Wow, what a year!
2016 has been all over the map (literally and figuratively) for me.
Here’s a quick recap:
January – lived in Roatan, went to Canada halfway through for family reasons
February – in Canada, interviewed for the JET Programme
March – in Canada, and then back to Roatan
April – found out I got a spot on the JET Programme, left Roatan for good
May through July – in Canada, with a few trips to around Canada and one to Portland in there
August – moved to Japan!
September through December – lived and worked in Japan as an ALT (assistant language teacher) with trips around Japan to Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and lots more local trips on my island.
I decided to end the year by straddling 2016-2017 in a brand new country for me: South Korea! I just spent 5 days around New Years in Seoul, and it was one of my favorite places I’ve been so far. Lots more to come on that soon!
So how was 2016?
I think at my last count I’ve been on 38 flights this year, 7 train trips, and set foot in 5 different countries. I drank about 3000 coffees, 1000 vodka sodas, and not enough green juice. I gained 25lbs living at my parents house with all the free food (oops), helped a family member recover from major surgery, and didn’t have a ‘real’ job for 8 full months (January till August) but still managed to hustle quite a bit on the side. I scored my first major travel writing job (it’s not online yet, but when it is you’ll know!), started a partnership with a large charter airline that got my face all over the internet (and the seatback TVs in all their airplanes!), and had writing published in an in-flight magazine (a personal goal of mine). I did my first live radio interview. I helped out charities in Roatan from afar by designing posters, managing social media, building a website, buying raffle tickets, and sponsoring school fees for a friend’s children. I moved to a city in Japan where I knew no one. I began learning my 4th language (Japanese), and started a job with basically no training in a country where I was functionally illiterate and unable to communicate.
It’s really been a year living on the edge of my seat, and for now I don’t mind being settled, cozy and content in Japan these days. Right now, the stability of a full-time job is still just fine with me. I like my job. I like having my weekends every single week, and knowing exactly what days I have off all year. It’s nice knowing down to the exact yen how much money I’ll make every month, and how much I’ll have left over after my expenses. I’m finally paying off debt that was hanging over me and building the entire time I was in Honduras. My side projects are all running smoothly. I don’t have to sell my furniture to pay rent anymore, and I don’t have to worry every single morning at 7am whether or not I’ll get called in to work. I also don’t wake up hungover 5 days a week any more. So there’s that.
I’m still pursuing location independence as a long-term goal, but for now this is all working just fine. I’m sticking with it another year – I’ve been offered a second year on the program and recently signed my recontracting papers. So I’ll be in Japan until at least August 2018!
2017 is shaping up to be a big year for me. So far I have plans for smaller trips around Japan, like Osaka again next weekend, Tottori, and diving in Okinawa. For big trips, I bought myself Christmas present – a ticket to Philippines for a week in March with two of my lovely lady friends I met in Roatan! Indonesia is in the pipeline for this year too. There’s also a chance I’ll be spending part of summer 2017 in a very familiar place, but that’s still on the maybe list for now.
I feel like 2016 was a weird year for a lot of people (also, I’m real sorry about 2016, America). Some really great things happened for me as well as some really awful things. Geographically and mentally the year was just everywhere and a real hot mess for me. I’m looking forward to a more streamlined, easy year this year.
Bring it, 2017.
Let’s get on to the roundup!
1. My most-liked photo on Instagram this month:
Well…..my Insta fans enjoyed this photo more than the rest:
This was taken on a road trip with a fellow ALT where we set out to hike a mountain in our prefecture. We had to give up after over two hours of driving to the mountain, because the roads were too icy for her little car and it was getting dangerous. We decided to drive back down and stop at anything and everything that looked interesting. This beautiful stream was running through a picturesque little mountain town and just looks so quintessentially Japanese to me – this is one of my favorite photos too! Believe it or not, the color of the water was even more intense in real life. It was really incredible!
Bonus photo: the place we gave up with the car. This was the stop-and-turn-back point! We had a picnic lunch on the hood of the car, played some Christmas music and skated around on the ice before heading back down. It was a little disappointing we didn’t make it to the mountain, but better safe than sorry.
Note: my personal policy is that Instagram is a give and take platform. My profile is private and if you don’t have any photos on yours or you’re selling crap, I won’t accept your request, sorry! There’s just too many scam/spam profiles out there, so I don’t accept anyone who doesn’t look like a legit user.
2. In case you missed it:
Nailed it with my once a week post goal!
Lots of posts about my recent adventures around Japan. I love showing people what I’ve been up to, especially posts about my island (Shikoku) because there was so little about it online in English when I looked it up before coming. It definitely lives up to its nickname of “the hidden gem of Japan”. I hope these are helpful for when next year’s wave of Tokushima and Naruto JETs are getting their placements and searching online for info!
Next up: posts about my trip to South Korea!
3. One Second Every Day – December 2016
I’m using 1 Second Everyday to quickly chronicle my time here in Japan by taking a one second video every day. At the end of each month the app puts it together and you end up with a 30-second video of the month. I like it because it shows what I’m really doing each day, not just all the highlights of super fun stuff once in a while. I think it gives a good insight into my daily life. (Not sponsored! I just like this app!)
Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter … there’s lots of extras posted there that don’t make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I’m on Bloglovin’, so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there’s that.
Tamara Alexandre says
HI RIKA, I loved reading your post. Traveling always been fun thing.