5 Ways Travel Has Changed My Personality

Changin' through Travel

Changin’ through Travel

I know.  I disappeared for a month.

I wish I could say that I did something cool, like randomly bought a one way ticket to Iceland and partied in Reykjavik for 30 days straight–but alas, my life is not that exciting.  The last month was mostly sucked up by a web design class that taught me little, but did force me to build a website (I actually constructed a website for the boyfriend that should be up soon).  I also spruced up The Ruby Ronin a bit in hopes that it will inspire and motivate me to write on a regular basis.

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Grocery Shopping in America vs. China and Japan

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Whenever I travel abroad, the first thing I usually do is pop into the local supermarket.  While it may sound strange to pass up temples and ruins for a run to the market, the seemingly average grocery store is a gigantic window into the country itself.  What people buy in a store–and  the food that is offered in the market itself–speaks volumes about a country and its culture.

When I returned to the United States last year, it was no surprise that going to the giant sized American market was one of the big toppers on my lists of reverse culture shock.  Even after a year here, stepping into the grocery store still feels like I’m treading into foreign territory.

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Learning Kung Fu in China: The Real Story

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Since I am now acquainted with so many amazing people that have stories from Japan, China and Asia in general, I wanted to start a “My Asia” guest post/interview series every every other Monday where readers and fellow friends can share their fascinating adventures. 

I would like to start with a story that involves China and the journey of an American man going to discover the path of martial arts.

With a few years of tai-chi practice and teaching under his belt, my good friend Cory was convinced that the final step to mastery would be training on Mt. Wudang in China—the birthplace of Tai-Chi itself.

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Turning 29

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Last weekend I turned 29—in other words, I’m that much closer to 30.

I used to dread turning 30. Growing up, we often believe 30 is the age that you become a true “adult.” If you didn’t have your life in order by 30, then by society’s standards, you were seen as a failure or a screw up. It’s why if you google ‘turning 30,’ you’ll find questions and blog posts filled with fear, anxiety, and questions.

Yet I’ve met countless people my age or older that have been struggling not only to find a job—but their path in life. For many, life begins at 30.

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You’re not Western Enough: How I Got Kicked Out of My First Shanghai Apartment

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“Mary, I published a book about teaching foreigners in China and I wrote almost an entire chapter about you.”

My Chinese teacher from Tsinghua University suddenly e-mailed me with the news, and I was completely caught off guard.

Me? …..In a book?

Impatient, I opened up the attached word file and scanned through the chapters hurriedly.

When I turned to the chapter about me, I realized that she retold one of the bleaker moments during my stay in Shanghai about…

My First Roommate:  The Leftover Woman

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Why I Travel

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There’s a scene in the movie Wild that stuck with me.

The protagonist is on the road.  She’s exhausted.  She has only taken the first few footsteps into her journey, but already she feels the weight of the road.  Can I do this?  Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?  Have I gone crazy?

And then she stoops down, pulls some sagebrush from the road, rubs it in her fingers, closes her eyes and deeply inhales the scent.

The scent of the Earth.  The scent of the journey.  The scent of the world itself.

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How I Learned to Speak Mandarin in 6 Months

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This isn’t a post about how great I am at languages. I’m not like some jerk on the internet claiming to achieve fluency in three months.

This is a post about the blood, sweat and tears I spent to learn Chinese.

I never thought I would learn how to speak Chinese: The tones, the characters, and the proverbs were frustrating.  The task of learning Mandarin was daunting and overwhelming–and honestly, there were many moments I thought I was just not meant to learn this language.

Yet somehow, I did it.  I learned Chinese in less than a year.

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Resolutions for 2015 and my Favorite Posts of 2014

Before I delve into 2015, let’s look back at the resolutions I kept (and dropped) in 2014:

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I did travel!

