Reflections On Relocating

I’ve been surprised by the positive response to my upcoming move to Tokyo. It seems like there is a lot of love out there for my soon-to-be hometown. Amongst the usual well-wishes there’s been some heartfelt expressions of passion for Tokyo and plenty of stories shared from friends and colleagues about their experiences in Japan.

There’s also been plenty of questions, about the move, the impact on my life and home and my feelings on leaving Singapore. So, here’s a quick update of some the questions and answers about the move.

Too Soon?

When I moved to Singapore in 2011, I expected to be here at least four or five years and probably longer. As I’ve mentioned several times, I had a plan and I ran into bureaucratic problems which stymied that plan. I now have a (more modest) business set up here but, but I’m really still focussed on my own work. Recording and releasing my album and continuing existing projects has kept me busy for the first half of the year, but before the move came up, I was staring at an almost empty calendar for the second half of the year.

Ultimately life consists of work and love. The people we love and the work we do shapes our relationship to reality. When the person you love wants to move and the work you are doing is unfulfilling, it’s hard to justify staying put. The opportunity came and it’s time to be open to a new adventure.

The Glamorous Life?

While, moving to Tokyo may seem glamorous, exotic of something, right now it just feels like a chore. Packing your worldly goods into boxes is no fun. And, although I have few friends or acquaintances in this town, my daughter has some lovely neighbourhood friends (local and expat) she will sorely miss when we leave.

Material comfort and the thrill of an “exotic” new home is not to be taken lightly. But, I have a deep sense of dread about going through the process of moving again; the visa applications, closing down accounts here and figuring out how to get utilities connected in another country and the seemingly never-ending process of redirecting mail and other subscriptions.

The Creative Life?

If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said expats are, by nature, more creative than those who choose to stay at home, as this UK newspaper article suggests. These days I’m not so sure. Living in Hong Kong and Singapore, I’ve been surprised (and occasionally alarmed) by how narrow and insular some expats can be and how tentatively they explore their new cities and the cultures within those cities.

Several people have pointed out how hard it can be to feel “at home” in Japan and how expats often feel like “outsiders.” Truth is, I’ve never felt like an “insider” at any stage in my life, so I’m not really focussed on that issue.

I’m far more curious about how life in Tokyo will change me. As I’ve written before, every move seems to shape me in a different way, something I see as essential to living a creative life and perhaps the greatest gift of all for those who live as expats, or anyone in fact, who has the opportunity to travel and explore our world.

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  • Pooja - 14th May 2013

    A million times yes on the insularity of certain expats. My local friends ground me, feed me (both literally and figuratively), and teach me. I too have been able to be more creative in Singapore; I don’t think that would have been possible had I confined myself to the expat bubble.

  • Toni - 15th May 2013

    Hope the move goes well for you all. Tokyo is certainly one of the places I’d love to visit, and I hope it proves a good place for you to live.

  • You certainly are a citizen of the world, Fernando!

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In his Tokyo studio Fernando combines his life-long passions for art and technology. On the road, he is always looking to take the next wrong turn, just to see what kind of images and stories might unfold. A photographer and writer, with a background in music, Fernando has lived in Chile, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Read More.


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