Post typical Saturday afternoon errands to the supermarket and Barnes & Noble, I sat down at the kitchen counter while my mom rustled around the kitchen putting groceries away. My mind started to wander, and from out of nowhere, I asked my mom what would happen if I stopped loving travel. You see, at the time, my gypsy spirit could not be tamed. I had 20 countries under my belt, and the mere thought of not traveling or not loving travel anymore often left me feeling pensive and melancholy. Since 2012, my identity has been tied to travel. I was the girl who wanted to see and experience as much of the world as possible and selfishly did so according to her own timeline.
Though my question had come out of left field, my mother, knowing me better than I knew myself back then, paused briefly and with great care, explained to me that maybe someday something will come along that I’ll love just as much or even more than travel. She assured me it wouldn’t feel so sad to let go because I’ll love that new passion just as wholly as I loved travel then.
She was right. Something did come along to replace travel: Japan.
Truth be told, I don’t enjoy traveling as much as I used to. Something I never thought I’d say. Nowadays, I get antsy and tired more easily waiting in airports, and people watching, what was once a favorite pastime is no longer. On long layovers, I find myself sinking more into my own thoughts, not looking up from my kindle to avoid absorbing all the energy of people around me and wishing to be at my destination already rather than looking forward to the journey.
While I wouldn’t trade all of the travel experiences I’ve had for anything, I’ve flown so much over the last 5 years that it’s just not enjoyable anymore. I overdosed on travel, and now, I don’t want to get on a plane again for a very long time. The girl who used to change locations every 2 weeks has finally put down some roots.
Now, I’m settled in Tokyo, Japan. A place I never thought I’d call home yet it feels more like home than anywhere I’ve ever lived. With my nomadic days behind me, I couldn’t be happier to have my own space again. What’s more, I’m relieved not to be in motion anymore and to focus on rebuilding my life offline.
Compared to the first time I moved to Japan, I don’t feel as distracted by everything Tokyo has to offer (though I am grateful that I’ll never run out of things to do or places to explore here), pressured to keep up with digital media or experience everything all at once. I’ve really come to enjoy being in one place and seeing the same faces every day. I feel more focused to do well at my job and to share the city I love with visitors from around the world. Travel lives on in my life in the form of stories from guests on my tours, and that fulfills me in a way that travel couldn’t when I was the one moving around. Perhaps most importantly, I feel happier and more loved and supported not just by my friends and family but by myself too.
The first day in my new apartment in Tokyo, I woke up with a huge smile on my face. There is something to be said for having your own space and decorating it to your liking. For crying out loud, I have curtains hanging from my window that I picked out myself at the store, and they match the one gold wall in my apartment. Yes, I have a gold wall. I also have a supremely comfortable bed topped with a mountain of blankets and pillows, my own shower, my own kitchen to cook in (I actually hugged my fridge the day it was delivered and immediately went out to buy groceries to put in it), my own desk to work from in the mornings, a closet to hang my clothes instead of keeping everything folded in a suitcase, and a regular routine (I never thought I’d see the day where I’d cherish a daily routine). I even have a balcony from which I can see the sunrise, sunset, and the Tokyo Skytree, the city’s tallest tower.
It makes me really happy to have all of my things in one place, one address and to have my friends nearby. On top of that, I’m grateful for all the opportunities that await me in this big city I love so much. I am the luckiest girl alive. Since I’ve moved back, people have asked me how long I think I’ll be here, and my answer hasn’t changed. I will stay in Japan for as long as it makes sense. Because last year’s departure from Japan was so abrupt, I’m more acutely aware that this life and love could just as easily fade away tomorrow, much like my passion for travel has slowly dissipated. So I’m just immensely grateful for the now.
Just so this isn’t entirely about my personal life update, I’d like to share with you a few things that have helped me transition between so much starting, stopping and moving around. After all, starting over in Tokyo again was no easy feat.
Best Stress Reducers
I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but I’ve learned to pull out my kindle rather than my phone when there’s time to kill. When I’m feeling anxious about something, mindlessly scrolling through my phone only adds to the fire. Reading books brings my mind back to a meditative state, extinguishes any fear and worry fueling my anxiety, and cultivates my imagination and new ideas.
This has transformed my mental health so much that now, I can’t be on my phone for more than 15-30 seconds. Social media presents so much unnecessary noise that I don’t even bother keeping up with it anymore.
There’s a lot going on all the time. As a way of stopping to process everything, I started meditating twice a day for 20 minutes each. Meditation is something that’s still new to me and something I never thought I’d get on board with even though I liked the concept. Alas, it has turned out to be hugely helpful especially living in a city that doesn’t stop, and with an ever changing work schedule, meditation is my new constant. For anyone who is interested in meditation, I recommend you check out the Transcendental Mediation website.
Fantasy / Daydreaming
In tandem with meditation, I find daydreaming to be really relaxing, even if it’s just something silly or to entertain the seemingly impossible. For example, I like to put on some music and daydream about performing as Lady Gaga at the Superbowl, being the opening act at the 2020 Olympics opening ceremony, being interviewed on The Ellen Show, what my life would be like if I were still a dancer, or who I’d want at my fantasy dinner. Those sorts of things. That’s how I cultivate new dreams and goals and inspire myself to try new things.
It’s important to let the mind play. It works hard all day keeping life organized, navigating between languages, and figuring out how to be human. Just like anything else, it deserves some “me time.”
Find a Focus
My priorities are taking care of my health by being vigilant about what I eat (a real challenge at times for a sweet tooth like me), working out at the gym, and getting enough sleep. On top of that, I make time to spend with friends, improve my Japanese, get better at doing my job, and work on being kind to myself and others. I don’t give much attention to anything that falls outside of those priorities. I used to get distracted by different hobbies which are not a focus. They’re stress relievers, outlets for creativity, but they’re not priorities in the everyday scheme of things. Often times, I think we spread ourselves too thin because our attention is being pulled in a million different directions all the time, and we’re hungry for new experiences and challenges. Ultimately, I think that just adds to the stress. The more we can hone in on what’s really important, on what will truly serve us in the long run, the happier we’ll be.
Lord knows I have my share of bad days or problems that are too big to solve alone. Thank goodness for therapy. I am supremely grateful to my energy healing practitioner, Alicia, in California who is always on call even across multiple time zones to talk me through and better understand life’s ups and downs. Without that lifeline or just people to talk to in general, I wouldn’t feel as stable as I do today.
I find writing to be very therapeutic, and the thing about writing for myself is that I don’t have to edit or filter my thoughts. Emotions and thoughts often surface so unexpectedly, and there’s an urgency to get them down on paper. Doing so is a way of releasing toxins from the body, and if I don’t capture it right then and there, I’ll never remember what they want to teach me. So when I sit down to write, I bleed onto the page, and I always feel better afterward. After I re-read it, it helps me understand how I think, and writing is a good way to be honest with myself.