was the first overseas trip I've taken where I didn't move more than a mile from my accommodations. Because I didn't have to. And, if you're seeking a bit of rest and relaxation, I highly suggest you do the same. Here's how, in four easy steps.

Step 1: Sleep

Unlike the big cities in Japan, accommodations in Okinawa are pretty affordable. I had an Airbnb coupon and put it to good use reserving a quaint little studio apartment in Onna-son. Nao, the owner, prevented any transportation headache I may have had by picking me up directly from the airport, as I had missed the last bus.

His place was clean, comfortable and reminded me of the cute beach-themed condos I used to stay at in Destin, Florida as a kid. It had everything I needed for the three nights I was there (including some amazing coffee) but the best thing was that it was extremely close to the beach.



Step 2: Relax

By chance, I happened upon Hotel Moon Beach on my first full day in Okinawa. This huge resort is packed with facilities and exudes all the vibes one might expect to find in paradise.

I met up with a Marine friend of mine who had just been transferred to Okinawa from Seoul, and we parked it for an entire day under our rented umbrella (¥2500) on the hotel's private beach (¥500 admission). We occasionally took a dip in the ocean (which is protected from sea snakes and jellyfish by a net) or the palm-tree lined infinity pool (¥1000).



I may or may not have had a couple tropical cocktails from the pool's bar and a few cans of Orion, the local brew, that I picked up from the convenience store in the lobby. I also did a bit of shopping for local crafts, and snacks for my co-workers.

The weather, for the most part, was great, but it did rain one afternoon. When I tired of reading at the covered pool, I spent an hour at the hotel's onsen (hot springs, ¥1600).

In the end, I had the full resort experience for a fraction of the cost. And, unlike any place you'd find in Korea, Hotel Moon Beach had no crowds! (Nor was a swim cap required!)

Step 3: Eat

For lunch, I opted to eat at the hotel's outdoor cafe, which served up basics like hamburgers and hotdogs, but also local specialities like soba and taco rice.

For dinner, I did a bit more exploring (though all the restaurants were located within the five minute walk between the hotel and my Airbnb).

Because there was limited English signage, I'm still not quite sure of what the names of the restaurants were, but they all served up similar fare. Sample the island's best known dishes, such as bitter gourd stir fry, "sea grapes" (a bubble-like seaweed native to the island that pops when you bite into it) and the oh-so-amazing Aguu pork.



Just off the main street at the entrance of Hotel Moon Beach is a pork restaurant (look for the red sign) that serves up a killer Okinawan style soba with tender slices of pork and pickled radish. Try it with the Monuku seaweed croquettes. For sushi, walk less than a minute across the street to the restaurant just to the right of the "shooting bar." The sushi melts in your mouth, and the local Okinawa veggie tempura is a perfect side dish.



Step 4: Repeat

Sleep off your food coma. Don't set an alarm. Wake up when ya wake up. Do it all over again.



Okinawa has a very rich cultural identity, is fabulously lush with plenty of outdoor activities ranging from trekking to surfing to diving, and has some of the best food in Japan. Do I want to go back and experience it all? Heck yea! But do I feel guilty about not being a "traveler" on this past trip? Not one little bit.

After all, it's important to remember to treat yourself from time to time. You deserve it!

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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