That Time I Made the Most Exciting and Terrifying Decision of My Life and Moved to HONG KONG

Publish date:
September 1, 2015

For the past 11 days I've woken up every morning with my heart pounding and my mind racing.

I think I'm paraphrasing Amy Poehler when I say that I'm experiencing this exquisite mix of terror and bliss that somehow results in love. I'm living in Hong Kong now, and I'm in messy-happy-clammy-hands-loss-for-words love.

"Why the hell are you in Hong Kong, Louise?" you may ask. I ask myself that same question 100 times a day.

But looking out the window from my second floor perch in a cafe overlooking Cameron Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, I know where I'm supposed to be. I'm a little shaky either from too much coffee or the reality that THIS IS MY HOME for the next year, but never has anxiety felt so thrilling.

Of course I also feel like I might barf, but a little barf never stopped me before.

Alright, slow your roll, Hung. You can wax poetic all you want about thrilling anxiety and bravery barf, but you still haven't explained why you're in Hong Kong.

The short (and admittedly cheesy) answer is I'm here because I'm fulfilling a dream.

Now, I admit my life up to this moment has already been something of a dream. The good fortune I've had to live happily in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Toky0/Yokohama, and now Hong Kong doesn't escape me. Before I proceed let me just say that sometimes I look at the past few years of my life and I want to prostrate myself to the Great Kitten in the Sky and offer Her my first born kitten in return for the favor She's shown me.

It's not all luck, my husband and I have worked hard to build our nomadic little life, but I can't help but shake my head in disbelief at how events have lined up just so for us.

Anyway, back to my DREAMS.

As some of you may remember I visited Hong Kong, my birthplace, for the first time in nearly 20 years, back in March.

That trip sparked something in me. While I was here, and then for weeks after I returned to Japan, all I could think about was how it felt like home. A home I knew almost nothing about, a home that was in another language, a home that might have been — but a home nonetheless.

As my time in Japan dwindled (our visas just expired), I started thinking about where my next move would be. I never thought I'd say this, but America felt wrong.

My life in Japan had been so fulfilling both personally and professionally. I can honestly say that living in Japan was the first time I felt at peace with myself in years. I had never thought of myself as an adventurer, as a person possessing even a drop of "wanderlust," but Japan awakened something in me. Somehow the newness, the wide-eyed "Just dive in!" attitude I was forced to adopt there added up to a renewed sense of purpose and confidence.

The world was so much bigger and bolder and more deliciously frightening than I had ever imagined. I wanted more. I didn't want it to end!

And all the while thoughts of Hong Kong nipped at my toes. I caught myself fantasizing about walking the crowded streets, swimming through the humidity, hurrying home to an imaginary apartment. Though at the time it was all just a daydream, there was a clear and sure quality to those thoughts that I rarely experience in life.

To be honest, I never feel sure about much. I think, over-think, and re-think every move I make in life. I'm drawn to things I'm afraid of, but I admit that I like to calculate every angle of my fears. My husband likes to say that I'm the most fearless scaredy-cat. I think that's an apt description.

But Hong Kong...every time I returned to those thoughts a sense of velvety calm surrounded me.

People talk about knowing things in the fiber of their being, an idea I'd never fully believed. But going to Hong Kong was something I knew, in the fiber of my being, that I had to do — now.

So after many long talks with my husband and my cat, after so many "what ifs?" and tears, we decided to follow my big, scary dream.

Relationships are not a measure of checks and balances, but after going with my husband to Hawai'i and Japan in order for him to fulfill his dreams, the time for my Hong Kong dreamed seemed right. Plus we were already living in Asia, one more sign to JUST DO IT.

So we went all in. We started the process of gaining residency, we got permission for our cat to move to Hong Kong, we found a tiny apartment that we are absolutely in love with. All the while I kept waiting to wake up.

But after countless hours dealing with Japanese and Hong Kong government bureaucracy, and questioning on more than one occasion if I had LOST MY GODDAMN MIND, I did wake up. I woke up in Hong Kong.

So that's how I got here, but I still haven't explained what exactly I'm doing here.

The good, rule-abiding, perfectionist in me feels every responsibility to explain in practical terms what my plans are. The obstinate, cranky-pants in me wants to throw this cold coffee at you, shout "Mind your own business!" and hide in the bathroom while watching Netflix.

So I'll meet you somewhere in the middle.

I'm here to write.

My practical side just rolled her eyes.

The adventurer in me, the one who left her "grown-up" job years ago to do what she loves (going on four years of scraping together a living built on words!) is raising a toast.

Cards on the table, I'm terrified. This is the most amazing, stupidest, smartest, most foolish, bravest thing I've ever done.

Without oversharing too much (gotta save something for later), I'm here to write my story. My story that could have been, in a place that is both a strange land and my home land.

I leapt without a net. Sunk my money, energy, and career into a "dream." And though I have moments of wondering when the other big, Godzilla-sized shoe will fall, I can't help but giggle with glee at how "Un-Louise" this move was.

Maybe it's the new Louise?

The Louise who did this on her terms. I didn't wait, I "made my own destiny" like those memes with the crowns on them tell me to do. Or do they say "follow your bliss"? I have the sinking feeling that most of them say, "I'm a Princess" or something. Whatever, you get the inspirational idea.

I'll probably be working harder than I've ever worked in my life to make ends meet in this expensive city. I've grabbed every job I can before moving here, and I've crossed all available limbs and digits in the hopes that it will be enough to support my dream.

But, and maybe it's the car exhaust and three Americanos talking, whether I explode in dim sum-fueled flames or you see ol' Louise's name beyond the pages of the Internet in the coming years, I don't regret this decision.

I'm not sure if I'm telling this to inspire you to do something big and scary and wonderful, or if I'm telling you this to make myself feel better. Maybe a little of both. But before I leave you (or this cafe finally kicks me out), I'll share the wise words that put me over the edge into this adventure.

The first person, outside of my husband and best friend, I told about my big Hong Kong plans was a pal of mine who is a mortician. You may have heard of her.

As a successful author, internet personality, activist, and all-round brilliant woman, I was bit horrified as I heard myself spilling my guts to her about my dream. (If you're reading this right now, friend, I'm embarrassed all over again.)

As is my defensive default, I punctuated the telling of my plans to her with useless, defeating phrases like, "It's stupid but..." or "This is ridiculous but..."

After sitting quietly for a few minutes, allowing me to spew forth all my hopes and fears, she stopped me.

"Stop saying 'it's stupid.' You're obviously passionate about this, you obviously believe in this. It's not stupid. Anything worth this much to you is not stupid. So cut it out."

She was right. If I don't believe in what I'm doing, nobody will.

So here I am. In Hong Kong. Few things have ever scared me so much, but I've never been more sure of what I'm doing.