About Me

Me in Caen, France

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.

One of the roads in Japan I got lost on

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

  • http://18french.blogspot.com Wendy

    Hi, Jana! Thanks for adding me on twitter. I have added you as well, and subscribed to your blog. I really like your writing style, so I hope you keep it up!

    I have been to Centralia many times–I grew up in Portland and have family living in Centralia. I live in a pretty dull place myself right now in the Midwest… and when I get frustrated with not being in some exotic place, I remind myself that if I was from anywhere else, I WOULD be in an exotic place, and just going to the grocery store would be an adventure.

    I think we're going to be friends, Jana. 🙂

    • janafadness

      Hey Wendy, thanks so much for adding me and for subscribing! I'll check out your blog, too. =)

      And wow, what a coincidence that we grew up so close to each other! It does sound like we have a lot in common!

  • http://tgintokyo.wordpress.com T.G

    Hey Jana,

    I wonder just how many of us were inspired to learn Japanese by anime – I'd guess a lot! 🙂

    I love your spirit of adventure, and I hope I get to travel as much as you have!

    • http://www.janafadness.com/blog janafadness

      Yup– probably half the students in any given Japanese class are anime nerds. =P Haha…

      I hope you get the chance to travel, too! So are you living in Tokyo now? I'll have to take a look at your blog. ^^

  • http://twitter.com/#!/traditora Tess

    Ohh! I love it that I now have a Japanese term for describing myself!

    I can relate (so, so much!) to your description of getting lost. I’m always saying I was born without a map, a compass, a GPS system… even in my tiny country (Panama, Central America), and tinier city, I never really know exactly where I am at any given time or how I got there in the first place, or even how to get home from there. It’s mind-boggling to other people, but not to me, I was just born this way. 😀

    • http://www.janafadness.com/blog janafadness

      I’m glad someone can relate! It’s good to meet a fellow houkou onchi. =P

  • ellaslyckokalla

    Hi Jana! I am so happy to have discovered your blog. I am also an Au Pair (in Gemany, by the french border) now and reading this inspired me to continue my adventures right after my year here is finished. People always tell me than I should study after this year, that this is my fun before academic studies. But no, I am not done getting lost in this world. There is so much more than Germany to discover and I am not going to settle down after this. I am too young for that and to dissatisfied. I will also have in mind that it is the spirit within my that makes the adventure. I had this feeling inside me about living like a “nanny” and often you romantisize a lot (that is how I survive) and here, well, I still have that feeling inside me, this excitement! My dream became my everyday life. I added this blog on bloglovin so please, keep writing.

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      The greatest reward of putting myself out there and writing this blog is having people tell me I’ve inspired them. I’m so glad you’ve decided to follow your heart and continue exploring the world. I know you won’t regret it! I will definitely keep writing, and I hope you’ll continue to read and to share your thoughts. And let me know if you ever come to visit Paris, because it’s always good to meet like-minded people! The best of luck to you.

  • Tati

    Wow, your comment just hit home for me: “I discovered that it doesn’t really matter that much where you are. You can be in a beautiful, exotic place like 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 did Thailand for a year. My first overseas adventure–and when I look back at it I always feel that pang of loneliness. Really, the adventure isn’t the place it’s you. 🙂

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      It’s good to know that what I have to say makes sense for someone! Thanks for the comment. =)

  • Gloria

    I was searching our alma mater on some information on the Freeman Grant and came across an article you leaving for Japan… and wondering what you were up to, I googled and landed on your blog here. It’s exciting to read about your adventures and encouraging to hear how you are becoming more… you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and travels.

    Gloria (from Mosaic) 

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Hi Gloria! It’s nice to hear from you. =D Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      What have you been up to these days?

  • Andrey

    Привет 🙂 вижу ты довольно хорошо говоришь по русски? 🙂 Как поживаешь?

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Да нет, еще не очень хорошо говорю… Но я очень хочу выучить этот язык!

      У меня все нормально, а у тебя?

  • Mark

    Hi Jana. Am I happy to discover your blog. I recently read this post and your mission page and I’m amazed. While reading the first few paragraphs on your mission page, I was really stunned. I got the feeling as if someone is describing me. 🙂 Your post are full of motivation and inspiration and I’ll definitely read all of them. I already subscribed to your rss feed, later I will like your facebook page and share it to all my friends.

    All the best from Serbia.

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Thanks Mark! It’s good to have you here. =)

  • http://twitter.com/TourdEurope Lucie

    Hi Jana, 
    I’ve just discovered your blog and I loved it. I am French, I used to live in Romania, now I’m in England and soon in Australia, like you I love this way of life. There is so much to see in the world. You said that you learnt Japanese by yourself, which is impressive! I’m thinking of learning Chinese, which is a tough language too. Languages are fascinating! I can’t wait to read more of your blog! 

