Where to Next?

August 11, 2013


You guys, did you know I’ve been back in the States for just over a year?


How is that even possible?

Part of me feels like I’ve been back for much longer than that. And the other part of me is like, “What? A year? Where did the year go? Is there someone I can call to find out where my year went?”

I suspect all the cheese I’ve been eating has put me into some kind of weird time warp.



I know what you’re going to ask me now.

Trust me.


I know because I’ve been asked the same question approximately fifty-bajillion times over the past year:

“Where to next?”

My response to this question is usually something along the lines of: “Umm, err, probably… Well. Lemmesee. I’m really not sure, but I was thinking… Maybe, I’ll… Hey, wait, is that cheese over there?”

And then I run away. Preferably with some cheese in hand.

I’d like to think this response seems coy. If mildly cheese-obsessed. Like, I really do know where I am going next, but I just want to keep everyone in suspense for the fun of it.

But the truth is that until about seven days ago, I had no idea where my next move would be.

And, then, last week I accepted a new job in new city, and I’ll be moving there in two weeks.

You’re excited, right?

You’re probably all like, “Omigod, I can’t wait until she tells me where she’s going! I’m sure it’s some place super exotic.” (Unless you’re on my Facebook, in which case you totally know where I’m going next, so you’re probably all like, “JESUS, WOMAN, CAN YOU GET TO THE POINT ALREADY?”)

Let’s just say that where I’m moving sounds really exotic. I have no idea if it is exotic or not as I’ve never actually been there.

Are you ready?

Because you might want to sit down.

You may even need a strong drink for this. In fact, I think I might need a strong drink. I’ll wait while you pour.

Okay, okay, I’ll get to the point already.

I’m moving to….

Kalamazoo, Michigan!


See, I told you it sounded exotic.

I’m sure that’s not quite the kind of exotic you were expecting.

Heck, it’s not even the kind of exotic I was expecting.

When I left Asia a year ago, my plan was not to stay in the States for very long – maybe a year or two — just long enough to hang out with my family and eat forty pounds of cheese. And then I’d apply for another overseas job and be out of here.

I almost did just that.

In the spring, I told all my supervisors at work that I was going to start applying for overseas jobs. I looked at a few job postings. I Google-searched a whole bunch of countries to figure out if I wanted to move there and how I could get my hands on some cheese if I did.

And then I did nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing.

I explored Buffalo and went to all those places I told myself I was always going to go to when I used to live here and never did.

Hello, Buffalo City Hall. Looking good.

Hello, Buffalo City Hall. Looking good.

I went on a few road trips, including that one where I drove fifty-billion miles by myself through the Midwest and Ontario, and then I never told you about it, but it was awesome, and I should really probably tell you about it sometime.

Wahoo! Road trip!

Wahoo! Road trip!

I hung out with a lot of old friends – you know, the kind of friends you haven’t seen in years but it doesn’t matter because you just pick up where you last left off – basically wearing goofy glasses and drinking way too much alcohol.

Just like old times.

Just like old times.

I hung out with my family and ate a lot of pie.



I learned I can fish. I learned I don’t know anything about blogging, but I don’t really care. I learned to finally accept my body – man-calves and all. And I learned wine slushies totally exist.

THIS guys.

THIS, you guys, is a wine slushie with soft-serve ice cream. Or, as I like to call it, “All My Prayers Come True.”

And I learned I don’t miss it.

You see, the other question I hear almost as much as “Where to next?” is “Do you miss it?”

I’ve never been entirely sure what “it” means.

Is “it” China? Japan? Asia in general? Living abroad? Working abroad? Traveling? Easy access to dumplings?

Whatever “it” is, I feel like I should miss it.

I really want to miss it.

But the truth is: I don’t.

At least, not yet. Or, at least, not enough to make me want to do it again right now.

I don’t miss having to buy men’s shoes and never ever being able to buy pants.

I don’t miss the regular respiratory infections I used to get in China.

I don’t miss living with my coworkers or having ambiguous discussions with my work supervisors, where I’m not entirely sure what is being said to me, but I’m pretty sure I’m in trouble.

I don’t miss being a million-billion miles away from my family and oldest friends and always missing holidays and birthdays and weddings and other life events.

I don’t miss a lot of things I never really wrote about on this blog and don’t care to write about now because that’s how much I really don’t miss them.

And I don’t miss traveling.

