Crossroads In the Rearview Mirror

As a part of me diving in to YouTube, I’ve been finding more and more channels that are like what I would like my own channel to become. These new channels I’ve been following are diverse, but a few of them do follow a general outline, these channels are run by young women who are living abroad (can you tell yet why I identify with them?) but in a large departure from me, they almost universally live in Asia.

For whatever reason, I’ve just been able to find more expat channels from Asia than from Europe (if you know of any expat-in-Europe channels please rec them to me in the comments!!)  and watching all of these women who are very similar to myself living very interesting lives in places I’ve never been to has actually brought up a lot of old memories or dreams of mine.

Take for example one of the first of these channels I subscribed to, Texan in Tokyo, it’s the channel of Texan Grace and her Japanese husband Ryosuke, they live in Japan and make Vlogs about normal life, adventures, food, whatever. (Psst! Grace also has a blog TexaninTokyo.com if you want to check it out). Anyway, the first time I watched one of her videos I actually said aloud to myself, ‘Oh my God, she’s living my Middle School dream life’.  As I may have mentioned before, I was obsessed with Japan in Middle School, I loved anime and manga and the street fashion and the traditions and I was absolutely certain that I wanted to live there.  I even attempted to teach myself hiragana and katakana through some specially designed comic books (it didn’t work, but mostly cause I didn’t try very hard/understand the basic principles of the alphabets, namely that learning them wouldn’t make me know Japanese).  

But more than old passions, these channels have been stirring up old what ifs.  During the ninth grade, I was nominated for a trip with People to People ambassadors, it’s an educational tour organization for Middle and High schoolers which tries to be like the Rotarians.  They stage trips during the summer to destinations all over the world and you can only go on one if you’ve been nominated and participated in the months long pre trip cultural education seminar.  The trip I was nominated for was for about two weeks, and it was to Japan.

I was so excited leading up to the first meeting, it was a meeting for everyone in the area who had been nominated and it was basically an informational meeting to explain the details, itinerary, accommodations, cost.  Reading over the pamphlets was incredibly exciting, I already knew many of the places we would be going and I was so happy to be looking at what I thought would be my first ever trip abroad.  As we the meeting progressed however I became less excited, even the certainly sugar coated version of how we were supposed to conduct ourselves seemed incredibly condescending and stifling, for example, 9th graders, who were in High Schiol, were to be counted with middle school students meaning no homestays unless their parents gave special permission to be in the high school group.  I can remember at this point that my mom and I leaned in to each other and whispered ‘high school’ at the same time.  And the entire meeting was conducted by one of my Middle School’s art teachers who I never actually had but who I knew, she was nice, but I always felt that she didn’t like me for some reason and I found her to always be quite condescending.  

So by the end of the meeting I knew that People to People was not the kind of group I would love, but that I would be willing to be a member of in order to get to Japan.  Then we got to the price.  This two or three week trip was more expensive than my nine weeks in Greece was or my three months in Germany will be.  And it didn’t include airfare.  My parents being the awesome enablers that they are told me that I could still go on this trip, but since it was so expensive, if I did I wouldn’t be able to go on any of the organized High School trips to Europe that I knew were just a few years away.  I am ever the pragmatist, and I knew that three trips to Europe outweighed this one trip to Japan.  So in the end I didn’t go, I went to seven different countries instead for a combined price still under that of the trip to Japan, and I never really regretted it.

I still don’t regret it, it was the right choice for me, but being exposed to Japanese life on YouTube has been making me wonder what my life would be like if I had made a different choice.  If I had gone to Japan I wouldn’t have gone to Europe in High School, and my passion for Japan would probably have continued unabated into High School.  And one trip to Japan would probably have been enough to make me drop French and take Japanese come Smith, this may sound extreme since I am writing from Paris, but it would have been very easy to make me drop French after High School.  And long story short, I’m pretty sure that IF I had taken that trip in 9th grade, I wouldn’t be writing this from France, but probably from Smith’s associate program in Kyoto.

I don’t know if I regret that I’m not in Kyoto right now, but I now that I’m rethinking a little the Eurocentric path I’ve forged for myself.  My interest in Japan is back with avengence, and though I’ve know that I want to visit Asia for forever, I’ve also realized that I want to live there for at least a little while, maybe just a summer, maybe a year or two.  I don’t know exactly, but I’m really happy that YouTube was able to awaken this interest in me again.

Were you ever reminded of a forgotten interest in a totally unexpected way?  Do you have expat vloggers to rec me? Let me know, and thanks for reading! 

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