Oh, hi! 👋🏼 Welcome to part 2 of my 5 part blog series about why I GTFOed America. Before I start, quick question: You’ve read my first blog, right? If so, thanks for being awesome. If not, don’t worry about not being awesome – you can become awesome by clicking me (please be gentle). We all awesome now? Awesome!

Now when I ended my first blog, I mentioned the first step I took to get out of my funk was asking myself what made me happy. Before I answer, let me ask you this: What makes you happy? You see how I reversed the roles? Not like I’m stalling or anything – haha! Of course not. I’d never do that. I swear. Ahem. Anyways, let’s talk about you!

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Seriously, though – think about what makes you happy. It can be anything, really. Something as small as getting a coffee in the morning (eww – gross!) or as big as shredding the guitar solo to the Guns N’ Roses classic “November Rain” while bungee jumping off a really, really tall building (if this makes you happy, let’s please be friends right now). Whatever you choose, it should be pretty easy to think of a few things, right?

OK, so now ask yourself this:

How often do you do and/or experience all the things that make you happy?

This is key. For a lot of us, the frequency in which we experience our happy things may be really high. But for some of us, it may be a little lower. And if you think about it, our overall well-being is probably closely related to this. Makes sense, right? The more happy things we experience every day, the more likely we’ll be consistently happy.

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Of course, this is easier said than done. If eating 10 cheeseburgers back-to-back is your jam, then I’m surprised you’re still alive (also impressed – props!). But that’s probably not something you want to do every day (please don’t!). So I bet there’s some happy things you thought of, but you just don’t have the time/money/[insert excuse] to do them often. And that’s OK. Because it’s all about balance. So the real question then becomes:

How can you sprinkle enough happy things during your week to keep you motivated?

Think about that for a minute.

I’ll give you an example: One of things that make me happy is boba. If you don’t know what boba is, it’s a popular Taiwanese drink that usually consists of some type of tea (usually milk tea) filled with tapioca balls (referred to as “boba”). So, basically, you slurp up a bunch of balls and then chew on them. Mmm… Balls. The more balls in my mouth, the better. Gimme all the balls! Straight in my mouth. Right… So, anyways…

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I love boba. A lot. Even though I mostly eat stupidly healthy. But, for me, boba is my treat. So I set up a schedule where every Monday and Saturday I get my favorite: Okinawa milk tea (it’s made with brown sugar, so it’s crazy sweet). It’s gotten to the point where I walk into the store and the workers just make my order without me saying a word (that’s when you know you have a problem). This really makes me wanna switch my order up one day to mess with them. But I’d never do that. Because I’m too damn consistent. Can’t help it – the Okinawa milk tea is that damn good. I’m 100% convinced it’s liquid crack. No other explanation.

OK, so I get boba every week, why is this important? It’s not. Or at least the boba part. What’s important is the idea of subscribing yourself to the concept of recurring joy. Because I’ve built reoccurring joy into my schedule, I have something to look forward to every week. So if I’m having a bad week, I’ll still have something to cheer me up, even it’s something as simple as filling my mouth with sweet, sticky balls. So find your sweet, sticky balls of happiness, suck ’em up, and keep that joy consistent.

Now in case you’re wondering, yes, there’s point to this tangent (I swear!). I needed to explain the concept of reoccurring joy because it’s a huge factor in explaining the other thing makes me happy: theme parks. Unlike boba, I can’t visit a theme park every week (at least here in America – *wink*), which makes it really special when I do get to visit them. Especially when I build international trips around the theme parks I want to visit. More on that in a second…

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First, I need to talk about how I became world-traveling theme park nerd. It all started at this place called Disney World in Orlando. You may have heard of it. There’s a big castle. A mouse. Some pirates. A world that’s small (after all). You get the idea.

About 3 years ago (2014), I visited every Disney/Universal park with some of my best friends. While I was there, I started studying up on all the parks on the Internet, because when I’m into something, I fall straight down the research rabbit hole. Hard. And after spending way too much time learning a bunch of useless facts (ex: Did you know Space Mountain debuted at Magic Kingdom first before eventually opening in Disneyland?), I discovered that Tokyo, Japan doesn’t just have one Disney park (Tokyo Disneyland), but 2 (Tokyo DisneySea).

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Once I found this out, the decision to visit to Japan was pretty easy (not that I needed any convincing, really). Then I got this crazy idea: Why don’t I try to visit EVERY Disney theme park around the world. By doing that, I’ll get to visit some of the best countries in the world: Japan, France, Hong Kong, and China. Hell yeah!

There was just one problem: convincing people to go with me. You see, for the longest time (i.e., my whole life), I thought I couldn’t do things by myself. So I abandoned the idea. Sucks to me. Well, I guess this blog is over…

Just kidding! I’m just getting started (sorry – I’ll try to wrap this up quick!). So a year later (2015), I’m riding the Facebook shuttle home from work and I’m talking to my shuttle buddy Melissa about how I really wanted to visit Japan, but I didn’t think it’d ever happen. She then asked the simple, one-word question that changed my life:

“Why?”

Easy, I thought – I explained how I thought I didn’t have anyone to go with. Her response?

“Uh, so what? Just go, dude!”

I didn’t know how to respond. Because, in my head, I always thought I had to visit a foreign country with someone, whether it be a girlfriend, friend, or family. It’s stupid silly, actually – I thought I could only achieve happiness by sharing memories with someone else (barf).

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When I told her this, she let me know I was an idiot. In a nice way, of course. Then she brought up a great point that really resonated with me: If I can go on the trip solo, I’ll end up discovering a bunch of rad places, which means if I ever go back with someone, I can introduce them to everything I found. Wow. I… I never thought about it that way. You mean, I can do things for myself? I can make myself happy without relying on others? And that’s OK? Shiiiiiit.

This conversation literally changed my life. No joke. I don’t throw around the word “literally” very often, so I’m not lying when I say this conversation honestly changed my way of living. Without it, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Thanks, Melissa!

That weekend, on February 21, 2015, I overcame my fears and finally did something for myself: I booked my first solo international vacation to the country I had wanted to visit for YEARS. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook:

So I (finally) did it: I booked a solo week long trip to Tokyo. It’s both terrifying and invigorating at the same time. I never thought I’d do this, let alone by myself. Props to Melissa for egging me on to do this.

Anyone got any recommendations? Tips? Places to stay? Things to see/eat (sushi any good in Japan?)? Only got 3 plans so far: New Japan Pro Wrestling show, Tokyo Disneyland, and Tokyo DisneySea. Oh, and themed cafes. Lots of themed cafes…

Still can’t believe I’m doing this. It only took me 32 years, but I’m finally doing something for myself. Feels…kinda good, actually….

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Big surprise, my first trip to Japan was awesome. Hell, I loved it so much, I ended up going BACK to Japan later that year. Then I went to Germany/London, and Hong Kong/Shanghai the following year. Yep, I got addicted. So much so, that I began to realize I was only truly happy when I was visiting theme parks in foreign countries. It’s almost like I should move to my favorite one or something. Hmm….

To be continued.