Because the thing is, guys, I’ve been traveling more in the past year than I probably did in the entire time I was in China. Sure, road trips to the Midwest may not sound all that exotic. But who needs exotic when you have the WORLD’S BIGGEST CINNAMON ROLL? Seriously.

So this happened the last time I was in Michigan. You can't really blame me for wanting to move there, can you?

So this happened the last time I was in Michigan. You can’t really blame me for wanting to move there, can you?

This is not to say I’m not completely, one-hundred-percent grateful for the five and a half years that I spent in Asia.

I am grateful for the job opportunities which were given to me.

I am grateful for my neighbors in Japan and China who would stop and wave at me during my morning runs.

I am grateful for all the friends that I made in Asia.

And this is not to say that I don’t miss things about my life there.

I miss my sunny little apartment and my cute little neighborhood in Japan.

I miss all my beautiful local parks in China.

I miss being able to walk or take public transportation everywhere.

And, yes, I miss easy access to dumplings.

Hello, you.

Hello, you.

But I’ve realized the things I really miss the most – having an active social life, feeling like I’m part of a community, living in my own little place, being able to get around a bit easier and not having to drive a car everywhere – are not exactly location specific.

I could find those things in Taiwan or Thailand or Timbuktu.

Or, say, Kalamazoo.

So that’s the plan, guys.

At least for the next little while — you know, until I miss it.

Or until I decide that a copious supply of cheese and the World’s Biggest Cinnamon Roll aren’t enough to keep me in one place. (Ha! Who am I kidding? Like, that’s ever going to happen.)

Have you ever made a major life decision that really surprised people — even you? What was it?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On August 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm Priya said:

    All I have to say is: There WILL be jumbo size (or any size)margaritas in our future. #excited
    Priya recently posted..How. Dare. I. (Doubt Be Damned)

  2. On August 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm Christy@SweetandSavoring said:

    I loved reading your blog when you were in China, and I also love reading your tales of traveling in the U.S. It’s all good! It takes someone who’s been away for a long time to give a unique perspective on American life, and I appreciate that 🙂
    Pretty sure I shocked myself when I got married (we’d known each other for four years, but had broken up for two years, and only had a three month engagement), but no one else was really surprised, and it turns out it was a pretty smart decision. Huzzah!
    Christy@SweetandSavoring recently posted..Sunday Travel: Visiting Rural Southern France

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:21 am Sally said:

      Aww, thanks, Christy. I really do think living abroad has given me a huge appreciation for all the everyday quirks of living in the States. It’s also made me really active about exploring. When I lived in the States years ago, I always told myself I was going to go do something or go somewhere, but I never did. Since being back, I’ve made it my mission to go to a cultural event or visit some sight at least once a week — and now even more so that I know I’m leaving. It’s been really fun exploring my hometown and discovering a whole bunch of stuff I never knew was here.
      And, yeah, for short engagements! I could totally see myself doing that. If I finally met the person I wanted to marry, I’d be like, “Okay, let’s do this thing NOW.”

  3. On August 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm Doshin said:

    Ah, Kalamazoo! This is the hometown of one of my very best friends and just up the road apiece from where another one lives. I trust the judgment of both of them ….. Kalamazoo is mighty fine. They do have plenty of cheese there. And beer. And cupcakes. And plenty of opportunity for the local road trips you have been doing. Go forth and find for us surprising places we should visit. But what about the barn where you live now? Will you be reduced to just an ordinary apartment now or have you already found some place cool?
    Doshin recently posted..House Hunters

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:12 am Sally said:

      I have absolutely no idea where I’m living yet — maybe one of your friends has a suggestion? I’ve been looking at places online but it’s hard to wrap my head around where I want to live since I’ve never actually been there. Luckily, I’m arriving about a week early before the semester starts, so I’m hoping that will give me enough time to find a place. But I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to find a barn as lovely as the one I live in now.

  4. On August 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm Katherina said:

    I’m battling exactly the same thing right now – the constant question of “What’s Next”. I am still in a phase where “next” can only be thought of until the 13th of September (why that date? I don’t really know… but it seems reasonably mid-term compared to my usual planning habits).

    I’m really happy for your choice and I’m sure you’ll love it (after all, you’ll definitely find cheese in Michigan).

