Tag Archives: travel

Being Alone and Lonely in Japan: An Introvert’s Perspective

 

Listen, you’ll need bottles of cheap wine, 500+ tracks of good music, some of it mindless like 2000s pop, a deeper appreciation for introversion, a good activity to speed up time—mine is writing (thank God or else I would’ve jumped in front of a Shinkansen already)—Netflix playing in the background, a quick dismissal of whatever qualms you’ve had about talking to yourself in public, your Kindle to tackle all that reading you’ve long neglected, and a big healthy dose of IDGAF anymore because it’s that serious.

Loneliness and being alone.

Two different concepts but living in a small town in Japan, I can no longer tell the difference.

Being alone is loving your own company because you think you’re the coolest even when you’re not, but it doesn’t matter. You must believe you’re the coolest if you’re going to get onboard with being alone.

You relish the silence that comes once you’ve entered your place after work. You don’t want to bang your head over the deafening sound of your endlessly rolling thoughts.

You can relax, stretch your limbs, get stuff done, eat ugly, forget the pants, and curse loudly at the stupidity of whatever show you’re watching. Sleep late or early. Read or waste time on YouTube videos or scrolling through Facebook.

No one is there to nag you. No one is there to ask you for any favors. No one is there to annoy you. No one is there to judge you.

No. One. Is. There.

Back home, I enjoyed being alone. But here in Japan, it’s a different story because I’m alone every day even when I’m with people, sometimes especially when I’m with people.

Back home, I’m not alone every day because when I’m over being alone, I can go ahead and be with people I love and enjoy talking with. I can take a break from being alone. I have a choice.

But here, six thousand plus miles away from people who like hugging (I’m a hugger; people aren’t huggers here), who can keep me engaged in a good conversation, and who have a strong connection with the real me, I can’t take a break from being alone. Guess what happens? My time alone eventually turns into the beast called loneliness.

Hold on tight because I’m about to drop some bombs about loneliness in Japan, especially when you live in a rural town where the most exciting thing is an earthquake tremor.

First, let me get this one simple thought out of the way: being lonely in Japan sucks.

Okay, now we can go ahead and hit the deeper points.

1.) Communication:

If I ever plan to live in a foreign country where the people don’t speak either French, English, or Spanish, I’ll make sure to be enrolled in real, not online, language classes. My Japanese ability is enough to get me by and fulfill essential needs: shopping, eating out, traveling, and banking.

But a person needs more to maintain a healthy mind. A person needs conversations that go beyond likes and dislikes and what you think about Japan or why you’re here.

After answering these questions multiple times, you don’t want to talk to anyone anymore. You instead end up talking to yourself since you’re under the impression that you’re the most interesting person you know.

Just kidding, of course. Maybe.

There have been times when I didn’t make any attempt to start a conversation because I knew it wouldn’t lead anywhere significant. I chose to stay quiet and only talk when spoken to.

As an introvert, keeping up a superficial conversation drains so much energy out of me. It augments my depression and feelings of loneliness. In fact, relief  spreads all over me when the conversation ends.

Of course, I talk with my family and friends back home and it helps a great deal, sometimes even saves my life. But nothing can match the simple joy of talking to someone in person, seeing each other’s eyes, smiles, funny grimaces, and feeling each other’s energies.

Here, I am no better than a talking doll with a string you can pull on her back. A doll’s probably more alive, though.

2.) Weekends:

In a previous post, I wrote about how Japan has been great for my writing in term of getting the words down. Why? Because my weekends consist mostly of drinking white wine, cleaning my apartment, and writing.

I’ve written more than I’ve ever had here. It’s the result of not having my weekends booked with the laughter and joy of family and friends. Instead, it’s me, the laptop, and a fiery passion to get work done.

Writing is great. I love it to death. You all know that already. But my sanity needs more than writing. In fact, too much writing has made me colder, more introverted (yes, that can be a bad thing; balance is key, people), and a tad more obsessed with writing itself, which I didn’t think was even possible considering how passionate I am already.

I’m sad to say that I’ve also lost a good chunk of interest in traveling to other cities here. Depression does that to you. Robs you of things you once enjoyed like traveling and exploring new places (thank goodness it hasn’t taken writing yet; the universe knows I’d end it if I lost that). So I prefer to stay in and write at my desk or sit in the corner of my favorite café in town and spend hours writing there.

Another culprit behind my not traveling so much is having to do it alone. This is hard for me to admit, but I don’t like traveling alone.

Kudos to those who can do it, but it’s not for me. I can live alone, no problem, but traveling alone pushes me further into my head and thoughts, which makes me talk out loud more than I’m comfortable with before I can check myself.

If I do have to travel alone, it needs to be in nature with a sparse sprinkling of folks. I can’t stay in crowded places or else I’ll suffocate. So it’s hard to explore a new city because those have lots of people, right? What can I do except run away back to my room where—spoiler alert—no people.

But if I’m with someone, my mind takes a break from the crowds and inner thoughts to focus on the person beside me. I feel better and can endure a trip for quite a long time. I become a happy traveler.

3.) Daily Life:

No. I don’t exist in my daily life. Reality doesn’t exist in my daily life. Nothing exists in my daily life. Monday morning through Friday night is known as THE VOID, the zenith of my loneliness. I escape it somewhat unscathed on Friday nights with lots of wine.

