While teaching in Nagasaki, I taught a “tea time” lesson with two older women whom I really grew to admire. They taught me that three key elements to a long life are staying active, enjoying said life, and always working towards a goal. I couldn’t agree more. Every week, they came in with stories about the various activities they take part in like dance lessons, taiko drum lessons, cooking classes, tea ceremony, playing instruments, and studying English. As I think back to my time with them and as I transition into life as a full time student again, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to work towards over the next 3-5 years.
Short Term Goals
Explore More of Japan
I’ve traveled Japan a fair bit but there are still parts of the country I want to see. I want to visit Kyoto again and again, explore more of the west coast, go on vacation to Okinawa again, and spend more time in smaller towns and villages.
Love on Tokyo
In the same vein of getting to know Japan, my goal is to get to know Tokyo like the back of my hand. This means understanding which trains lines stop where and being able to navigate without relying so heavily on Google Maps. Additionally, I’m ready to put some roots down in terms of having favorite restaurants that I frequent, cafes that I work from, or neighborhoods where I like to hang out. I’m going to make the most of my time living in my favorite city in the world, create a sense of normal, and find a good balance between big city and nature.
…in an all Japanese environment to fast-track my language learning and further immerse myself into society. It would be cool to work at a cafe or a small local business where the working environment isn’t notorious for long hours, strict management, or an overly formal/polite atmosphere. It needs to be somewhere I can interact with different people every day and that allows for good work-life balance.
Improve my storytelling and photography
The goal here is to learn how to speak as eloquently as Lady Gaga does in interviews and write as eloquently as some of my favorite travel bloggers like Legal Nomads, Wandering Earl, or LandLopers. I want to get to a point where I can better capture a sense of place in my storytelling and review products and services in narrative form with greater depth. I’d also like to learn how to use photography as a powerful storytelling tool and become more fully acquainted with photo editing programs like Lightroom and Snapseed. One day, it would be neat to take a bunch of my photos and turn them into a tangible photo book or series of travel postcards.
Continuing my Japanese studies is my top priority. Over the coming year(s), my goal is to become fluent enough in Japanese to hold intelligent/imaginative conversations, read magazines and novels with ease, listen to TV programs and podcasts without difficulty, ask questions, and be able to thrive in everyday life.
Long Term Goals
Visit the Final 3
This is one hefty goal. I’ve been lucky enough to set foot on and explore 4 continents. That’s 3 more continents than I thought I’d see in this lifetime. Over the next 5 years, I will visit the final 3 which include a 2-week cruise down to Antarctica, traveling across South America, and an overland trip from South Africa to Egypt. On top of that, I will continue to travel to places that intimidate me like Cuba, India, North Korea, the Middle East, and an expedition around Greenland.
Over the next 2 years, I’m determined to get to a place where I feel comfortable calling myself bilingual and start doing freelance translation work. I’d like to work in Japan’s tourism industry and be part of the movement to make Tokyo a more accessible city for visitors to the 2020 Olympics. In a culture that’s tough to crack in terms of etiquette and communication, I’m going to be a bridge between Japan and the Western world.
Publish my own book
Those closest to me say they see a book in my future. I would say they’re crazy, but within the last year alone, I went from working at a supermarket in the suburbs of Detroit to studying Japanese at a school in the center of Tokyo. So writing a book is definitely within the realm of possibilities. The way I see it now is that I don’t have the discipline to sit down and write a book. Plus, I haven’t a clue what I would write about, but someday, it would be cool to be call myself a published author.
This is a new one for me. One of my bank accounts will reach $1,000,000, and it will be money I earn through my own hard work. Growing up, I was horrible at budgeting and managing money, and even though I’ve never come close to going bankrupt or ever been in heavy debt, I’ve always felt like I never had enough money. This made me feel very limited in the things I could do because I was so focused on just saving for my future. In my adult life, my relationship with money is still not great even though I have savings, a retirement plan, and enough to live comfortably in the present. The good thing is that if I had one million dollars, I honestly don’t see myself spending it any different than how I do now (travel, food, books, learning, etc.), but there’s something about that number that I’m drawn to.
My own home
One day, I will own a home in the countryside but still have easy access to a big city. If I end up back in America, it will definitely be somewhere on the west coast, maybe even Hawaii. If I’m still living in Japan, I’d like to move back to Kyushu (Japan’s southernmost main island) and live just outside of Fukuoka. I really love Kyushu as it was my first home in Japan, and there is a much more relaxed pace of life in the south even in the big cities. Also, I will to be able to pay for it with cash so I don’t have to take out a mortgage.
Doing what, I don’t know, but I will have the freedom to set my own hours, and the ability to work from anywhere. One day when I have my own house and possibly a family, the flexibility of location independence will allow me to be around to take care of my loved ones and maintain a household.
Gift a Trip
Many of my former students wanted to go to Disneyland, visit other parts of Japan, or go see a One Direction or Taylor Swift concert in Tokyo. As I got to know my students better during my time teaching, I so badly wanted to be able to surprise them Oprah style with a free trip. Going out and exploring the world has been the greatest learning experience, and one day, I will have enough financial freedom to help someone else see a little bit more of the world beyond textbooks and TV screens.