Why I Made the Move
It’s never easy to uproot your entire life and move to another country. Some people do it for love, some for family, and some for career or job opportunities. There’s even some that do so because they want to start life anew, or experience something so completely different from what they’re used to.
I find myself falling into the latter category. Specifically, I wanted the challenge of trying to find my own way in a foreign country without a readily available support group. I wanted to broaden my world view and experience things I likely never would if I just stayed home my whole life. Trips are nice and all, but I didn’t think I’d get the real experience of making it on my own unless I tried living somewhere else for a year or so.
It’s been about three years now, and after some reflection I’m pretty sure there’ll be many more to come.
Life was relatively simple back home. I went to college, worked full time while balancing a full course load to pay my own way through school and graduate debt-free. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with my choices quite a few times. I changed my major after my third year, which tacked on an extra year of classes and tuition. Along with changes in education, I wanted to finally try and start a long-term career. By chance, I landed a job that would slowly but surely turn into one.
By the time I graduated college, I had moved up the corporate ladder of a small business that was just hitting its major peak of growth. The company was doing quite well, and as a result so was I. I had lots of responsibilities, but the job was exciting and presented new challenges everyday that I had to tackle.
So, imagine if you will, this 23-year-old who’s got an amazing career already lined up and ready to go with everything set in place for an awesome future. I could have continued working at the company for a few more years and eventually start my own business with my savings, after which I would enjoy life as my own boss (that’s the dream, right? Or so I was told…). Yet, with everything going so well, I couldn’t shake the nagging thoughts in the back of my head.
I was actually quite unhappy. I was good at the work I did, but it didn’t make me feel happy. It didn’t feed my soul, or enrich my life, or even make me feel like I was making changes in the world. I was stuck in my own little bubble, and would remain that way for as long as I chose to do so.
I stumbled across videos on the web of people who moved to foreign countries and were having the time of their lives. Yes, I cringed at videos where all the person was doing was saying “this is so different from where I live! They do this and that instead of that and this!” over and over again, but at the same time I wished I could experience the novelty and newness of a foreign country like they did.
Above all, I just wanted a change. I looked around and saw coworkers and friends who would forever be tied down to the place they were born in. Many of them would never get to experience the excitement (and sometimes fear) or trying to make it on their own somewhere else. The truth is, that was perfectly fine if they chose to do that with their lives. Life doesn’t have to be about stress and struggle and strife.
For me, however, I wanted that challenge. I wanted to try my best at making a new life for myself away from everything – to completely immerse myself in something new in order to discover who it is I really am. For me, moving away from my home country wasn’t about the place I was moving to, but really about going anywhere but the familiar.
In the end, amongst moving to Australia, Korea, Japan, China, or the U.K., Japan won the coin toss. With a job in place and money saved up, I packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and left behind everything I had ever known to start the greatest adventure and biggest challenge I had yet to face.
I won’t lie; the transitioning and settling in didn’t happen as quickly as I thought they would. Since I had picked what country I would move to only a few months before I landed a foreign job, I had very little time to prepare myself. Online resources were plentiful, but I figured that the language barrier would be the most difficult obstacle to overcome.
I knew a handful of useful phrases when I arrived in Japan. Almost three years later, I’m able to talk and engage with my coworkers on a deeper level than just “Do you like sushi?” and “Can you use chopsticks?” We now like to talk about current events, such as royal weddings or sports matches, and will even occasionally ask why things are done a certain way in Japan vs. other countries.
After the first few months of struggling to make any headway talking to my coworkers and people in my city who were interested in the new foreigner, I buckled down and really studied. For about four months I would go home, crack open one of the many Japanese textbooks I brought with me, and just study till I felt like bursting. I’m ridiculously happy that I did so, as it boosted my language ability and made me more confident in communication.
Coworkers used to say that they were afraid to try and engage with me, as they thought I wouldn’t be able to understand them and they themselves had little confidence in their English abilities. Now whenever we go out drinking (I was very surprised to find out that alcohol only heightens my Japanese ability, whereas it usually decreases my English ability), they love telling me that I’m much more interesting and personable then when I first arrived with almost non-existent Japanese ability.
Along with the language, I’m settling into my new life quite happily. I’ve got a cozy apartment, loving cat, and a few good friends that I see regularly. I’ve got a big move coming soon with the love of my life, which only strengthens my resolve to make Japan my new, permanent home. I love the language, culture, history, and overall feel of the country. I feel I’ve really settled in nicely, and can start working on my dream career now.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since the first time I had a storyline that I wanted to share with more than just a few close friends, I knew it was my passion. I remember reading more books than I thought humanly possible during long summers in elementary school, checking out every single book I could get my hands on about a certain subject when I wanted to know more, and just immersing myself in a new world that someone else had carefully created.
In reality, I’m sure that moving anywhere else in the world would have opened my eyes and allowed me to realize what it is that I really want to do for the rest of my life. I’m grateful that living in Japan has been a fun, albeit challenging experience, but truly just moving away from everything I knew is what contributed the most to following my passion and starting a career doing something I love.
Looking back, I’m sure that a part of me that would have been happy staying in my career position back home. It was stable, reliable, and would have provided me a financially secure future that most other positions can’t guarantee. Even with that in mind, I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything else in the world.
Hopes for the Future
If you’ve read the above portions, you’ll come to the same realization I did and see that living abroad has been a great change for me and the direction I’m taking in life. My greatest goal for the future is to be able to make a living doing what I love so that I can enjoy both my job and my time outside of work.
I’ve traveled to many places in the last few years, and hope to keep doing so in the future. They say to write well you need to have experience, and I hope to gain even more experiences in life with Japan as my home base. I’ve found a comfortable life here, and in that comfort I hope to see my creativity blossom and grow.
For all you happy readers and writers out there, I hope that my choices ultimately impact everyone positively. Overcoming challenges and making drastic, life-changing choices without any guarantee of success is one way that I try my best to inspire others to do the same.