Travel writing has been my vocation for fifteen years, but traveling for pleasure a lifelong habit. As a guidebook author for Lonely Planet, I've trekked in the remote Baliem Valley of West Papua, stuffed myself into the rush-hour subways of Tokyo, rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and visited indigenous communities from the highlands of Vietnam to the lowlands of Ecuador. I have worked on over 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, including Grand Canyon National Park, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, among others. I've also written for international publications including the BBC, The Guardian, and Lonely Planet Magazine.
On my own time, I have picked my way across a Patagonian glacier, rafted Nile River whitewater, hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim, camped in New Zealand, and sampled greedily from the gastronomic paradise that is Japan. I've also complemented my travel career with work in the wine and organic farming industries. When at home in southern California, I love hiking with my dog and stand-up paddling the Pacific.
Follow my sporadic posts on Instagram (www.instagram.com/wendyyanagihara).
What places and activities do you specialize in?
"Recently, I've traveled extensively in Uganda, in Ecuador's Amazon Basin, and on the islands of Okinawa and southern Japan, but I also specialize in Costa Rica, California, and the US Southwest. In my travels for work and play, I always look for hiking or trekking opportunities, as well as rafting or water activities – all of which foster a more intimate sense of place for me. "
How did you get involved in travel?
"My mother infused my life with a love for travel, taking me on my first international trip at age two. When offered the opportunity to write for Lonely Planet, I leapt at the chance."
Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.
"Tracking mountain gorillas in the Ugandan jungle ranks among the most awesome experiences of my life. To be allowed to sit in the presence of such majestic creatures, who are so similar to us biologically, felt like a truly amazing privilege."
Featured trips & expertise
If you want to make friends on your trip to Japan, show an interest in Japanese culture—even younger generations are eager to share their heritage. The country's top cultural activities happen year-round, so you'll have no trouble taking part. From local festivals to cat cafés, there's something in this list for every traveler.
Only in Japan can you bunk in a Buddhist temple one night and rent your own sleeping pod the next. High-tech Japan lovingly reveres its cultural traditions—making for the best kind of culture shock. Enjoy this dynamic country with a range of unique overnight options.
One of Okinawa's most alluring draws lies not on land, but offshore. Colorful sea life and dramatic coral formations make this Japanese archipelago a world-class destination for snorkeling and diving.
Over 900 miles southwest of Tokyo, Okinawa-hontō—Okinawa's main island—anchors the lesser-known string of islands straddling Japan's two southernmost prefectures. For those who fancy a beach holiday on their grand tour of Japan, its tropical climate and unique Ryūkyūan culture are just a two-hour flight from Tokyo.
Okinawa's attractions have something for everyone. They cater to cocktail-sipping beach bums, history buffs, and active adventurers alike. The island is fairly small, so even a long weekend can make for a refreshing breath of tropical air.
The sunny, laid-back island of Okinawa is not just a tropical paradise: it's also a foodie heaven with its own unique set of flavors and a famously healthy diet. Whet your palate with this guide to some of the island's classic dishes, and learn where you can try them.