Never been a fan of that saying, but as a Marine and military brat, I get it. If I am counting correctly, I’ve lived in 21 houses in my 32 years—and that doesn’t include extended stays in hotels, or deployment, or training. I’ve logged about a year on a ship and another year in hotels since 2009. That is a lot of moving!
I’ve called Ohio home. I’ve called Newport News, VA home. I’ve called Memphis/Millington, TN home. I remember hating Millington when I got there in 2001, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the slow southerness. The food. The sports. The people. The land.
Nearly 20 years later I think I am shifting my “home.”
Three years in Okinawa gave me a better understanding of life, love, joy, and ageing.
If you’re not military or a consumer of WWII history, you may have heard of Okinawa because it has the highest number of centenarians than anywhere else on Earth and is often featured in documentaries or books about ageing, healthy food, or “the Blue Zones.” National Geographic has a short article that explains why Okinawans have a longevity and happiness beyond what you find nearly everywhere else on Earth. There are old (like really, really old) people everywhere! But it’s different than in the United States. The old people walk and ride bicycles. They live with their family. They garden in their backyard or pick weeds in common areas. They wave to you and talk to every kid that walks by, saying “Kuwaii!!” or “cute!” There is an old man I often saw walking up or down a very steep hill on my way to or from work. He was bent over almost to 90 degrees and walked slowly with a cane and a bag over his shoulder. I remember being sad the first few times I saw him, thinking “poor man.” I realized that was not the appropriate reaction; he embodied ageing, and strength, and determination. He was doing what I’d seen so many ageing Americans stop doing–keep moving. He found his Ikigai (生き甲斐), or “reason for being.”
The food, the coffee, the people, the views…everything is amazing in Okinawa (except the price of watermelon and strawberries). The efficiency of Japan with the relaxation of a tiny (sub)tropical island. I kept a fairly good log of all of the places we visited over most of our time there, which can be seen here. The coolest playgrounds I’ve ever seen and the most relaxing cafes!
If you ever get a chance, visit this beautiful place. Even if you’ve already been for work, I encourage you to go back as a tourist. Go back when you can focus solely on the culture, love, food, language, and joy. I get asked all the time if I miss it. I do. I miss it every day. I actively pull my thoughts away from Okinawa, so I don’t get too carried away with daydreams. I visit when I meditate and when I dream.
Matane Okinawa! またね 沖縄
I can’t wait to visit my home again!
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