Pandemic travel: 1

Wow, things sure are quiet…

Before it was clear we were headed for a pandemic, I booked a “treat yourself” trip to Japan. After a great first year at Slack, I wanted a nice non-work trip to really relax and refresh before going back into 2020 with a renewed sense of vigor.

Unfortunately, in the following weeks COVID-19 grew at a wild rate, the cases in the United States were clearly skyrocketing despite a complete failure of the CDC and leadership to provide ample testing. My company cancelled business travel, but left it to us to determine our risk profile for personal travel, so I reached out to friends in the US and Japan to take stock. After a weekend of thinking and reading, I decided to travel to Japan unless flights were cancelled.

The trip begins

Many travelers had clearly cancelled their flights, as the plane was largely empty. Out of caution and care for passengers, the staff of the JAL plane were all wearing masks, and taking extra measures to clean and prepare our plane as well. As I boarded and settled-in, my first thought was “I wish folks took health this seriously all the time”.

Our flight was fairly bumpy, but I managed to sleep for a few hours, and even eat a bit before landing at HND. The usual self-service immigration booths were closed, but as one of the only visitors, I still made it through immigration and customs in minutes. As usual, the customs agent gave me an odd look for my small backpack and lack of luggage.

The bag

This trip I brought a single bag: the Bellroy Studio in Venture Weave Black. After many trips with my RYU Quick Pack with a smaller day bag, I looked forward to a single light bag instead. So far on this trip, it’s been a comfortable bag, that easily hauls between locations. I haven’t used it very much outside of traveling to my hotels, as due to the virus I haven’t done a lot of writing from coffee shops or hiking. I used this bag daily for the past few months to go to work though, and am confident it would also be great to take a couple things with me to a coffee shop.

My packing list was pretty typical:



  • iPad 11” Cellular
  • Kindle Oasis
  • Switch Lite
  • Anker 10kmah battery
  • Cables
  • Satechi watch charger (got this for free from a Satechi rep. Thanks!)—short review: this is a little more compact and chill than bringing a watch cable, and can stick into the side of my iPad to let me charge while I’m writing. It’s a little more awkward plugged into a battery, but not too bad. It’s only 10 bucks more than an Apple charger so if you don’t have a travel charger this might be a good idea.

Other stuff

I’m additionally wearing a duplicate of most of what I brought, save for the jacket and sleep clothes. I’m also testing out some new laundry soap while I’m here to see if it can keep my clothes fresh without needing a full in-shower scrub.

Koenji social distancing

My trip started in Koenji, where I stayed at my favorite BNA. By and large, I kept to my room, or did some socially-distanced hiking around Suginami. Lawson was a block away, and provided coffee and onigiri, but I also had coffees at Coffee AMP and INC near the train station. Honestly, other than mounting panic online, I found it to be relaxing to stick close to home. I went out for food a couple of times, but honestly felt a little afraid to go out. If I were in Oakland right now, it’s likely I wouldn’t have left the house this week at all, save for a walk around the block.

To be continued…

read part 2 or part 3