Thoughts Upon Returning from Travel: A Life Update

This post is a bit different than usual, a combination of thoughts about traveling and a life update of sorts. Read on to hear where my head’s at these days. 

I got bitten by the travel bug at a young age. I think what I loved most about it was the curiosity it enabled in me. There were so many things to see, explore, discover, and so much about the world to learn. And every time I returned, it was as a new person, as someone who’d been changed by those experiences and discoveries.

I grew to expect this life changing aspect of travel. Every trip would be grandiose, epic, and continue to form who I was as a person. But as you grow older and the world grows smaller and you see more of it, you stop being quite as surprised. You realize that it is unrealistic to change yourself every single time you go away. And you understand that that’s OK. It’s quite alright to have some trips that are just nice, and not necessarily life-changing.

So now, I go on trips expecting to return unchanged – and am pleasantly surprised when the opposite occurs. That despite my age and jadedness, I still have the capacity for curiosity and transformation.

What I love is the effect travel has upon one’s perspective. It could be that seeing new places and experiencing new cultures does this; it could also be the simple act of getting away and gaining some space and insight.

Whatever the reason, this happened to me quite recently when I came back from Taiwan.

I was only there about a week, catching up with an old friend and doing a little sightseeing and a lot of eating. My life in Tokyo for the past six months had been going pretty well, and so I definitely did not expect to return with any new revelations. But I think the past six months I’ve been caught up in the glamour and the buzz of living in a new city, so needed a little distance to be able to reflect on the beginning of this new chapter. When I returned from Taiwan, I had a few realizations.

I need a new living situation.

When I moved to Tokyo, I found a room in a sharehouse. Living alone in a big city is expensive, and house hunting as a foreigner is a daunting process, so it made sense at the time. I’m a social animal and I’d lived in a sharehouse before, so I knew I could do it.

However, my two years living alone in Kanazawa had shown me how much I adore living alone.  Returning from Taiwan, it was abundantly clear to me that I can not live in a sharehouse any longer. I miss having my own kitchen, with a bunch of food in the fridge and cooking meals on utensils that aren’t horrible. I miss having enough space for friends to visit and stay over. And I miss cleanliness. Oh god, I miss cleanliness. My housemates are very nice people, but they are younger than me, and it feels like living with messy, lazy children whose drunk friends pass out on the couch on the weekends. If I clean up after them, I resent them. If I don’t clean up after them, I’m living in squalor. I need to move.

Luckily, a friend hooked me up with a housing agent here in Tokyo who speaks great English and has been amazing. He showed me two apartments, I picked my favorite, and he helped me with the application. Finding housing in Japan can be a notoriously lengthy process, riddled with cultural differences and hidden costs, so having a pro to help me navigate this has been the key. Currently, I am caught in housing purgatory. The management company is reviewing me and trying to decide if they want me as a tenant. They haven’t said no yet, but they haven’t said yes either. So, while progress is being made, the apartment situation is TBD.

Nights out in Tokyo: Ginza. Shot on film. 

I also have started thinking about the future in a more concrete way.

It’s been really difficult for me to think past 2020. I’ve committed to Tokyo through the end of next year (hello, summer Olympics!) and I’ve always known that I will probably say goodbye to Japan after that. But beyond Japan, my vision of my future up until this point has been murky. Where would I go? What would I do? As much as I’d love to make writing more of a full-time gig, I don’t see that happening that soon, and if I want to keep living abroad, which I really do, teaching English is still my best bet, but I want to be able to continue to grow within that vocation.

And then it hit me: teacher training. As in, CELTA training. Getting my CELTA certificate was a crazy, intense, amazing experience, and I’d love to be able to facilitate that for others. Now, the road to becoming a CELTA trainer isn’t instant. I’ll have to get another qualification, the DELTA, which is like the CELTA on steroids, and then apply to a school or company to take me under their wing and train me, but it’s a good direction to work towards, and the higher learning and training I’ll be doing can only help me to be a better teacher. It’s a solid idea. Plus, as a CELTA trainer I’ll be more specialized, can keep working all over the world, and will be taking home a bigger paycheck (a nice plus).

I’ve started looking into DELTA programs, and while it looks rigorous and expensive, at the same time it looks completely doable. The qualification is composed of three modules, two of which can be done online. I can even start while I’m still working in Japan. The third is a bit tricky, as it requires the supervision of a DELTA tutor, but I can also travel to do it. I’m quite tempted by one program where this particular module is completed over 6 weeks in London. 6 weeks in London? My, that sounds terrible!

Nights out in Tokyo: Ebisu. Shot on film.

My third realization was time to ditch a relationship that was no longer serving me.

For me personally, absence truly does not make the heart grow fonder. I’d been casually seeing someone for a few months, the emphasis being on the word “casual”. In the beginning, I liked this aspect of it. It was nice to have someone to go out to bars and restaurants with, a companion with which to explore Tokyo. I didn’t see a relationship with him, nor did I necessarily want to. I was just having fun and getting used to my new life.

But after a bit of absence, I began to see aspects of him that I found undesirable creeping out of the woodwork. Things that I always noticed, but had never really bothered me, because it was just casual. The trouble is though, when it’s just casual, there’s not a lot of direction that the relationship can go in. And when casual stops being new and exciting, the resulting situation became increasingly lackluster. And ultimately, if the thought of him doesn’t make me say “fuck yes”, then it really should be a no.

I really hate confrontation and the thought that I may be disappointing or hurting another person, so I was really dreading this breakup (can you even call it a breakup when it’s not really a relationship? What is that?). Imagine my surprise and relief then, when he told me that he felt exactly the same and had been planning to break up with me as well, I just beat him to the punch.

So that’s where my head’s at right now. The first six months in Tokyo have been the fastest in my life. Here’s to slowing down and self-reflection.

Happy Travels,


Nights out in Tokyo: Golden Gai. Shot on film. 

8 thoughts on “Thoughts Upon Returning from Travel: A Life Update”

  1. Beautifully done piece No. Deeply thoughtful and eloquently written.

    Like is indeed a journey.

    Much luv and good luck talk soon…

    The padre san

    On Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 10:32 PM A Stranger In Paradise wrote:

    > mo_strangerinparadise posted: “This post is a bit different than usual, a > combination of thoughts about traveling and a life update of sorts. Read on > to hear where my head’s at these days. I got bit by the travel bug at a > young age. I think what I loved most about it was the curiosit” >

  2. This was such a pleasure to read. Thank you for the update. Oh yes, you definitely need a new living situation, and I’ve my fingers crossed for you that the apartment comes through. And both the DELTA course, and snuffing out the non-ship both sound exactly right. Isn’t amazing how a little distance can clarify things! Don and I are heading off Aug 21 for a 10 day silent meditation retreat. It will be interesting to see what insight comes from that.
    I love all your photos in this post, especially the ones shot on film. I think you’ve improved. The subject and framing in each is really excellent.
    Looking forward to hearing more of your adventures, or just plain ordinary daily life in Tokyo.

    1. Thank you Alison! I was so surprised at how much clarification I was able to receive from a quick little jaunt. I can’t wait to hear about that meditation retreat! Have you done something like that before? Haha, “non-ship”, that’s exactly what it was! And yes, I’m quite pleased with my photography these days. I’ve taken to just having the camera with me in case there’s something I want to capture, and there usually is!

    2. Mo! Such changes! I’m glad you’re (in the process of) getting the housing you want and getting out of an unfulfilling relationship. Yes!! If you’re looking for some stateside travel while prepping for your next stage, consider DC. 🙂 I miss you!

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