How Do People Handle Coming Back?
March 4, 2022 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the US and will be starting a 1 year 9 month language course in Japan in July. This is all great, but my biggest concern is that I don't know how to handle coming back - i.e. I won't have a job, health insurance, a home or a vehicle, and all my stuff will be in storage. I've done this before and it took a *really* long time to get back on my feet - how do other folks who do/ have done this handle it?

Additional info:
I'm 50 and have saved enough funds to live (albeit frugally - i.e. not in high rent states) up to retirement. I have UK & US dual citizenship and have lived in the US for the past 20 years, but I don't have any relatives here.
The last time I did something like this I made a pig's ear of it: I was unprepared and was trying to manage determining where to live long term (factoring in rent increases in my absence) in combination with where I could find work, while managing where to live short term (I was bouncing around Airbnb's) at the same time as transitioning from a year of travel to everyday life.
I'm guessing there isn't a neat answer to this, but after last time I'll be kicking myself if I have a similar experience and I haven't prepared better this time around - and it'll definitely make my time in Japan more enjoyable if I don't have the specter of another potential disaster looming on the horizon.
posted by my log does not judge to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A long term Airbnb (my son got one for a few months when he moved while he was figuring out exactly where to settle) will give you a nice home base while you figure out other things.
posted by metasarah at 10:29 AM on March 4, 2022

Do you *have* to come back?

(See how a change in perspective helps?)
posted by kschang at 10:30 AM on March 4, 2022

I came back from 3.5 years away, to a different city than the one I'd lived in before departing, though I had a couple of friends in the new city and had in fact lived there a decade earlier as a student.

I slept in the spare room of one of the friends for a couple of weeks while I found a room to rent in a flat. I did temp jobs for the first year, mostly a run of several jobs that each lasted a few months at a time but were never going to be permanent. It paid the rent and gave time for the dust to settle and me to work out what I wanted to do longer term. During that year, I got to know my friends' friends and took a couple of evening classes to get to know more people. After about a year of the rented room and the temp jobs, I got a permanent job and bought a flat. I felt unsettled for maybe another year after that and considered going away again, but decided to stay. Many years on, I'm very much settled. I was fortunate that my stuff was stored at my parents' home and sent on to me once I bought the flat.

I can't quite tell from your question what was disastrous about your return last time. I think it's to be expected that there'll be some 'landing time' when you're in temporary accommodation/work and finding your feet. Maybe you're expecting too much if you want to be able to come back and instantly feel sorted? Though 9 months away isn't too long, so it may not take you the year it took me :) I think it's definitely helpful to come back to a city where you have at least one or two friends who can help you relaunch, whether that's by hosting you briefly at the start, or just meeting up for drinks so you're not starting socially from scratch.

YMMV as I'm in the UK so health insurance wasn't a consideration, and the city has decent public transport so didn't need a vehicle. But I also didn't have the financial cushion you have - even when I was working, there were some times of counting pennies in the supermarket, but I never starved and was pretty content.

I'm assuming that despite having savings you'll need to work for health insurance on your return? In which case, I guess if you know now what it is you're most likely to do workwise when you return, that will help as you can start looking at the job market before you come home and you're at least not coming back to a complete clean slate. Or at least get thinking about it while you're still away.

I did a previous year away, studying language for 9 months abroad, and was amazed a few months before it ended, to find one of my friends putting in applications and making plans for what she'd do on her return! It hadn't even occurred to me that I might start planning that while I was still away, I just assumed I had to come home and then start working that out! That might have been partly my age - mid/early 20s, when I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life anyway. But that was also in the '90s, when the internet was pretty insignificant, so being away really felt like away. These days you've got much more ability to plan ahead from Japan. Either way, there's a difference between coming home with a complete clean slate, and coming home with an idea what you'd like to be doing in 6 months time so you have something specific to work towards when you land home.
posted by penguin pie at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have come home after 18 months away, and found an apartment abroad the month before I was set to return - specifically, I got a sublet and didn't fuss over the fact that I didn't like the apartment much or that is was a bit more than what I'd like to spend - it was just for four months, and provided a good base to find a more permanent place. Honestly, especially since the pandemic, it's getting easier and easier to sort things out online.
posted by coffeecat at 2:59 PM on March 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

>I'm guessing there isn't a neat answer to this

I mean there could be? I have never done this so take my advice with a grain of salt.

First you need a landing spot. I would start looking for AirBnBs in your returning city 6 months before you arrive back home. Maybe book for 3-4 months. So once you're back in the US, you have a place to go. The good thing with AirBnB is that you can do it easily online; maybe not so much with sublets.

Once in your place, you can recover from jet lag, get groceries and settle in. Then prioritize (or maybe do this ahead of time). What needs to happen first: health insurance? Job? More permanent apartment? Car? The good thing is you're not financially strapped - so think about how long can you go without a job for.
posted by foxjacket at 4:03 PM on March 4, 2022

I’m Canadian but if you leave Ontario for more than 6 months you lose provincial health insurance- I mention this because I know there’s insurance tailored to that. What’s your health insurance plan while you’re away? Do they provide some bookended coverage? I’m betting there is a product out there.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:13 PM on March 4, 2022

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