  • Learn French.
  • Take a class in web design and economics.
  • Find an amazing job in the USA (although it’s not very amazing)
  • Keep up the habit of going to the gym 3 times a week, aim to run for an hour nonstop (can do 30 mins now, up the score!)
  • Take the GRE.
  • Grow out my hair.  It looks good short I must admit, but I do miss having my long black locks.
  • Continue to write, and publish an article!
  • Volunteer!  Find an organization in Shanghai or the USA, sign up, and go help others! (volunteered on Thanksgiving and have joined a volunteer Meetup group in my neighborhood).
  • Practice J-E interpreting 3 times a week, C-E once a week
  • Learn how to properly, and effectively, invest money (I purchased my first stocks this year)
  • Travel somewhere new (have plans of Thailand in March, so this one’s definitely going to happen!) (Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore–you were amazing!)

Alright, Time for 2015 Resolutions:

To more adventure in 2015!

To more adventure in 2015!

  • Lose 20 pounds–and more importantly, lead a healthier life.  I know.  It’s a typical resolution, but this year it means even more.  I gained a lot of weight since moving back to the United States.  I want to blame the unhealthy food, the portion sizes and the lack of physical activity (I used to walk everywhere in Shanghai–now, I drive).  But still, I can’t just blame America.  I already downloaded MyFitnessPal and I have a plan set in motion.  If this doesn’t work, I’ll join weight watchers.  Either way, I need to take control of my weight, my health, and my life.
  • Learn Italian and Sign up for an Italian Class.  I tried to learn French and my god, it just didn’t stick.  Since most of my friends are Italian, I’ll take this as a divine sign from heaven and just learn what I love: Italian.
  • Learn Advanced CSS, HTML, and Javascript; as well as Photoshop, Illustrator and In-Design.  I love drawing, coloring, and creating.  I have always loved web design and I want to teach myself more so I can make creativity my source of income instead of just a hobby.
  • Publish an Article (or ten).  While I did continue to write (as this blog so clearly showcases), I have yet to publish my work.  I want 2015 to be that year.
  • Update this Blog Once a Week and Really Commit to The Ruby Ronin.  I love this blog.  It’s my baby.  I love the people I meet through this blog, and I love writing.  I didn’t start to really invest time in this thing until 2014, and I want to go even further in 2015.  I know life gets in the way and sometimes I only update once a month–but that’s just ridiculous.  I need to show this blog, and my readers, that I’m serious about this thing.
  • Become an Irish Citizen.  I know, random.  I’ll write a post about how to apply for Irish Citizenship later, but for the time being, I just want to make this happen in 2015.
  • Pay Off My Student Loans.  After almost ten years of paying my stupid loans, this year will finally be the year where I write my final paycheck to the Federal Government.
  • Visit at Least One National Park.  Here’s lookin at you, Yosemite.
  • Run a 5k.  While this isn’t #1 priority, I’d really like to make it happen!

Realizations from 2014 to Push me Forward in 2015

I didn't just leave friends in Shanghai--I left a family.

I didn’t just leave friends in Shanghai–I left a family.

I will forever remember 2014 as the year of great change.  I moved back to the United States from my wonderful life in Shanghai and experienced some of the worst reverse culture shock to ever grace an American.  It was truly a painful and difficult experience.  Even a year later, I cannot say with confidence that I have fully adjusted.

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Merry Christmas from Salt Lake City!

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For the first time in five years, I’m spending Christmas at home.   I’m not flying in on a 13 hour flight from Tokyo or Shanghai.  I’m not spending Christmas in China and Lunar New Years in the states.  I’m actually home during the holidays, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

I flew into Salt Lake City on Christmas eve and was greeted to a white blanket of snow on Christmas morning.  It was the perfect Christmas present to my morning.

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Although I’m spending the holidays in the United States, the month of December hasn’t felt much like Christmas because of Los Angeles.

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Dealing with Loneliness Abroad (and at home)

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Living in Niigata, although very memorable, was sometimes extremely lonely

When living abroad, it’s very easy to feel alone and isolated. Living in a new environment, being surrounded by a new language and living in a place where you know no one—it’s something few people sign up for voluntarily.

When I moved to Japan, I underwent some of the loneliest months of my life. The Japanese countryside was the ultimate test to enduring loneliness.

Surprisingly, I also felt loneliness upon returning to the United States. Although the U.S. was my ‘home,’ most of my friends from high school and college had already moved to other states and cities. The combination of reverse culture shock and being in a new environment (Los Angeles) had me feel more alone than I had ever felt in Shanghai.

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