My name is Jana (that rhymes with “banana”) Fadness. I’m interested in many things and can never seem to focus on just one, but my main passions are language learning, art, and music. Most of my life has revolved around the pursuit of skill and knowledge in these three areas.
I was born and raised in a small town called Centralia, Washington, but wasted no time getting out of it as soon as I graduated from high school. I attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I got my bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and took advantage of opportunities to spend a few months studying in both Japan and China.
My eclectic life since finishing school has included a four-year stint teaching English in Taiwan and Japan, ten months living with a French family and working as an au pair (i.e. nanny) in a Parisian suburb, several months holed up in my dad’s studio in the states recording music, and a brief period living in Honolulu, Hawaii while attempting to support myself through freelance writing, editing and translation work found online. I was unfortunately not successful in that attempt, and ended up going back to Japan and teaching kindergarten there for 2 years. There were some things I loved about that job, but after a while I realized I ultimately couldn’t be happy staying there, or in Japan. I wasn’t sure if I could be happy staying put anywhere.
I decided to make one more attempt at the digital nomad lifestyle, working online while traveling around the world. That’s what I’m doing now, and so far it actually seems to be going well this time! I feel like I’m better prepared now and know how to make it work in the long term, but it’s a little too early to say for sure. So stay tuned!
About This Blog
Why “Adventures of the Directionally Challenged”? That can best be explained through a story.
At the age of 13, influenced by anime and a certain Japan-loving elementary school teacher, I started teaching myself Japanese and decided to make it my life’s ambition to master this language and move to Japan someday.
And at the age of 19, during the summer of my freshman year of college, I was in Japan for the first time, living with a host family in Saitama prefecture and teaching English to small groups of people at local churches. My Japanese wasn’t all that great at the time, but I’d learned enough to communicate with people and to impress my host family. (They were pretty easily impressed, I must say. They were also actually Korean. Yeah…)
My favorite Japanese word at the time (and it’s probably still my favorite) was houkou-onchi (方向音痴). This word literally means “directionally tone-deaf”, and it’s used to describe someone who has no sense of direction. When I first encountered this marvelous word, I made sure to remember it because I knew it would be useful to me. I have absolutely no sense of direction and am the most talented person I know when it comes to getting lost. So I told my host family in Japan that they’d have to give me detailed directions to anywhere I might have to go because, as I proudly explained, I was a houkou-onchi.
This certainly did come in useful, because one day I did indeed get lost. And after wandering all over town getting directions from people which I put to absolutely no good use whatsoever (though at least I did get to practice my Japanese!), I arrived back at my host family’s house a couple of hours late. Their looks of familial concern quickly turned to hilarity. Soon my host dad was telling anyone within range the story of how I somehow managed to get lost even with such clear directions, because “in her own words, she’s a houkou-onchi! HAHAHA!” The story was their source of entertainment for several weeks.
My name is Jana, and I’m a houkou-onchi. And years later, I still haven’t stopped getting lost.
That summer in Japan was my first time in a foreign country (well okay, besides the one day I spent just across the Mexican border on a family vacation when I was 11, but does that really count?), and after that, I was hooked. I was determined not only to return to Japan and live there someday, but also to see as many other countries as I could while I was at it. And I didn’t do too badly. To this date I’ve lived for extended periods of time in China (3 months), Taiwan (1 year), Japan (5 years) and France (10 months), and I’ve also visited several other countries. I have spent most of my adult life running around the world chasing after adventure. And adventure, I certainly did find. But I also discovered something else— something more important.
I discovered that it doesn’t really matter that much where you are. You can be in a beautiful, exotic place like Chiang Mai, Thailand and still feel incredibly empty and lonely. And you can be in a dull, rainy place like Centralia, Washington— the Northwestern American town where I grew up, and which I spent most of my childhood dreaming of escaping from— and still feel incredibly fulfilled and happy. I’ve had amazing experiences both in the United States and abroad. And I’ve had horrible experiences both in the US and abroad, too. Because adventure isn’t really something you can go chasing after. Adventure is something you take with you. Adventure is an attitude, a spirit, a way of approaching life. You can have great adventures as a world traveller, as a brain surgeon, as a bus driver, or as a housewife. It doesn’t matter that much where you are or what you’re doing. If you have the spirit of adventure in you, you can— you will— live an amazing life.
I’m directionally challenged not only literally, but metaphorically as well. I have absolutely no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing a year or two from now. I might make plans, but they will always be subject to change. I’ve tried the planning thing a few times already, only to find my plans suddenly gone void when circumstance turned my world upside-down. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I knew exactly where this winding path was leading me to, life wouldn’t be nearly as exciting or adventurous, would it? I much prefer to stumble along high-strung and wide-eyed, stopping frequently to ask for directions and even just to admire the view. I want to be open to every opportunity that comes my way, and at the end I want to be able to look back and say, “Wow, that was a great ride.” This blog is my way of taking you along with me, and hopefully inspiring you to create your own adventure. One step at a time.
Let me end this page with a couple of my favorite quotes that express my life philosophy:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” –Helen Keller
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain