It has been just over one month since my wife and I left Japan. We spent three weeks of that time in a small town in central Canada with my grandmother and have now returned to my home city of Calgary.
The first week or so was spent just relaxing after all the stress and work we had finishing up our old lifestyle. We gave up everything; our house, car, business, furniture, personal belongings, daily routine, everything. It was a lot of work but it is also incredibly liberating. There is a freedom that I have rarely experienced. It really feels fantastic to not want to buy things. We can’t take much with us on our travels so there is no need to even think about furniture, electronics or any other accouterments of modern life. We are finished with consumerism (for a little while anyway).
It has only been a month but we are already starting to make some important realizations.
I don’t want to be a traveller.
We will always live abroad and we hope to continually move to different locations but we have to do it slowly. I want to spend several months in each location if possible. I hate being in a constant state of movement and always rushing to the next destination.
My wife and I need routine in our life. We want to find good supermarkets to buy healthy food. We want to cook our own meals. We need to exercise. I want to play guitar and run. My wife wants to do yoga and take dance classes. Most of all we need consistent periods of time to work on new projects. We can’t do any of these things if we are going to a new city every few days.
Getting any work done on the road is very difficult without the Internet. We were using an Internet cafe for the last few weeks but that limited the amount of time we were able to get online. Internet is important if we are going to work on cool projects in the future.
Reverse Culture Shock
Many long-term expats and travellers talk about the reverse culture shock they experience when they return to their home country and maybe I am experiencing some of that now. After living in Japan for so long I have gotten accustomed to a quality of food and general levels of service that are lacking in many western countries.
I have found that it is really difficult to get decent food in Canada. Restaurants almost never make anything with fresh ingredients anymore. Everything is processed. Thankfully, Canada hasn’t been over-run by the huge scale factory farms of the US yet but it is definitely coming. My wife and I are trying hard to avoid any processed foods but it is difficult. We are already homesick for the fresh produce and fish of Japan. It is great to have cheap goods and endless choices but my dislike of the megastores and supermarkets is increasing.
One of the biggest things I hate about the US and Canada is the terrible customer service everywhere. It is so rare to find store workers that offer even basic levels of service. People just don’t care at all. I really don’t understand it. Is it so difficult to show up to work and actually care a little about customers?
Japan is still really formal and rigid with work rules but that is a good thing. I think all stores should be cleaned and organized. Employees shouldn’t be talking on phones to their friends or chatting with co-workers while customers are waiting for service. How about washing your hands if you are going to touch my food? Doesn’t anyone care anymore?
We are now back in my home city of Calgary, where we will spend the next couple of months. We live near a great supermarket and we are going to join the gym that is across the street. It is nice to travel, but it is great to just settle in to one location for a while and get some work done. We are planning some shorter trips around western Canada but it will be nice to have a home base and routine in our lives again. If any of you are in Canada in the near future please email!