My ticket is bought and paid for: one-way to Tokyo on August 5th. I should be on a night bus to Kyoto by the 8th, just in time for the final three weekends of 2008’s Suma Season.
I’m so excited I can’t even tell you.
I decided to go with a one-way ticket not because I intend to stay in Japan permanently, but more because I don’t really know how things will go this time around. Peder’s flying in from Norway on the 7th and has a 2-month round-trip ticket; our plan is to get separate apartments as close to each other as possible, spend weekdays at home programming, and weekends catching up with friends, going to festivals, & enjoying the fabulous Japanese summer.
In addition to an application that the two of us will be developing for an architecture company in Northern Norway, Dean’s business in California has been booming – and it looks like we’re almost ready to resume working together on a part-time basis. He’s got two surveys on the West Coast in the next two months that I’ll most likely participate in, and by total coincidence, he’s heading back to Japan just a few days after myself.
So basically, I’m gonna play it by ear.
If work goes well and I’m able to support myself while slowly replenishing savings, I’ll hang out for awhile, perhaps hopping over to Korea or Thailand to renew my visa once it expires. Or maybe China to finally get started learning Chinese. And if things don’t go well, I can always buy another one-way ticket back to LA.
But to be honest, for now, I’m not all that interested in staying in LA. I continue to come here because I like being near my family and friends, but the thing that bothers me to an intolerable level is how ludicrous it is that we have to use cars to get anywhere.
Even before gas prices got so out of control, the concept of getting in a big tin can to sit in traffic on a freeway, waste my own time, burn precious natural resources, breathe fumes, and dump pollutants into the atmosphere seemed just ridiculous. For the life of me I can’t figure out why everyone just accepts it. Sure, there may be little subcommunities where you don’t have to drive as much – but the fact remains that we really have no decent alternative out here. Buses have to sit in the same gridlock as everyone else. And if you want to get out to some more distant residential area (i.e. my dad’s house), you still have to drive, which invariably means sitting and wasting time in traffic.
And now that gas prices have reached a mindboggling $4.50 a gallon, just going to the gym costs several dollars – which I do pretty much every day. And that’s in a Honda Accord. Could you imagine if I was still driving my Firebird?
I suppose I could always try another city – Chicago, New York, or San Fransisco. If there’s one thing I’ve realized during my travels it’s the incredible benefits of living in a place with either a highly developed mass transit network OR a very centralized urban area where everything is accessible on foot.
Example: The first time I came back from Japan, I traveled almost immediately to visit some friends in New York City. At that time, I absolutely hated it. In comparison to Japan it was filthy, smelly, covered in graffiti, and populated by some of the rudest people I’ve met. Go out at night and you can literally feel the lack of safety.
But you know what?
I stopped there again for Noz’s wedding on my way home from Israel and spent a few days with some friends who live in the city – right in the heart of West Village. And for the first time I really saw New York’s appeal. You can walk or subway just about anywhere, and the streets are always bustling with activity. The nightlife is poppin any night of the week and theres an area for everyone – young, old, rich, poor, hippie, athlete, beach bum, etc. If you’re a local, you always bump into friends – just like Kyoto. Because unlike LA, New York is not based on “car culture.” It’s a street culture. In LA you can’t go anywhere without driving, so 9 out of 10 of sidewalks are completely empty.
Sadly, the crime, dirtiness, cold winters, and ludicrous cost of housing are still a bit too much for me to think about making a home in The Big Apple – but all I’m saying is that I’ve finally seen its appeal.
Anyways, I’m ranting. The point of this post was to say I leave for Japan on August 5th and have no idea how long I’ll be there.