    Looking forward to read about all your new adventures!
    Katherina recently posted..Why I lost my Blogging Mojo and How I got it Back

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:10 am Sally said:

      September 13th sounds like a really great date to make a big decision. Good luck! I’m sure you’ll make the right one. And, yes, I’m already anticipating all the lovely cheeses of Michigan. YUM!

  5. On August 11, 2013 at 7:03 pm Ross said:

    Kalamazoo, well I’m surprised. Thanks for putting things in perspective with what you’re missing and not missing. Sometimes those of us who don’t get to travel enough feel we are “missing out” and we are to some degree but we forget that we are not necessarily “missing it.”
    Ross recently posted..Scars

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:08 am Sally said:

      I definitely thought I would miss “it” a lot more than I feel I do. Before I moved home I kept reading these blog posts by people who have moved home after traveling or living overseas and they just seemed to miss it so much and be so desperate to travel again. I thought for sure that would be me. But I haven’t really felt that way. Coming back to the States hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been really grateful to be back and assured that I made the right decision. I can’t say I’ll stay here forever — but at least for now I’m good. (Plus, my new job gives me much more vacation time than any job I’ve ever had EVER, so I’m seeing some overseas trips in my future for sure!)

  6. On August 11, 2013 at 10:35 pm Heather said:

    I was just waiting for you to say you were moving to Shanghai right as I’m leaving! Best of luck in Kalamazoo – it really does sound exotic!

    PS – I’ll be in the DC area for a while so give me a holler if you’re passing through!
    Heather recently posted..Exploring Budapest: The Historic Charm of Castle Hill

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:01 am Sally said:

      Ha ha ha! I did think about moving to Shanghai after Wuxi, but I’m pretty sure my lungs wouldn’t be able to hack it (har har). And you can definitely count on me being in DC. I lived there for 2 years and a lot of my really close friends still live there, so I visit at least once a year when I’m in the States.

  7. On August 12, 2013 at 12:25 am Hanna said:

    I like your blog. And this is your decision to go where you want.

    I travel 2 years. And this was really life decision that surprised people at home. But who knows… what will be next.

    Thank you for your blog. I think its very good.
    Hanna recently posted..Два месяца во Вьетнаме: Муйне и Сайгон

  8. On August 12, 2013 at 10:28 am Erica said:

    Yay! That’s so exciting! I am at a similar point, where I want to live somewhere exotic, or at least I feel like I should- but even more, I want a place to decorate, a social life that comes with staying put around people who stay put, and to prove to myself that I can retain the ability to “travel” no matter where I am.

    I’m not sure if there’s something that I’ve done recently that’s surprised people. I think I’m at a point where people are no longer surprised at my ridiculousness. Or what they view to be ridiculous. The travel community seems to think it’s normal, though, so there’s that.
    Erica recently posted..Top 3 Cupcakes of New York City

    • On August 12, 2013 at 10:58 am Sally said:

      I’m glad I’m not alone on this. I feel so lame admitting to the fact that, no, I don’t want to live out of a backpack right now, and, yes, I really just want to settle down and stay put for a while. It sounds just so unsexy, you know? It took me a long time to admit it to myself. But after months of looking at job postings in exotic, farflung locations and just not feeling excited at all about picking up and moving overseas again, I realized that I probably shouldn’t follow through with something that I really didn’t want just because I thought it was something I “should” want.

      • On September 2, 2013 at 2:03 am Erica said:

        Yeah, it’s still hard, even after I made the move, but I keep telling myself that being truthful to myself and being happy is much better than having a sexy mailing address. I’ve been back “home” for a couple weeks now and I keep having these moments of “this is such a cool place” and “it’s so beautiful here” so I’m pretty sure I made the right decision. The fact that I’m going to Europe for a month mid-Sept doesn’t hurt, either 🙂
        Erica recently posted..Bits from Barcelona – Part II

  9. On August 12, 2013 at 10:32 am kyle said:

    By Kalamazoo, you mean the “Home of Bell’s, the World’s Best Brewery”? Count me as a jealous one.

  10. On August 12, 2013 at 10:47 am ehalvey said:

    Future post idea: crashing the medievalists conference in the spring. I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO GO.
    ehalvey recently posted..Life Goals: 3 Before 30

  11. On August 12, 2013 at 11:05 am Jen said:

    All I can say is Bell’s Brewery. I’m sure you’ve been there already, but wow, that place made a very lovely impression. 🙂 Enjoy!

