またね 日本

How do I begin to say goodbye to Japan?

Nearly two years of my life were spent here and time flew by so quickly I’m not even sure I had time to blink.  I remember vividly the day we moved to Japan and sitting on the airplane looking out the window seeing Michigan get smaller and smaller – the tears flowing freely.  All I could think was “what the hell am I doing?” I quit a perfectly good job, left my perfectly great home, and my perfectly great friends and family, to go live in a place where I couldn’t speak the language or understand the culture.  At the time I felt like I was completely out of my mind.  Little did I know that almost two years later I would be sitting here typing away, getting ready to close this chapter of my life, and the tears this time would be for my host country of Japan.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on what I’ll miss most about Japan and of course the obvious things are the food (man I’ll really miss ramen), vending machines, the ease of travel around this small but large country, and the chorus of “Irrashaimase” every time you walk into a store or a restaurant, and of course the excitement of being an expat.  But as much as I will miss all of those things, what I’ll miss the most are the intangible ones.  I’ve learned from the Japanese that the best things are worth waiting in line for – no matter the wait, the calm among the chaos on morning subways rides when you can hear a pin drop because of the mutual respect they have for one another, the preservation of culture and tradition, the appreciation for nature, the passion and attention to detail even with the most menial things, and maybe the thing I’ll surprisingly miss the most is the adventure and the adrenaline of trying something new.  The excitement that comes with accomplishing even the smallest tasks, and the pride that I’ve always felt for conquering this place I’ve learned to call home.

Saying goodbye is never easy and this is a day we’ve been both excited for and dreading all at the same time. It’s truly the definition of bittersweet.  But if there is one thing I’ve learned through this experience is that home is a relative place. Home became Nagoya, Japan and closing this chapter of our life will be incredibly difficult.  I don’t know what repatriation will look like or if reconnecting with our old life will be as challenging as everyone says or if I’ll wake up a week from now and feel like this was all a dream.

In a sense we played life on hard mode for the past two years.  The challenges of day-to-day life, the lack of work life balance for John, and the ringer our marriage went through.  All of it forced us to face the hardships head on.  I know that the despite the difficult experiences John and I shared on this journey, they have certainly made us better people and better partners.

Even with the challenges we were able to take advantage and see the world, at least Asia that is.  We traveled to 13 countries, explored 4 out of 5 main islands of Japan, hiked up mountains I never dreamed I’d be able to climb, traveled to the most remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, caught a glimpse of Mt. Everest from our travels in Nepal, we took a road trip across Middle Earth New Zealand, hiked the Great Wall of China, ate our way through Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong, explored the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, went canoeing down the Mekong Delta, island hopped in Bali, basked in the sun on the beaches of Thailand, and rang in 2018 watching fireworks overlooking the Patronas Towers in Malaysia.  Whew! Just thinking about all of it gives me goosebumps.  We broke out of our comfort zone and became better from exposure to cultures so different from our own. I know that both of us will forever miss the thrill of waking up in a foreign city, the allure of a new experience, a new food, new people, and exciting cultures.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

I decided to take a little break from Operation Wanderlust and attempt my very best to assimilate back to life in the U.S. of A.  I know I plan to share my challenges on repatriation in a future blog post and who knows a few added trips once we return Stateside.  We’ve truly had one hell of a ride here and I hope that this blog serves as a reminder of all the amazing things we saw and did, but for now I need to say goodbye.  Before I do though, I just want to say thank you.  Thank you to our families who supported us on this journey, to our friends who are excited to see us when we come home, to our loved ones that traveled all the way here to visit us – it meant the world, to our friends that we made in Japan, you really made this journey one for the books and the memories we share are forever irreplaceable, and finally to my John, for taking a huge leap of faith and diving head first into the deep end.  Without your hard work and sacrifice we wouldn’t have had this incredible adventure.

Domo arigatou gozaimasu どもありがとうございます!

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