Thoughts on the loneliness that naturally comes with moving to another continent by yourself

There are many things I could be proud of. (I say “could“ because feeling proud of things doesn’t come naturally to me.) Finishing 1,5 years of horrid teacher training and getting my first full-time teaching job. That job being in Japan. Finding the courage to leave family, friends and familiarity behind to experience something new and face new challenges. Or spending every single day of my first three weeks in Japan by running around in Japanese August heat to furnish my apartment and buy everything I need for daily life, without speaking or reading the language. Which doesn’t mean I wasn’t saying things in Japanese, on the contrary – I looked things up, wrote them down, read them out to people. Used arms and legs and facial expressions to help get the meaning across. (As a primary school teacher I should be used to that, right?)

I’ve never been alone in something new to this degree in my whole life. Sure I’d moved and also lived abroad twice, but there were always people around to help me. The mum who helped packing, the brothers who helped carrying stuff, the friend who showed me how to deal with a flat tire, the roommate who fixed my crooked room door with a swiss army knife. There was always someone there. Now there is not. Which is not entirely true – some incredibly amazing friends on the other side of Japan or even the other side of the world are there 24/7 to listen to me and offer advice through the magic that is called the internet. No matter the time differences or how ridiculous my questions are (“If I send you a picture, could you translate what it says on the garbage container outside my house, please??“) and I feel very lucky and loved thanks to that.

Despite doing everything by myself, I am moving forward. I registered with the town office, opened a bank account, had furniture and electronic devices from three different stores successfully delivered to my place, learned how to fight mosquitos, went to another town to see and old friend. Took buses, taxis, trains, subways. Fought my way through Tokyo rush hour just after arriving at the airport and didn’t despair when I got stranded at another train station the very same night. I talk to people in Japanese. A lot of people. Every day. Even on the days I don’t feel like talking at all. Because if I don’t do it, things won’t get done. And if they don’t get done, no one will do them for me. (The very second I wrote the last sentence, the towel hook I hung up in the bathroom earlier just fell down with a bang. The sarcastic comment of a higher force? Maybe.)

To be very clear: I’m not complaining. I feel very much at home here already. Things are going well. I’ve already had some incredible encounters with people that felt like movie scenes. These encounters assured me that this city is full of possibilities to meet new people and make new friends. And then one day in the future, those possibilities will have turned into real-life people and this place will have turned into a real home.



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