It was precisely 17 years ago today that I first went to Japan. I took a Northwest flight from San Francisco and landed at Narita at 6am with a too-big backpack, a Lonely Planet travel guide, traveller's checks and a return ticket. I had no job, no friends and no clear idea of what I was going to do other than find a job and learn the language. Once I got through customs and immigration and picked up my pack, I found my way to the Narita train station and started calling guest houses that were listed in the Lonely Planet guide. I found one that said it had space available that night. And that's how it all started.
I spent 12 of the last 17 years in Japan. Sometimes people ask me why and I find it hard to come up with an answer. I certainly enjoyed a lot of that time and learned a lot about different ways to be in the world. It was a great challenge to make a life for myself in a foreign culture and to prove that I was up to that challenge. The money was good, too. But after a while the money stopped being enough of a reason. I was homesick all the time and, a bit like Dorothy, I didn't realize going home was a possibility all along.
I'm really glad I came back home. It's funny how for years I imagined I could never fit back in, could never find my way back. I kept moving and moving, a new city every three or four years. Sometimes a new country even. I was seaching for someplace that felt like home. No place else ever really did. Now I'm home. I know it. And I'm glad.