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:32 am Sally said:

      I had Bell’s beer when I was in Michigan this spring, but I’ve never been to the brewery as I’ve never actually been to Kalamazoo. But I’m thinking that will have to be my first stop when I get there!

      • On August 12, 2013 at 11:41 am Jen said:

        What I remember of it (we were on a whirlwind road trip from Chicago through Wisconsin and then on to Michigan), it was a like a church. A church for beer. Kalamazoo in general is a pretty cool town. I liked it there.

  12. On August 12, 2013 at 11:38 am Ceri said:

    It doesn’t matter where you move to – I always love reading your blog.

    And yeah, I totally hear on the being constantly asked “Where to next?” thing. 😛 That’s all I’m ever hearing.
    Ceri recently posted..NY Bucket List: #13 – Visit Rockefeller Center

  13. On August 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm Fem said:

    Congrats, Sally! I agree with all of the above: who cares where in the world you are, just keep blogging 🙂
    I have changed my plan from New Zealand to Cambodia to Barcelona and then moved to Hamburg. For now. At least.
    BTW my former colleagues (in academic publishing)will be thrilled when you crash and spice up the Kalamazoo Medievalist conference.
    Fem recently posted..Are the Dutch “Expat Unfriendly”?

  14. On August 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm Zandria @ I Choose Buffalo said:

    Kalamazoo! I guess that explains your recent Michigan trip.

    I agree with you, by the way. You don’t have to go overseas again because it’s expected of you or might seem more “exciting.” 🙂

    How long will you be around? Will I see you somewhere before you leave?
    Zandria @ I Choose Buffalo recently posted..We Have Arrived!

    • On August 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm Sally said:

      Actually the Michigan trip happened before I knew about the Kalamazoo job, but it definitely spurred me to apply.
      And I’d love to meet up before I leave — but I’ve only got one more week! Ahhhh!

  15. On August 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    How exciting!!! I can’t wait to follow along on your new adventure. Best wishes with the move!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Ask Andi Anything + Giveaway (Part 5)

  16. On August 12, 2013 at 11:43 pm Tracey - Life Changing Year said:

    Kalamazoo is a real place? I had no idea! Excited to see what you’ll find there and how you’ll like it. And I’m highly amused that you tagged this post as dumplings! Priorities in order as ever!! lol
    Tracey – Life Changing Year recently posted..It’s Finally Time For Us To Help You Prepare For Travel!

  17. On August 13, 2013 at 11:13 am Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap) said:

    Good luck on the new adventure!!!
    Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap) recently posted..Culinary Delights – Mongolia’s mighty food

  18. On August 14, 2013 at 2:15 am Sine said:

    Wow, Sally, congrats! you couldn’t have picked a more exotic name, that’s for sure. And I’m sure it’ll be a place for great stories. Which you’ll really find in any place. Keeping my fingers crossed on the cheese and cinnamon rolls too.
    Sine recently posted..Welcome to Af-merica

  19. On August 14, 2013 at 11:45 am Montecristo Travels (Sonja) said:

    I get that. I wrote a post once called “Travel More with Less and Quit the Excuses”. I wrote a list on how to do that and the first one on the list?

    Travel Locally. I’ll quote if I may: “If you think about it, the purpose of travel is to see new things, freshen your thinking and, if possible, experience new cultures. Many people seem to think that in order to do this, they need to travel to faraway lands. But I can tell you, this is not true. Start local and explore your own neighbourhood. I can’t tell you how often I’ve met people who don’t even know what their own city and surrounding area have to offer. We show up with our “To See List” only to learn that people living within easy distance are unaware of these gems. Everything from little hidden museums to hikes in national parks with waterfalls, caves, lakes, and picnic areas with breathtaking views remain unseen by locals.”

    SO sure to most in North America Japan and China are more exotic and seem like more “authentic” or “real” travel but the reality any travel is authentic. Even Kalamazoo (wicked name) … As long as you DO go out there and find what there is to discover! Cheese, wine slushies’, cinnamon rolls and the people. All of it! I mean they have an Air Zoo … WHAT is an AIR ZOO??

    PS – you taking your cat?
    Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted..What Dog Owners Should know about the Island of Santorini – Greece

    • On August 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm Sally said:

      I so agree with everything you said about traveling local. One of my joys about being home has been exploring all these local places that I had no idea even existed when I used to live here.
      And I have no idea what an Air Zoo is but I think I’m going to have to find out real soon.
      P.S. My cat died. We had to put her down after we found out she had a tumor. It’s very sad, but she was very old and got to live her last year in luxury.

