How I moved across the world


1M7A9040Okinawa consists of a group of islands 400 miles south of the mainland of Japan. It has an area of 463 square miles.

I scored. I landed a job in Okinawa. In a tropical paradise. I pulled up roots, left the comfort of my home & everything I know, hugged my loved ones goodbye, and began a journey to the other side of the world.

Phase 1   LETTING GO

We tore out of California, my husband and I. This husband of mine who encouraged me, knowing he’d be the “dependent”…this is the man who is the wind beneath my wings. And me, I’d be the “sponsor” & breadwinner for both of us, at least for awhile.

There were months of packing, deciding what stayed, what went with us. Seeing our home empty after 20 years was shocking. The to do list was all encompassing: Rent out the house, sell the cars, close accounts, get the mail forwarded…when one detail was finished, another took its place.

Saying goodbye to family & friends was brutal…and I wondered over and over…am I doing the right thing? Meeting my three week old granddaughter Avery Mae for the first time then kissing her goodbye was like ripping out a part of myself.

Letting go…all the time. Letting go was the mantra.

Phase 2.  ARRIVAL

Along the Coast The 11 hour flight was fairly easy. But leaving for the airport at 3:00am with minimal amount of sleep from grueling packing days, plus layovers in airports was draining.

By the time we landed in Okinawa 26 hours later, I knew I had the deer in the headlights look on my face. Even so, I was thrilled to be here at last.

We checked into the hotel at 11:00pm. Once in the room, I remembered I would be beginning work in the morning so I found an ironing board & my “business casual” clothes for the next day.

No problem, I told myself. I’d done this same thing countless times before with my previous civilian work with the military. I was used to the late night arrivals and early starts.

Amidst the, shall we say “adjustment” that comes with a new job, we began the search for a house, a car, cell phones, a bank account, getting Japanese driver’s licenses, insurance, a post office box & signing countless documents that needed my signature as the “sponsor.” All the while I tried looking cheerful & pretended not to be tired while the inside of my head felt torked and crazy.

One morning while getting ready for work, I sprayed hairspray on my hair, like A LOT. Suddenly I thought, what’s all that white stuff in my hair and on the mirror? It was white hair foam, the “product” that gives body to your hair, which is not meant to go on your hair when you’re ready to walk out the door but when you blow dry your hair. Cursing everything I could think of, I dabbed the sticky stuff off & stumbled out the hotel room to get to work.

 I loved Okinawa right away. 

1M7A9007The sight of the aquamarine sea was magical. I had been here twice before & remembered the people… polite, considerate, and BOWING.

One day I saw a gasoline attendant bow to the woman in the car while she was driving away after he had filled the tank with gas.

A pretty Japanese property agent, Shoko, showed us a house by the sea….we fell in love immediately. It was light and room and looked just like the picture I posted in my journal a few months before.

We decided on THE AWESOME HOUSE & moved in.

The next day, we discovered it was 3 doors down from my son & his wife who were expecting their first baby. They were back in the US at the time so none of us realized the location of the house.

Honest to Pete, this was a shocker…..completely unexpected, unplanned, the SURPRISE of my life. We would be neighbors.

Today I still shake my head & wonder how it actually happened. Out of all the places and houses to be found…. I’m good at manifesting things, asking the Universe for stuff… but this? This opportunity to live across the street from my granddaughter? I didn’t even think of asking for something so fabulous.

Phase 3.  ELLA ROSE

Ella I was there in the room when my second granddaughter was born. This 6.3 pound angel arrived and I entered an altered state. I watched her take her first breath and I fell in love. This tiny sweet baby, so alert, stopping her wiggling to look into my eyes.

She had me at that first look. There she was, Miss Ella Rose…the one we had been loving long before she arrived. Every day after work, I’d say, yes, I’ll have another hit of Ella. I could drink a case of her. And I could hold her & sit for hours just looking at her little face.

Sweet Ella Rose. So small yet so strong & mesmerizing.

Phase 4.   NOW & THE FUTURE

The language is challenging. Driving on the left is not so bad, but attempting to stay healthy & vegan when you’ve landed in the land of pork is tough. The Okinawans are considered to have the most number of centenarians so maybe I can bypass the pork and eat the seaweed and cultured vegies. Much more to come on this subject.

IMG_2368 As things settle down now at 5 months, we get less lost, we’re speaking a few Japanese phrases & learning a little Hiragana & Kanji, the way to be able to read Japanese.

The weekends are spent discovering new beaches for sea glass & shells. We travel the backroads & basically, we wander and see another side of Okinawa that tourists & even residents often miss.

We plan on Fuji. Climbing (gulp) Mt. Fuji on the mainland. 12,388 feet high, baby.

My husband & his longstanding dream of climbing Fuji have convinced me we must do this. Our adventure on the mountain happens in late July. The training has already begun.

Soon the weather will be really hot & we’ll be snorkeling & maybe scuba diving. There’s the festivals to photograph and there’s the whole world of learning about Okinawan ways of being healthy. Stay tuned.

For now, I’m holding up the sign that says, go for your dreams…they can come true.

This life I created, was handed, dreamed up…it’s for real.

And I totally encourage you to follow your own dreams wherever they lead you.

boat on water -101111-nikingusuku castle-0730

I’d love to show you this part of the world. In pictures, words, I’ll do my best. Let me know if you have any requests for pictures, for a site you want to see through the lens of my camera.

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  1. Janie Guhin says:

    Hi Jo. Loved reading your blog. I’m so happy for you and Thom in your new home, etc. I’d love to see pictures of your home. Sounds beautiful. I’m enjoying my new home among the pine trees, with a rails to trails walking path and canal just outside my front door. Quite the change from Davis for both of us wouldn’t you say?!!!

    Best to you both.

  2. Hi Jo
    I just popped by to visit your blog as it caught my eye on the Blogging 4 Clients list. I am doing the course too although rather a slow start for me as I am down with a cold. Love the blog and I am happy to see one that is a little on the same lines as mine. Our themes are travel and moving and following your dreams? Our blogs are quite different but I am sure when I read more there will be many similarities and this is interesting for me as I struggle to know exactly where my niche lies. I look forward to following your blog and reading more of your stories. all the best Kate

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