They say life is what you make it. Yeah, well, I’m hanging by my teeth on the highest ledge of the Burj Khalifa to make it through the rest of my stay here in Japan. But the key to surviving this great leviathan called loneliness is not giving in to it.

Never give in, just keep pushing and another day will come one after the other until it’s all over, and you can go back and ask yourself, “What the hell was I doing with my life then?”

Living. You were living and you keep doing it, except way smarter this time around.

So, what are your experiences with being alone and lonely? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

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Am I Making a Mistake? What Life Wants You to Know

Howdy Folks,

I hope this post can encourage you in your own journey in this confusing as hell experience called life.

Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I thought the middle of 2015 would be much more successful, but it’s actually been a struggle. I’ve been trying to add more accomplishments to my repertoire this year, but I’ve only been racking up failures. Nevertheless I’m thankful for the failures because they’ve taught me some important lessons that I plan to apply for the rest of this year and beyond.

First, I tried buying a house with my parents, and it ended up pretty badly because we made first-time buyer mistakes and had the worst lenders on the planet. We lost the house, lost a ton of money, and I almost lost my mind. I’ve been trying to block out those three horrible months, and I think I’m succeeding. At least that’s one thing going right.

Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Second, I tried getting a full-time job in Atlanta, the place where I thought I would be living, but I’ve only gone deaf from the silence of these potential employers. I switched my job-hunting to Boston, but I got only crickets too. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tufts University and Columbia, great references, and amazing cover letters. However, because I decided to go to Korea to teach English right after graduate school, I found myself teaching English for the past two years because I enjoyed it and, also, couldn’t find work in anything else. When I tried making the switch to getting jobs tied closely to my graduate degree, I got no invites for interviews because my resume lacked the experience.

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net / I’m one of those X’s 😦

So, warning to those out there hoping to teach English abroad: make sure you have great connections to get a job in something different when you’re done and don’t spend too much time teaching English if your heart not’s really into it.

Thankfully, I don’t mind teaching English, but of course I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing it. I want to make a living as a writer: write books, articles, and personal essays. Teaching English is just a fun way to pay the bills before I make it big as a writer or whatever that means. But I’ll know it when it happens.

Despite all of this, I’m currently enrolled in a Master’s program in Law and Public Policy. Why? Well, when I failed to get into a PhD program, I thought getting a second Master’s would be my way there. Don’t ever do this, by the way.

I also wasn’t doing anything spectacular with my life, and my father still clung to his dream of me becoming a badass lawyer. As a result, I made the BIG mistake of getting into this program. I got A’s, but I was incredibly unhappy and uninterested in the subjects my classes covered. Notice I’m speaking in the past tense here because I plan to drop out. I’ve never done this before and it sorta scares the hell out of me.

Now, I’m back where I started: lost, adrift, confused, miserable, and unfulfilled. The realization hit me that if I didn’t do something drastic, I would give up on life, not kill myself per say, but be a walking zombie who just did what was expected of her because it was easy and required no confrontation and risks.

Now, I’m not one to be concerned about the stars, but I’m an Aries and my claws came out at the thought of having my life controlled by the expectations and dreams of others.

I needed to do something crazy, something to shake me out of the three-year funk. Look, I tried. I really did. I tried being a normal functioning member of American society, but I failed. Others might say I gave up to early. All I know for sure is that I’m sick of forcing my self to be a person I’m not.

So, what did I do?

I applied for a teaching job in Aichi, Japan.

Toyokawa Inari Temple
Toyokawa Inari Temple

The specific town, Toyokawa-shi, where I’ll be living is about three hours south of Tokyo and possesses castles and gorgeous flora. I got the job because my teaching credentials were hard to beat. Competition didn’t have a chance.

The job is a perfect fit for me because I’ll be working 4pm-9pm, which gives me plenty of time to work on my writing in the mornings. I’ve already lived abroad before so I know what to expect and what not to expect.

Look, I’m not going to Japan to solve my problems or to run away from them. I’m going to Japan because I want to experience something completely new every single day. My soul needs wonder to shock it out of its sleep and slow decline toward death. Furthermore, I have no romantic partner nor children, so I have no responsibilities there. My parents are young and thankfully healthy and don’t really need me around.

At 28, I’m free so you bet I’m taking this opportunity.

However, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns. My parents will be furious when I tell them. My family will talk. People will think whatever they need to think about my decision and will most likely believe that I’m making a big mistake, committing career suicide. I know.

But I don’t want to be a lawyer, a policymaker, or office worker. I want to do two things: teach and write. In another country. And travel. I want to explore new places and write about my adventures. I want to meet new people and listen to their stories. I want to inspire other people to take the chance to travel when it’s given to them. I want to live a life that’s under my control.

I’m tired of trying to be someone I’m not just to satisfy other people, especially my parents, family, colleagues, and society. I want to be true to myself no matter the risks, no matter the number of shaking heads, no matter the disapproval.

Am I making a mistake? Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. At the end, I’ll live with my decision. But one thing for sure, the ride definitely won’t be boring.

How about you? Have you ever taken a decision that you thought was a mistake, but went through with it anyway? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay Amazing,

Sammy

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Be sure to look out for my e-book, The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit, coming out soon!