Confessions of a First-Time Overseas Traveler

I’ve never been abroad. So naturally, what is a better way to begin my international journey than at the tail-end of an international pandemic to one of the strictest countries regarding travel and quarantine? As I stare out the window at beautiful Tamsui, feeling a longing to explore while I am trapped at my mother-in-law’s house for the next three days, I am amazed that I actually made it here. It has been a harrowing journey, and a true test ofmy marriage, but here I am.

The Week Before

As we prepared to embark on our journey, we began to pack our clothes and write down a checklist. A visa was not on that list. I had asked if this was needed, but I was assured that no, our marriage certificate served as adequate proof and we could use that. Then five days prior to our flight, his mom calls: have we filed for our visa yet? No. Well, apply for the e-visa, you can get it in a few days. Not eligible.

Suddenly, the world felt like it was collapsing around me and I realized there was a real possibility that, if I were to be able to go to Taiwan as planned, I may be doing it alone. Not only that, but processing times were at 3-4 weeks, and with our wedding coming up on August 6 there was a real possibility I would not make it on time.

We booked my husband a flight the next day to plead with the cultural office for expedited processing. We were fortunate that they were extremely accommodating and, after pleas from both my husband and mother-in-law, they were able to grant us a visa quickly (Thank you Miami Consulate!).

Double, triple, and quadruple check the restrictions when travelling, especially when there is a global pandemic. Last minute visa-applications: 0/10, do not recommend.

The Trip

Our flight consisted of 2 layovers: we flewout of Orlando to San Francisco with a 5 hour layover, then out to Tokyo Haneda with another 5 hour layover before finally making it to Taiwan. Plenty of time between fights for anything to go wrong right? Well, unless you are a couple that Murphy’s Laws clings to like glue.

I highly recommend doing your own research when flying internationally – know the rules and regulations for your trip, and plan accordingly. When we arrived, there was a lot of confusion about what paperwork was needed. Airlines deal with regulations from many different countries, and in our case this left the attendant assisting us with check-in confused about what documents we did and did not need to provide. We fortunately had enough information that we ended up walking her through what we needed and were able to be on our way after a few minutes.

The trouble started in Orlando, with Florida doing what it does best: raining. Rain and thunderstorms hit just as our plane touched down. Passengers were unloaded, but as they began preparing to unload the flight’s bags, the alarm sounded. The ramp was closed. For 2 hours. There was a lot of back and forth after those two hours – The ramp would open for 5 minutes, close down for 10, open for 5 again… until 3 hours passed and finally all other flights had taken off to their destinations. Except ours.

They attempted to board the flight, but halfway through group 2, staff vanished and people were left in the dark for another 30 minutes. Turns out, due to the storm our crew were now over hours and could not legally work the flight. So, we had to wait for the new crew to arrive from Chicago at 10. Reminder: Our flight was at 6 with a 5 hour layover, and we are now at a 4 hour delay.

The crew were a bit later than expected, and take-off did not happen until 10:47 PM, giving us a very short window to make our next flight. As we rushed through San Francisco Airport, we wondered if we would make it on time. We arrived as they were calling my name to verify my documents, but when all was said and done, we had a slight delay on that flight as well.


When we got into Taipei, we had to enter the conveyer belt of quarantine. First step: SIM card. The police call to check in on you daily during quarantine and your number also serves as a way to track your location while you are meant to be isolating. Then we had to ensure we had our declaration certificate filled out correctly. Then COVID Testing, and finally we had to go through the normal routes of entry. Like customs.

That is where the final problem arose. I had requested my psychiatrist write me a letter in regards to my medication prior to my flight, and he did. But I did not think to confirm that the medication was written down correctly, and he had written the brand name rather than the clinical name for my meds. After a bit of confusion, my husband was able to explain that Americans don’t know the difference between the names of medicines and their brand names. They let me through, but I know now that next time I try to bring in medication, I must make sure they know that brand names are not accepted vernacular in other countries.

It’s now the end of day 2 of quarantine, and I’m so happy to be finished with the whole experience. I’m glad that I was able to make it here on time but it was a long, exhausting journey. Although I haven’t gotten to step outside, so far we’ve had some pretty spectacular delivery, teas, and breads. I am so excited to get out the apartment and explore, but until then I’ll just relax and enjoy some great food with my husband.

