Introducing Honor Dargan, an English expat in Tokyo and author of TokyoTopia.com a website with one philosophy ‘Tokyo Made Simple’. I’ll leave the story to her… It’s a good one
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m originally from the north of England. I was born in Durham (the home of the Pink Panther) but we moved to Yorkshire when I was 8 where I grew up and went to university. After graduation I moved to Nottingham for a couple of years before making the biggest leap of my life and relocating to Tokyo, Japan. Originally I came here for one year but somehow, with one year in Singapore from 2006 – 2007, I’m still here 9 years later!
Where do you consider your home to be?
This is a tough question. My roots will always be in England as that’s where my family is and where I spent all my formative years. England is undoubtedly an integral part of me. Still, if you ask me where home is at the end of a hard day or when returning from a vacation, it’s definitely Tokyo for now. I think I’ve changed during my time away from England and wherever I am now turns into my home. I don’t feel particularly tied to one place. More it’s a case of I’ll make my home wherever I happen to be. Perhaps the Tokyo lifestyle is partly responsible for this as apartments are tiny and I’ve moved several times so there is no one fixed abode.
How many addresses have you had?
Blimey! Hang on a minute. I need to work this out. In England I’ve lived in 8 different places. 1 in Durham, 5 around the Yorkshire area, and 2 in Nottingham. Then there’s the one address I had in Singapore. Finally there have been 6 different addresses in Tokyo. So the grand total is 15 different addresses.
Can you tell me about the different jobs or careers you’ve had?
When I first left school I figured I’d study law as it seemed like a sensible option and one with good future prospects. I really had no idea at this stage what I wanted to do in life. After one year though I found this just wasn’t for me. After passing my first year exams I decided to quit and find a job while I worked out my next steps.
Over the next 4 years or so I worked in a variety of sales roles including car sales and then as a manager for Clinique. Finally I realized that I love working with people and seemed to have a knack for teaching. My personal beliefs about education are strong so I decided to study to become a primary school teacher. While I studied I worked part time in a call center as a floor supervisor at weekends and in the evenings so I could pay for my tuition.
I guess perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about myself throughout my life is that I don’t like to be managed. Although I loved teaching I didn’t like the system and the trail of paperwork that took me away from this main objective. I moved on to work with the unemployed in the UK and teach some basic skills but was frustrated with the way every job tried to box me in and limit me to certain roles. I like my independence and am pretty strong minded – for good or bad!
This is when I decided to take a break and a spend a year overseas. I wanted to test myself and my capabilities to see if I could manage. I stayed within the field of education and, as the first year was a year out from regular life, worked for a conversation (or eikaiwa) school. It was fun and a great way to experience Japan and its culture without having the stresses of a mainstream job. Once I decided I wanted to stay beyond the first year though, I had to rethink my goals. I worked with returnee children and international school children for a number of years before moving into my current position which is teaching cross cultural skills to corporate employees.
My personal goal, however, is still to break the traditions of having a ‘job.’ I want to work for myself and am steadily developing my own website, TokyoTopia.com. I love Tokyo and want to encourage others to experience this city and Japan for themselves. That’s how I got started writing and developing my own online presence.
I’m now working on my second site which is not yet live but will be up sometime in 2010. I really want to make 2010 the year that I push to become truly independent of the ‘salary’ machine. Developing my own income streams has been one of the most freeing feelings I’ve experienced!
Can you describe the process behind deciding to move to Tokyo
Honestly? There wasn’t much of a process to this. I found myself a job before I left with a company called GEOS who happened to be advertising in England at the time. I went for training in Edinburgh and then received my position details about 1 month before I left the UK. My flight was booked and my bags were packed and that was it. I took only the essential items with me so one suitcase and one piece of carry on luggage was my limit. My apartment was arranged by GEOS so I didn’t need to worry about anything like that. I started work the day after landing so there was little time to feel homesick or to worry about the soundness of my decision.
What do you enjoy most about living there?
Again a tough question. There are many things I enjoy about living here. I think the most important one though is the sense of freedom I have here. I can be whoever I want to be and, as long as I am respectful of local culture and rules, I can do just about anything I like.
Is there anything you miss about ‘back home’? If so what is it?
Yorkshire pudding and roast beef!
How has travelling/ becoming an expat changed you as a person?
Like I said earlier, I think I’m a far more confident person these days. I can make myself feel at home just about anywhere and know that, whatever happens, I can pick myself up and dust myself off to start again if necessary. Life and the changes it brings are not so scary anymore and change is an exciting thing I look forward to.
How has your lifestyle changed?
I’ve got used to living in an apartment the size of my old bedroom back home! No kidding. I used to be a hoarder and would never throw anything away. Now I’m the first to say, “Do we really need that?” If we haven’t used something for more than 6 months my instinct is to get rid of it. It’s obviously not something we need and it’s taking up valuable space!
Did you move with your family?
No I moved with me, myself, and I : ) Now that part was scary.
Any last words…..?
If you’re reading this and would like to try living overseas somewhere but feel afraid to make the first move… go for it. If it ends up that you don’t like where you go the worst that can happen is that you return to your original life. Make sure to leave doors open when you leave and gain the support of those around you and you have that safety cushion in case you need it. If you never try though you’ll never know and that, I think, would be a real shame.
TokyoTopia.com is an excellent resource for anyone interested in visiting Tokyo. Might I add, It’s also a fantastic example of how a travel/ destination webite should look.
Pay her a visit at TokyoTopia.com or follow her on Twitter.
Oh and in the words of Honor herself ‘Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu’ – Happy New Year!
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This post first appeared on The Accidental Expats | The Art Of Living With Rec, please read the originial post: here