Back to America

Anne and I are heading back to the US come October 2020. We will be starting out in Washington to spend some time with my family. Then we will figure out what the next concrete steps will be.

Why we are coming back

The COVID-19 pandemic is the primary driving factor. Originally, we had the notion that we would travel to Europe and work there for a number of years much like we did in Japan. Covid-19 struck and made this extremely difficult. America has become plague central and as a result, my Visa is about worthless for entering other countries. Also, it’s dealt a mighty blow to the world economy, so finding jobs as a foreigner is a lot harder.

Meanwhile, here in Japan, we got hit with two new/growing expenses. The first are city taxes. The first year we were not expected to pay them but now that we are in our second year they’ve started. They run around 10%-15% and there aren’t many ways to reduce them. The second is the health insurance here. Your first year it is really cheap, but once you have filed federal taxes, they re-assess it. I don’t make much, but its enough to get the “regular” price which, while cheaper than US insurance, is substantial.

As these two expenses increased significantly, my income teaching has gone down significantly. This means my situation of watching my accounts slowly grow was going to shift into watching them slowly shrink. My ability to quickly take on more income here is quite limited and Anne’s is essentially zero due to her Visa status.

The US, as disastrous as it seems to be in the summer of 2020 is where I have the most flexibility to make money, where I have the most support available, and the only place I can travel to more or less freely for work. So, back to the US, it is until the COVID-19 situation is more or less resolved.

There are a few positive notes. My original goal was to live for two years in Japan. November 2020 would mark 2 years exactly so I’m very close to having exactly done what I set out to do. COVID-19 has also made living in Japan considerably less fun than it was. We don’t go out much and most of the big cultural events we really enjoyed are no longer happening. We are both ready for something new.

The return plan

Right now we are working on tying up our loose ends here in Japan. There are many to sort out but it should be no problem. We’re flying out in October and we will be in the Seattle area initially.

I plan on spending some time with my parents. They’ve got some room to receive us and we don’t have much in the way of stuff. We had multiple options for this but I also feel the desire to spend some quality time with my folks. We don’t see each other often and I recently lost an aunt and an uncle. My folks are still reasonably healthy, but this seems the right time to try and connect at a deeper level, at least for a while. We are all at some kind of crossroads right now so some family unity could be just the thing to inspire us all. Ideally, I’ll also be able to connect with my sister as there is some chance we’ll all be under one roof for the first time.

Before I see my family, Anne and I will quarantine for two weeks in a hotel. I want to use an abundance of caution when it comes to my family’s health right now. For this reason, I won’t be connecting in person with friends in the area right away. Not while I’m staying at my parent’s home and not while COVID-19 remains a serious threat.

And after that?

Good question. Anne and I are weighing many options and there remain many unknowns. There are three big and interconnected questions at play.

  • What to do for money
  • Where to go next
  • What do we want

As for money, I’ve started streaming gameplay on Twitch. It’s a bit of a crazy sort of occupation but I do really enjoy it and I want to give it as much a try as I can. Basically it means entertaining people and asking for donations to support that. I think I have the needed skills and talents, but it is a fundamentally risky endeavor and it takes quite a while to make money at it.

In the meantime, I’ll need other sources of income. I do freelance writing and other work I enjoy less but is a bit steadier. Still, its table scraps compared to my old line of work as a software engineer. I may get back into some kind of tech work, though that too requires quite a bit of commitment in re-educating myself on an industry I walked away from 5 years ago and I don’t want to make it my full-time career.

Anne will likely look for work when we return. It’s been far longer for her, and I’m still committed to letting her avoid jobs that she hates and focus on work she would actually enjoy doing.

Both of us have learned to live a remarkably frugal lifestyle as of late. Apart from the whole world traveling thing (which costs a bit less than you might imagine) we spend rather tiny amounts of money. Still, since we do want to get back into serious travel, whatever we do needs to be more than just subsistence, we need to save money again.

We absolutely want to get back into traveling, but we both agree this is a time to invest in ourselves and our future so it’s not at the forefront of our decision making. We aren’t putting down roots, but we may look at establishing some kind of low-cost base of operations. Something that in the long run costs very little to maintain but remains a home whenever we need it. Ideally, somewhere beautiful and close to nature, something small, and something comfortable.


One Response to “Back to America

  • Your plans are right in line with a great many nomadic travel lifestyle couples of your generation. . Covid 19 has forced temporary returns to stay with family. Others are looking for some cheap land with some tpye of structure on it be it house or pole barn. A place where belonings can be secured. One that has power, water and cell phone reception. Work is often coming in as short term contract jobs rather than corporate careers due to the difficulty of companies to obtain financial backing for long term projects.