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Home is one of those countless abstract ideals for which, I tend to think, we over search. In the pursuit of its understanding, we push the explanation further and ignore its reality longer.

I apologize. Travel forces me to think in these irrepressible circles.

Usually it takes a bit longer, but here I am, in Tokyo just under two months, and nihilism has never seemed any less sensible to me than now. Hurl “social construct” or “comforting illusion” or whatever other accusatory psychoanalyzing garbage you know, but there is nothing I like more about travel than that first appreciating, comforting glance of home again. The first glance of the meaningful protection of the abstract.

It doesn’t need to be any stay of extension. Wherever our comfort prospers and our resistance fails, this home is a sight of cleansing alleviation.

I was raised in northwestern New Jersey, but my parents would pack my sister and me into a car and trek back to Long Island, New York to see the warmth and 1970s-era living rooms of my grandparents. What I remember of those trips is my father taking me in his arms and carrying me from that car when we arrived home late in the night. I would pretend I was asleep as not to interrupt the stability of my father, as not to startle the comfort of home.

There is meaning in that.

It is what makes Newark, New Jersey so dazzling to me. Sometimes before I fall asleep in the tiny bed of my Japanese apartment, I already picture flying above U.S. terra firma, with a few more wrinkles in my navy blue passport, and seeing the first sight of right-hand lane driving again, desperate not to startle the comfort of home.

I don’t think there is anything unnatural or silly or obtuse about that.

I do love to travel though. The challenges of the new and the dogged pursuit of the fascinating. Life naturally finds its way to habit and normalcy, but nothing threatens it more.

So I pack backpacks and try, on a limited budget, to live a life of transience. I take long pauses for work, construction or something that requires an entirely different type of knowledge, and even longer stays for school, classes that point me in the direction of my next adventure.

It is that which makes study abroad so important to me. I do not regret this pursuing of an undergraduate degree, though I often shrug off other staples of middle class America. Instead study abroad has allowed me to continue my education while finding a cost-effective means of living somewhere new for an extended period of time.

I may not yet fully recognize the formidable power of grocery shopping and bus-riding and rent-disputing in Tokyo, a Pacific Ocean and a continental United States away from my home.

Tonight when walking home with bags of rice, fresh fish and seaweed, I was swept away by a wave of young Japanese students running home from juku, their after-school program. Earlier today I helped an aged woman, who spoke no English, find the bus she needed. This morning while pretending I could read a sign using Hiragana, I exchanged a nod with a teenaged Japanese boy, doing his best imitation of black American culture, who was followed by two girls walking as they hugged the deep reds and blues of their traditional kimonos.

Small moves.

I figure moving as much as I am able keeps me from developing too-cemented a hold on comfort, to avoid the blind attachment to habit, to what is known and easy. Challenged or not, we all have that comfort, that home, in some form; don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Still, wherever I travel I always find it odd that that is someone’s home. Laredo, Tijuana, White River, Missoula, Moncks Corner, Accra, Tokyo or wherever. Home can only be decided by the individual, and I am not ready to call Tokyo anything more than an extended exploration. But, I am more than eager to see all that I can while I am here, and that is what it’s all about.


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