If you plan on visiting Taiwan once they open for tourism, here are a few recommended guides:


Picture of K. Straub-Kuo

K. Straub-Kuo

K has been writing since she was in middle school. She has always loved telling stories and loves to do research on topics that fascinate her even more. K developed an interest in cultures at an early age, but it wasn't until high school that she became fascinated with East Asia's rich cultural heritage that blends seamlessly with the rapid advancements that cause their cities to thrive. Her interest only grew more when she met her Taiwanese-Native husband, whose expansive travel experiences have encouraged her wanderlust. She takes every opportunity presented to her to try something new and is always thrilled to share her experiences with her readers.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Table of Contents
On Key

Related Posts

error: Content is protected !!
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

11 Day Back roads of Japan Tour with Project Expedition

***Note: meals are largely excluded on this tour and are the responsibility of tour members***

Days 1-2: Tokyo

There is no itinerary upon arrival until the welcome meeting which will take place in the evening. The first day will consist of learning more about your tour and meeting your guides. Day two is a walking tour of the fashion district of Harajuku. This eclectic district is popular for its eccentric fashion and youth culture. In the afternoon you will get a chance to visit Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, and the surrounding attractions. 

Day 3: Nagano

You will take Japan’s famed bullet train to Nagano before checking into your accommodations. The highlight of this trip is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you will get to observe Japan’s bathing snow monkeys enjoying a bath in the natural hot springs.

Day 4: Matsumoto/Nagano

Enjoy a day trip to visit one of Japan’s most beloved castles: Matsumoto Castle. Afterwards, return to Nagano to venture off to Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s last standing pilgrimage sties. 

Day 5: Ōtsu 

Travel in the morning to Ōtsu for some stunning views of Japan’s largest lake: Lake Biwa. Top off the night with a delicious ramen dinner. 

Day 6-7: Hagi

Enjoy a quick breakfast before an extended drive to Hagi. You will then check into your local homestay. Pack for two nights as your remaining luggage will be sent to the next destination by your tour company. Make sure you pack comfortably for outdoor activities. This is a chance to experience life like a local as you meet your host family and take part in a welcome ceremony and dinner. 

Day two is an active day as you take a guided cycle tour around Hagi Castle. Afterward, you will have time to participate in seasonal activities with the locals. You will enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family.

Day 8-9: Tottori

After breakfast with your host family, take a scenic trip by train on your way to Mihomisumi. There, enjoy learning the art of Washi paper making before hopping on another train to Tottori. 

In the morning, explore the unusual Tottori Sand Dunes along the Sea of Japan’s coastline. After that, make your way to the local fish market for some fantastic seafood lunch options. End the day with a trip to Kyoto to check in to your accommodations. 

Days 10-11: Kyoto

Take a morning trip to the well-known Fushimi Inari-Taisha, one of Kyoto’s many beautiful local shrines. This is where you will find the mystical  trail of torii gates along its trails. After this, you will have free time to explore what Kyoto has to offer. Recommended sites include a walk through the geisha district of Gion, exploration of Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion, and a visit to Kiyomizu Temple. 

The next day marks the end of the tour. Public transit is available to the airport, or you can speak to your guide to help find accommodations if you wish to extend your stay. 

Sample of an 11-Day Intrepid Tour

Days 1-2: Taipei City

Take the first day to relax and unwind after your travels before joining your group for dinner. After a good night’s sleep, enjoy learning about Taiwan’s love of sweet potatoes at Sweet Potato Mama for some spud-filled activities. Check out Shilin Night Market to enjoy Taipei’s variable food culture.

Days 2-3: Hualien

Enjoy nature at Danong Dafu Forest Park before spending the evening enjoying even more street food at the local night markets (you may have noticed a trend). Visit Qingshui cliff before venturing off to the famous Taroko Gorge.

Day 5: Yilan

Visit one of Yilan’s well-known onion farms to learn about the agriculture behind them before learning to make a Taiwanese favorite: scallion pancakes!

Day 6: Turtle Island and Jiufen

Set out on a 3-hour cruise around Turtle Island before travelling off to Jiufen, famed by Hayao Miyazaki as the inspiration for Spirited Away. You will be able to explore Old Street on your own. My suggestion: Eat everything ,try lots of samples, and make time for tea at the famous Teahouse.

Days 7-8: Sun Moon Lake

You’ll get to hike from the base of the mountainous area through the trails that snake up the mountain. You can then climb the Pagoda which marks the end of your trek for some incredible views. The next day you will get to explore the Chung Tai Chan Monastery for a unique, cross-cultural experience.

Day 9: Taichung

Visit Taiwan’s “Breadbasket”, where you can go oyster picking, bird watching, and exploring the water-life of the area. Try some incredible seafood and maybe even go out after returning to you accommodations near — Oh look, it’s near another night market!

Days 10-11: Taipei

Visit the Rainbow Village before heading back to the city you started in. You’ll get to see the massive collection of traditional art and artifacts contained within the National Palace Museum before taking the evening for yourself. After breakfast in the morning,  Your tour will end.