From a Life Traveling to a Life Abroad

9 January 2018

It feels good to be back in Japan.

What a strange thing to say. Before leaving on a month-long excursion through Vietnam and Cambodia, I was so done with Japan. Done with it’s orderliness, with it’s blind rule-following, done with it’s peace and quiet. I was ready for something different.

And Southeast Asia was very different. Lively, refreshing, flavorful, dirty, noisy, chaotic, a whole other world. I loved being there, I loved traveling. But coming back was nice. I knew this. I got this. This was familiar. In the past two years, without me knowing it, Japan had become my normal.

This revelation, and its implications, was shocking to me. Have I grown to old for travel? Am I settling down? Am I becoming a Japan lifer, one of those people who arrives on a year contract and never leaves? I thought of the many long-term travelers I’d met, adventurous, hardcore people in the middle of 6, 9, 13 month trips. Had living in safe, clean, quiet Japan turned me into a wuss???

But that’s not exactly the case. Living here still gives the opportunity for plenty of exploration and adventure. I don’t know if one has truly lived until one has seen Mount Fuji, or tried to mail something through the Japanese postal system. While much of the day to day has become routine, there are still many things that probably will never be.

I think what’s changed within me is not my desire for travel, but my style. When I was younger and still lived in the US, I hated coming back from long-term travel. I  would go through periods of depression and withdrawal after returning. “Why don’t we have a good subway system in LA?” I’d moan, stuck in traffic in my car on the 405 freeway.

Since living abroad, that hasn’t happened. Of course I don’t like returning from vacation and going back to work, but these days a trip does what it’s supposed to do: refreshes my spirit, exposes me to a new culture and way of life, and gets my brain firing in different ways. These days, I come back excited to sit down and write, still meditating on all that I’ve seen and learned.

Now, I’m more of a “living abroad” person than a “long term traveler”. I have mad respect for all my new friends that are long term travelers, but I think it’s a bit too much for me at the moment. Too much moving, too much constant exposure to newness, too many sleepless hostel nights, not nearly enough time for processing and reflection and creation. Living abroad offers me plenty of time for travel, both within the country I’m living in and the ones that happen to be nearby, but also the time to really discover and savor it.

Of course, some of this excitement stems from the fact that while I’ve returned to Japan, my resident country for the past two years, I’m also beginning a new chapter, one that finds me in one of the biggest, most thrilling cities in the world: Tokyo.

Happy Travels,




9 thoughts on “From a Life Traveling to a Life Abroad”

  1. Truly enjoyed your reflections about “long term traveler” versus “living abroad.” It was something I thought long and hard about over 40 years ago. So many things to see, so many places to visit and such a hard decision as to where “home” will be.
    Wishing you good health and a happy new year.

  2. Oh there’s so much to unwrap in this post. You’re moving to Tokyo?! How exciting. I know you’ve wanted to for a while now. Can’t wait to read your posts about your experiences there.
    “Too much moving, too much constant exposure to newness, too many sleepless hostel nights, not nearly enough time for processing and reflection and creation.” THIS! It’s exactly what I found about my trip through Japan and China. As you can see I’m still posting about and digesting Japan and that was about 10 months ago. Haven’t even started on China except for some articles for Intrepid.
    Don and I are off again Feb 4 – five days in Paris, a month in Rishikesh, and 2 weeks in/around Kyoto. Yes we’re coming back to Japan! And I love that we have a home to come home to. We are both are done with long term travel. After a while it gets exhausting and one needs a home whether in your own country or living abroad.
    Hope Tokyo is all you could wish for!

    1. I knew you would have a lot to say about this post! Yes, the Tokyo dream is finally coming true. I’m so happy you’re able to come back here with Don. Kyoto and the Kansas region is a good spot to hunker down for two weeks and really take your time. A healthy and happy new year to you both!

  3. Dear Mo,
    Loved your latest post – wanted to wish you luck and much happiness in your new job/life in Tokyo. So excited for you snd looking forward to future posts about your experiences. Still missing you back home, love Aunt Marla💓

  4. Home is where your heart is found
    In a land where one didn’t grow up
    There is distance that one can’t quite close up
    And we enjoy living in the distance.
    Always here and never here
    We’re foreign to our own house
    In the ordinary space where one breathes in spoonful joy
    Home is where your heart is beating

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