Rei is getting rid of our stuff.
Baby toys we bought five months ago. Clothes we bought last spring. Makeup. Food. Massage balls.
We call it 断捨離 (danshari), a Japanese word meaning something like “decluttering,” although I’ve also seen it translated as simply “minimalism.”
In truth, however, it’s because we’ve started to wonder, “Where next?” Or, as I like to think of it, Something New Syndrome (SNS) has reared its alluring head.
Yeah, having an apartment that isn’t cluttered is nice. But the real draw of 断捨離, for us at least, is that we’ll be ready when it comes time to leave this apartment, to go to the new place, to do the new thing, to experience whatever comes next.
We’ve lived in Tokyo for almost a year at this point, our third stint in Japan during the last 6 years:
A year is a pretty long time for us. Usually it’s about 6 months before it starts. First we’re googling street food in Vietnam, then we’re looking at neighborhoods in Saigon, and then next thing you know we’re walking through immigration, ready to start our new life there.
SNS isn’t limited to a desire to live somewhere new. It also extends to other areas of life. New languages we want to learn. New businesses we want to start. This publication itself is a byproduct of SNS. We’ll see if I actually stick to this one. Many a website lie dead and forgotten in the graveyard of my SNS flares.
I once read that people who continually move from country to country are either:
- chasing after something, or
- running away from something.
In my mid-twenties, I often wondered which was true for me.
Now I see that it’s both.
When you think about the next place, the next venture, you can’t help but picture a new and exciting life. A life empty of things you want to get rid of, full of things you want to have.
It has caused me a number of pains over the years.
Always being out of money. Starting and failing to achieve a high level of proficiency in Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, German, piano, ocarina. Novels with one or two chapters. Blogs with one or two posts.
The list goes on.
And yet, I can’t help but cling to SNS.
Because some things do stick. And the things that don’t stick rarely leave me without some valuable lessons and memories.
Without SNS, I never would have learned Japanese, which led to me meeting Rei and creating our own infant human. And I certainly wouldn’t have started the blog that led to my first unequivocally successful business, NativShark.
Without SNS, I wouldn’t have the memories we’ve made over the years.
- Sitting down to a big dinner with all of my relatives in Jeju, a little island off South Korea.
- Having emergency surgery on my broken jaw in Vietnam.
- Walking through a forest just outside of Portland and breathing in the fresh air.
- Eating delicious food at a fancy but affordable French restaurant in Laos… two times, four years apart.
- Digging holes with my son in the sand pit of a little park in Tokyo, the same park my wife played at as a kid.
Here's that last one:
While I have gotten somewhat better about dealing with my chronic SNS — I don’t start things I’m likely to quit nearly as often — I do welcome the sudden urges to start something new, to take a chance and mess something up.
This publication recounts the ups and downs that result, along with the lessons learned along the way.
Why “Where’s Niko?”
The first dozen or so blogs I started, I worked very hard to make it seem like I knew what I was doing. (And I also worked very hard to actually know what I was doing.)
That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
Have your shit together.
Know the “6 Secrets to Becoming Rich, Successful, and Loved by Every Person on the Planet.”
But when you’re trying to portray this shining and fault-free image of yourself, you can’t talk about the doubts, musings, and mistakes that make you look like the imperfect person you are.
So I’m trying something different.
Like you, I’m trying to find out my place in this universe. (Hence, “Where’s Niko?”) And I’m trying to:
- Not starve
- Take care of my loved ones
- Provide value to other members of my species
- Be present
Consequently, most of what you see in this publication will be about:
- Making money
My ulterior motive
Marcel Proust once wrote:
The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
And this is what travel and art have in common: They give people new eyes.
If this publication can do the same for even a few people, I’ll be happy to call it a success. A worthwhile indulgence of my chronic Something New Syndrome.
You can learn the stuff I've learned. Only faster, and with fewer scars.
Here's to something new.