Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Me and My Little Brother in Santa Cruz, California.

Five days ago, at four in the morning, I said a sleepy goodbye to New York. As my dad’s car pulled away from the curb, headed to JFK Airport, I looked back at the tree-lined street outlined in white, chalk dust-like snow, at the Christmas lights that twinkled on the fire escape, and at the street lamps the glowed orange against the red brick church across the street. And I took a mental snapshot of the moment. Because who knows when I’ll be back again?

A six hour plane ride later, I woke up in San Francisco, California.

My mom lives about 30 minutes outside of the city, in a tiny farming town on the coast. I’ve spent the last few days riding my bike along the cliffs that overlook the ocean and watching the surfers. During my bike rides, I see wild rabbits, deer, pelicans and owls. I see skateboarders, dog-walkers, joggers and people plodding along the sandy shoreline on horseback. And all around us are groves of eucalyptus trees.

It’s during picturesque moments like these, that I try to visualize Tokyo in my mind…and all I see is a giant gray blur; a heavy storm cloud of gray buildings and gray people. I’m afraid that I’ll go back and lose myself in that rain cloud again.

A couple of days ago, I drove to Sacramento to see a friend. We met working on a cruise ship together last year. Our life stories are similar in that we both studied abroad in Germany, worked as Au Pairs in Europe and even lived in Salzburg, Austria at the same time (although we didn’t know each other back then). I like to think that perhaps we stood side by side at the same bar or momentarily bumped into each other on the streetcar, and just don’t remember. Maybe we even had a conversation. Salzburg is a small city. It’s certainly possible.

She’s also a bit of a lost soul…although as she puts it: “Not all those who wander are lost.” She left yesterday for an impulsive road trip across Europe and she has no idea what she’s going to do with her life when she returns to California; a fact that doesn’t seem to bother her much. I envy her for that.

I feel so rootless…and it’s driving me crazy. In the last two weeks, I’ve traveled through five cities and three countries. The past few mornings, I’ve woken up on a mattress on the floor in a cramped office in my mom’s house, surrounded by cardboard boxes and I catch myself momentarily longing to go ‘home’. And then I remember that I don’t really have one anymore. The house I called home since high school was rented out last summer.

In the next few days, I’ll be going to Los Angeles and then Las Vegas and then…back to Tokyo. I made the agonizing decision to go back. When I look around at how easy, how comfortable life is here in the States, I wonder if I’m insane. It’s so reassuring to walk into a bank and know immediately which forms to fill out, to walk the aisles of Rite Aid and find that familiar brand of shampoo. I can be confident with having conversations with complete strangers, secure with the knowledge that not only will the words I’m saying be understood, but the meaning behind them will as well. I won’t have to sensor or dumb down what I say. I won’t have to navigate around the cultural barrier block because there isn’t one.

And I’m going to trade that all in…for what? A life where I’ll be once again permanently glued to my Japanese English dictionary.

But I need to save money. And with the economy the way it is right now, Japan just seems like the best place to do that…right?

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6 thoughts on “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

  1. Really, you’re returning to Japan to save money? That’s some scary shit!

    I think when you return, since your eyes will be fresh, tweak your mind into thinking, “What does Japan not have that they could really use?”

    Start importing and call yourself boss!

  2. Reannon,

    Have been following your blog for a while, though I always leave comments as “Anonymous” 🙂

    I went to the movies yesterday, and saw a commercial for LV bags that made me think of you. It talks about Life’s Journeys, and how they are not simply “Trips” that you take or don’t.

    I found a copy in YouTube. Let me know what you think:


    Happy Holidays!

  3. Aw… Well, as someone who's stuck this holiday solo at home, I can tell you, you have it good. Um, as far as Tokyo goes though, I wouldn't bet on it – it just registered its sharpest quarterly drop in seven years… but hey, you'll be too busy teaching to notice 🙂 mc&hny btw.

  4. Yeah…Tokyo being the third most expensive city in the World and all, it’s probably not the best place to go to save money…but it’s really all I’ve got at this point. I’ve got a job and a place to live there…which is more than I have in the US. I just don’t have enough money to start life over again here…at least not yet.

    Anonymous…thanks for the link. That’s a beautifully made commercial…too bad it’s for Louis Vuitton. So why the whole ‘anonymous’ posting thing? Do I know you in real life? : )

  5. Hey Reannon,

    I plan to study speech pathology in grad school. Aside from Hawai’i I’m also applying to schools in NYC, Boston, California and Pennsylvania. The age old question of whether to stay in Mass where I have friends and family or to explore new, unfamiliar places is coming up again.
    I kind of understand how you want to go back to Japan where it’s challenging to simply go to the bank, never mind getting through an entire day without some sort of fiasco; rather than stay in the U.S. where things go pretty smoothly in terms of simple transactions day to day. I myself like to be challenged and think things are much more interesting in foreign countries where English isn’t the native language because adventures happen everyday in some form. Life may not be simple, but it’s always exciting, albeit somewhat stressful. Goodluck back in Tokyo! I can’t wait to read your posts from Nihon!

  6. Yeah that’s so true…I definitely love the challenge of living in another country. It’s so exciting! When I step outside of my apartment, I never know what’s going to happen. I love how random life is here.

    Real Life back home definitely seems boring in comparison…I worry that I’ve become addicted to the struggle…like I’ve got some sort of strange masocistic desire to put myself in these incredibly trying and stressful situations. But I also worry I’ll never be able to go back to life without it.

    Anyways, how did you get used to it? Does living in America seem boring to you…or have you found some sort of outlet (keeping busy, a hobby) that works as a distraction?

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