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Hi Lucie, thanks so much for stopping by! I’m really glad you found me, as it’s always good to have support from other people who love languages and traveling. =) Chinese is difficult, but maybe not as much as you think, and it’s a very useful language to know! I hope everything goes well for you and that I’ll hear more from you in the future. =D

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JL2VLUZ7MLWWGWF7O2LUJGEDTA rsrobbins

    I came across you blog on http://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning/.  

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      I’ve never read that book, but it sounds interesting! Maybe I’ll check it out.

      I’ve read some really interesting books on French culture as well, such as “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong”, and “Pas si fous, ces français !” I read these books for an interim class on French culture in university, and they were actually what really got me interested in mastering French and coming to France.

      As for a textbook about theater… I’m sorry, but I really don’t know as I’ve never used anything like that myself. =/ It seems like the actual scripts of famous plays shouldn’t be hard to find, especially since a lot of the classics are surely no longer copyrighted and are probably available online for very cheap or free. It sounds like you’re looking for a textbook with explanations though, right?

  • Ruthven Gzell

    Me tomare la libertad de escribirte en español, al ser mi lengua nativa puedo expresar lo que realmente siento y estoy seguro que podrás entender muy bien:), en los últimos 2 días prácticamente me he leído todos tus posts, adoro tu sinceridad, la bella manera en la que expresas todas tus experiencias y todo lo que has hecho, tu vida es un sueño para mi, eres una gran inspiración para soñadores como yo que nunca alcanzaremos lo que tu has logrado, espero algún día podamos platicar por algún medio, ya que seria un gran honor para mi :). Gracias por todo.

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Si piensas que nunca alcanzarás lo que quieres, entonces nunca lo alcanzarás…! Tienes que creer un poco más en tí mismo. Yo también soy una persona normal como todo el mundo… Solo he decidido de vivir mi vida como quiero. Pero me alegro de que mi blog te guste tanto. Muchas gracias por el comentario!

  • Lmbiskup

    Just found you via Fluent in 3 Months. Looking forward to reading your blog. I now live in Port Townsend, WA, originally from Fresno, California. I love learning languages. I lived in Spain as a foreign exchange student when I was 15/16 and in Germany when I was 19. I have three kids now and don’t do much traveling, but I look forward to traveling more again when they are grown. 🙂 Keep up the good work! Nice blog!

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

       I’m glad you found me! Thanks for reading and for commenting. =) It’s great you were able to have those experiences traveling in your youth. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a parent myself, but I’m sure that’s a whole new adventure as well!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002901832917 Juhyun Kim

    Hello, Jana! I am Juhyun from South Korea. As I said in youtube comment reply to you, I am very glad that I found you 🙂 I am not so sure how to put my words here, as there are so many things going on in my head reading your blog, but, thank you very very much for sharing your adventures 🙂 

    I am impressed to see how you internalized Japanese and its culture. And it’s very great to see how passionate you are, and also how much love you have towards this language. I was once really crazy about Finnish, and I am still loving it, though it’s not the same as it once was. So I guess that’s how I can somewhat relate to your passion for Japanese… haha. 

    I am now learning English and French, although because of the situation that I kind of have to nail down my level in English for the exam to get to the university, it gets a bit difficult to have French language around me. Mostly because of the feeling that I would lose my sense in English If I really start to immerse my self in French. I am very curious if you have had this kind of problem, and then how would you cope with this kind of situation. 

    Well… I was introducing my self but then it seems like things got lost its way… 😀 Sorry for that! But I would be so grateful to hear your opinion! 🙂 

    Have a nice day,


    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

       Hi Juhyun! Thanks for commenting, and I’m sorry for not getting back to you sooner.

      I think it would be very difficult to learn two languages at once if you were learning them both from scratch, but since your English is obviously quite advanced, it seems to me like you could study French at the same time without worrying too much about losing your English. Maybe you can’t immerse yourself completely in French, but perhaps you could spend just a little time on it every day? That’s actually what I’m trying to do now with Spanish, even though I’m focusing on learning Russian.

      I hope this reply has been helpful in some way! Let me know how things go. =)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002901832917 Juhyun Kim

        Thanks for the opinion, Jana! 🙂

        Reading your comment, I actually realized that I tend to consider my English as “not enough”, really oftentimes, when is obviously quite advanced, as you said it (it means a lot to me, thanks!). Though It’s not that I see my English as bad, nor do I lack certain amount of confidence in it, but it seems I was unsure about something.

        But now I think I might try to put my English aside safely and start to work on my French a bit! 

        Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂

  • Blue

    Hey, Jana!
    I found your blog through Fluent in 3 Months, and I am so very grateful. I guess in life I’ve always doubted what I felt was right because, while not an impossibility, learning to express yourself in other languages and having a strong desire to experience other cultures isn’t the norm in America. Like you, I have a passion for languages and cultures, but a lot of the time I tend to keep it to myself.
    Recently, I’ve been learning to gradually accept myself and have respect for myself, and a lot of this is due to your blog. You’ve helped me to realize that it’s okay to be me. More than that.. It’s wonderful to be myself, and not just someone other people want me to be.
    I always grew up hearing stories from my family members, my mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and so on, of the adventures they had in their younger years. A lot of my family have been in the military and have traveled for that reason, and those like my mom and my aunt traveled just to experience what else is out there. As the world goes on, and crime rates rise, and people become on average less trustworthy, travel is being more and more discouraged, especially for a single girl aged 18. But I just can’t accept that.. Why shouldn’t I be able to have the same kind of adventures as the generation that came before me?
    There’s no good answer to that question. And so, I’m looking for an opportunity to go to Russia sometime in the near future.

    Maybe I rambled a bit, sorry! ^^ I just want to thank you, and I look forward to soaking up the wisdom and fun of your blog!


  • http://twitter.com/estellevw Estelle Weyl

    Hi Jana-

    Your blog seems to have been hacked. I received spam directing me to http://janafadness.com/russian/wp-content/plugins/extended-comment-options/google.html?mv=vby.mig&anf=gee.reg&fob=kzwq

    Just wanted to let you know. No need to post this message.

  • Anton

    Великолепно, я просто в шоке, как за несколько месяцев можно выучить язык!!! Наверно преподаватели грамотные 🙂 Тут, в России в школе за 10 лет не выучить. Видать система образования тут устарела 🙁 Приезжай в гости, посмотришь на настоящую “Россию”

  • James

    It’s awsome to see someone who lived in Grand Rapids for a while. If I may ask, what year did you graduate from Calvin? I was there a lot of the time visiting a friend in 2010.

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      I graduated from Calvin in 2006… So quite a while before you were there. ^^;

  • http://alanamokma.wordpress.com/ Alana Mokma

    Jana… are you currently in Grand Rapids Mi or do you live somewhere else now? I am in Grand Rapids. This is why I ask. 🙂

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      I haven’t been in Grand Rapids since I graduated Calvin, actually. I’ve lived in lots of other places since then, but I’m currently in Washington state.

      • http://alanamokma.wordpress.com/ Alana Mokma

        ahh. gotcha. 🙂

  • Anno

    I just found your blog and really, really like it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sergey.tushkanov Sergey Tushkanov

    Привет Джана! Я потрясен твоей энергетикой и твоим лингвистическим талантом и способностью изучения языков! У тебя много друзей и единомышленников по всему миру я наслышан что у тебя есть желание изучить русский язык? Я с огромным удовольствием по старался бы помочь в этом вопросе и стать твоим единомышленником в России! Я уже несколько месяцев изучаю Английский язык и хотел бы улучшить навыки и произношение с радостью пообщался бы с тобой! Ты молодец!

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Привет Сергей, спасибо за коментарий.) Я еще хочу изучить русский язык, но в данный момент стараюсь делать успехи в китаийском…))) Дело в том, что я хочу хорошо выучить все языки, которые изучала раньше. Мне кажется что я обычно ничего не делаю до концу! Но спасибо тебе за предложение помощи. Вы русские все так добры.))

      • Slavik Slavko

        Jana speaking Russian (Джана говорит по-русски) I am sitting on the roof – Я сижу на крыше, but not in roof, на means on, I often came here – Я часто приходила сюда, because, пришла, means single action, here we have a lot a trees – здесь у нас много деревьев, because дерев is it not right, дерево is single, but деревьев a lot of trees. It is very green – очень зелёных, but not зелёный because зелёный means some one. Four mounths – четыре месяца, but not четыре месяц, because месяц means one, but месяца means more than one mounth and must to be detected how many of mounth before месяцев.

  • Cherokee

    Dang girl! Are we related? How many times am I gonna read something from you and find so many things in common? I’m also directionally challenged. The only time I don’t get lost is on extremely repetitive routes. I’m also bad at planning ahead. If I make plans, they’re very liable to change. I also terribly absent-minded and forgetful. I could lose my head if it wasn’t attached, so I bet if I do uproot myself and travel, my mother is going to be terrified that I’ll die, lol.

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      It continues to surprise me how many people write to tell me they can identify with me and the things I share here. I guess I’m not as unusual as I thought, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not alone in the world! ^^

  • http://languagewanderer.wordpress.com/ Mariola

    I love your blog! You’re such a postive and motivational person:) I’ll be checking your blog for updates!:)

  • Joo Lee

    You are really an awesome writer and a free spirit. I would be so proud if my daughters turned out anything like you.

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Wow, that is quite a compliment! Thank you. 🙂