Choosing What To Keep

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Lately, I have been thinking that I have lived a life of focused extended long term travel. Now, long term travel usually means grabbing your largest and sturdiest backpack and taking the plunge to travel for a period of anywhere from a couple of months to year. The focus of long term travel is getting to experience the world and its various cultures. Perhaps you spend a month in Tibet, a couple of weeks in Japan, or a few months travelling around Europe. However you do it, long term travel means being away from your family, friends, and the world you know. You can learn more from these articles: Laidback Trip and Road Affair.

Some people would say that I am an expatriate and/or migrant and/or immigrant. I wouldn’t disagree with any of those labels. What I know for myself is that I have been a traveler since childhood. My first plane ride was at the age of nine. I decided to move permanently to the U.S. at the age of fourteen. I lived temporarily in Germany in my early twenties. In my early thirties, I moved to Italy with an undefined goal–I stayed for five years. By my late thirties, I moved to Japan, where I currently reside. It’s been quite a journey.

So, what’s the point of this post? Well, as I begin to prepare for another move (within Japan), I found myself thinking about the importance of knowing what to keep.

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One of things I have learned about myself is that I have a natural tendency towards keeping everything that could be potentially important in the future. It’s not a bad tendency. However, it can lead to some negative consequences, like keeping a lot of unnecessary paperwork that could be easily digitalized (if they haven’t already been).

Over the past 35 years of traveling and moving, I have developed 6 Keep Rules for myself.

Rule 1: Keep all identification documents (passport, license, etc.) updated and accessible. Have a notarized copy, if possible.

Rule 2: Keep important documents relevant to where you are currently living (housing agreements, etc.). When it’s time to move on, review and dispose of most, if not all. If you are worried, scan it and discard.

Rule 3: Keep receipts for electronic equipment, tax and home-related payments. I have not found much use in keeping other receipts, except for itemized tax information…and I am not yet about that life.

Rule 4: Keep handwritten letters and cards. Personally, I find it comforting to look back on the thoughts that others chose to share with me.

Rule 5: Keep gifts, large, small, and everything in-between. I believe that if someone took the time to think about you and gave you something as a result, it is important to keep it. Sometimes it isn’t possible to do so. So, then start looking for a good home for that item(s).

Rule 6: Keep favorites. However, everything cannot be a favorite. So, take the time to have a Marie Kondo moment. Try the KonMari method. Look at each item and ask yourself whether or not it brings you joy. If not, then it’s time to discard or rehome.

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Well, then…it’s time to move once more. I will share an update about where once I am there. Next time, I will share about the moving process and my rules for discarding things.

Let me know what you choose to keep when you move.

Until Next Time,

Almost 4 Years…

View from Dragon Bridge, Ibaraki

My journey to Japan began with an article about a spiritual journey in Buddhist monastery and a simple thought, “I would like to go there one day.” That moment was more than a decade ago.

I imagined undertaking a spiritual journey, one filled with lots of meditation and healing. You know the kind of thing: walking barefooted, kneeling, praying, and contemplating nature–all to a soundtrack of singing bowls, bird calls,

wand chanting. That sort of idealized version of a contemplative and peaceful existence.

Suffice to say that that hasn’t been quite the experience.

Tori in Kashima Shrine, Ibaraki Prefecture

Certainly, I am a regular visitor to local shrines. I wander the wooded areas near me, sometimes I hike mountains. I contemplate the beauty of nature and the tranquility it gives me. Still, I have yet to sequester myself in a monastery, although I yearn to do so.

How I got here and what I am doing to remain here doesn’t really matter. The why of being here is something that is evolving. The point is… I am here.

Cafe Zenzen, a favourite space, Ibaraki

I am here in a place where difference is suspect, being exactly who I am can lead to repercussions, and I am learning that I desire, above all else, that I yearn for stability.

However, living in Japan has influenced me to become more pragmatic.

My idealized version of living in a monastery in the mountains of Japan morphed into one of learning about the people, culture, language, and the importance of practical and sustainable living.

First Ohara School ikebana certificate, 2020

So, it’s been almost four years… I have no idea what will come next. However, I am open to who I will become.

This year, I finally realized (perhaps owned) that the journey that matters the most to me is learning to be a better human being. Specific place or profession matters only to inform my larger goal: understanding that I, too, can be good and do good in the world around me.

How about you? Where has your journey taken you? Where do you want to go next?


Vlog | Black Women Dating While Living Abroad: Will Italian Men Feed You Pasta?

DatingAfter four years of living in Rome, I’ve learned a bit about dating, especially as a Black woman. In this video, I offer up my thoughts on possible dating experiences that Black women may meet while living abroad, the (ir)relevance of beauty standards, and reasons for travelling abroad, including cultural expectations.

Hope you enjoy it! If you do, please “like” (thumbs up) the video. Thanks!