  20. On August 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm Colleen Brynn said:

    And now this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFv_PoZ2iP0 … right?

    Congrats! And good for you for embracing the whole “not missing it” thing… I always struggle with how I really feel because I am constantly bombarded with other people’s great achievements and ideas and I think I should be doing something different too… I think I will get better at this over time.
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..Inside A Gulag

    • On August 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm Sally said:

      I know how you feel. I feel like everyone else is being cool and travelly — shouldn’t I want that too right now? But I guess not. At least not now.

  21. On August 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm Aurora said:

    After I came back to the states after traveling for a year, I had no idea where I was going to end up. Job offers in India and Peru were in serious competition with the West – Colorado, Oregon, Washington. I just didn’t know. And then…. a great job offer landed in my lap in – of all place – NYC. It had never crossed my mind to live there. I’m a mountain girl at heart. The common reaction when I told friends? ‘No f’ing way!’ People thought I was kidding. And here I am…. a year into it and loving it!
    Aurora recently posted..Playground for adults

  22. On August 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm Carmel said:

    I don’t think you need to be far away in order to find adventure. You’ve proven that quite well already! You’re getting the best of both worlds – leaving your comfort zone and exploring while being close enough to spend the holidays with your family. I call it a win. 🙂 As long as you’re happy!

    Mmm….cheese (I should tally the number of times I’ve left that comment on other people’s blogs…it’s probably at least a billion times)
    Carmel recently posted..TWIN PEAKS ROAD TRIP

    • On August 27, 2013 at 8:54 pm Sally said:

      Plus, I should probably mention that my new job gives me more vacation time than any job I’ve ever had ever — so if I get tired of adventure in the States, I can always take one of the three months I have off (ahem) and go overseas. Yay!

  23. On August 25, 2013 at 9:55 am Kim said:

    Congrats! You’ve done the right thing which is make a decision based on what you need and want in your life. Adventures are around every corner, no matter where you live.
    Kim recently posted..How I afford to travel the world (and how you can too)

  24. On August 28, 2013 at 9:00 am France Finesse said:

    Have a friend who lives in Kalamazoo and loves it! The wine slushy looks delicious!

  25. On August 29, 2013 at 12:17 am Ainsley said:

    So, can I just say,

    1. I just found this blog and I love your style. The humor is especially spot on!
    2. Cheese, CHEESE. I did a sort internship in France last fall, but I think that I ate more cheese last week than the entire time I was there (shameful, I know)
    3. I just recently-ish started blogging about some of my travel experiences …. the ones I meant to write about while I was actually experiencing them. Do you have any tips or suggestions for someone who is starting out?

    P.S. What if there was a pie made out of cheese?……

    • On September 2, 2013 at 10:54 am Sally said:

      A “sort of internship in France”? How can I get one of those gigs? And can the internship involve cheese?
      And I think there IS pie made out of cheese — it’s call cheesecake. And it’s delicious. And now I really want some.

  26. On June 28, 2014 at 6:56 pm Kathy said:

    Well, when I returned from 5 years in Asia to go to grad school, it was to live in the Zoo! I attended WMU and also the Medieval Congress because my grad work was in medieval history. Hope that you’re enjoying the Zoo. I spent 6 years there, made many lasting friends, and left behind a husband (no real loss….but unfortunately, nonetheless). I was raised in Michigan and here are so many places to go around Michigan that I’m sure you will fill your time well. If you haven’t been already, you should spend a day or two on Mackinac Island. The best part is after the last ferry leaves in the evening and the island settles down. The peaceful lapping of the waves will bring you back again and again. Enjoy your time there!

    • On June 28, 2014 at 6:58 pm Kathy said:

      BTW, you should have an Edit function for your comments. I just saw a typo and there seems to be no way to remedy it.

    • On June 29, 2014 at 12:17 pm Sally said:

      So glad to hear you enjoyed your time in Kalamazoo. So far, I’m really enjoying it. People have been really nice and I love the small town community feel. I have had trouble meeting people outside of work, but mostly because I haven’t put as much effort into it as I probably should.
      Oh, and I went to Mackinac last year before I moved here and LOVED it. I need to go back!


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