Things I Learned in my 20s Living Abroad



I'm 30 years old! Wow!


Growing up I was taught that the world can be a scary place as you age. Influenced by so many in my life, I was told that you lose out on more opportunities and adventures, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Looking back on the chapters in my life, I couldn’t be prouder. We forget how much we’ve accomplished in our lives, the lessons we’ve learned, and how much we’ve grown to be the humans we are today.

Not only do we become teachers as we get older, we remain students.

as we inch toward our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, we tend to become more relaxed, not exercising our mind and our skills.

In the Japanese concept of Ikigai – finding life purpose – “retiring” completely will make us whither away earlier. If you want longevity, you need to keep learning, moving, and expressing yourself.

The best thing about growing older is how much of an impact we have on society with younger generations and It’s also important to note that it’s never too late to do ANYTHING.

We’re taught that certain ages mean we can’t do something we’ve been meaning to do but that’s only a limiting belief.

Becoming 30, I know now, is the best feeling knowing I can continue my passion for teaching and impacting others. The 20s were my moments to discover, grow, and learn. I can’t even tell you what my 30s hold.

Here are the things I learned in my 20s while living abroad.

Self-Love is More Than Just Pampering Yourself

Whenever I felt stressed, alone, sad, or worried. I looked for ways to de-stress and relax. A few years ago, I came across content on social media telling me to take hot baths, go for a walk, or call a friend. Although these things are valid, self-love is more than that.

I realized in my late 20s, the emotions I felt -anxiety, depression, loneliness – occurred more intensely and frequently because I depended so much on others to lift me up.


The truth I discovered was that I had all the tools needed to lift MYSELF up.

I can provide encouragement, love, motivation, and more for myself. I didn’t truly need anyone.


If someone left me, drifted apart from me, was angry at me for being busy, I was able to accept that and give myself the compassion I so often needed from others.


Whenever there was a breakup, a failure, or a challenge in my life, I learned to pick myself back up by showing kindness toward what I was feeling instead of repressing and feeling as if I’m unworthy of good things in my life.

Taking 100% responsibility for myself, my actions, and the experience I want to have in Japan was my number one lesson learned throughout my 20s.


Do Things That Scare You

I moved to Japan. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Even though Japan was familiar to me, a part of me knew this would be different.


The fear of moving and taking on a new job kickstarted my “courage meter” and the reward for accomplishing something I didn’t have the guts to do before was phenomenal!


I felt brave and continued to take risks throughout my time in Japan as a young 20 something year old.

BUT, what I didn’t know is that you can SCALE your courage. I kept taking risks, but I began to feel comfortable taking similar risks. So, I looked for opportunities that were even scarier. Things that benefited me.


I hired a business coach with a minimal amount of money in my pocket and started my own business. Every day, I get closer to my goals because of this terrifying decision that I made. I could finally trust that, just like everything else in my life abroad, things would eventually work out for the better.

I always compare experiences in life to storybooks. Everyone has their own story. Would you want to read a boring book with a protagonist that's afraid of everything or would you want to read about a hero who has ups, downs, failures, romance, adventure, embarrassing moments, happy moments, and so much more in their lives that result in lessons learned and growth? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to read the latter. Don’t get stuck on the first page. Take action and move forward despite your emotions.

You’re More Capable Than You Think

Moving abroad, I didn’t have anyone to depend on. I was fresh off the plane and thrown into a confusing routine. In the past, I would tell myself, “Oh, you can’t do this! It’s too hard!” or “Someone else can do that, but I definitely CAN’T!”

A majority of things in life, you CAN do. It takes time and practice but you can FOR SURE accomplish anything you set your mind to.


Things like opening a bank account, learning how to shop at a supermarket, where to purchase a bike are all things anyone can do with patience and practice.


Bigger things like learning a language, opening up a café, or becoming a yoga instructor can ALL happen with, again, patience and practice.


Small steps lead to big rewards.


You Don’t Need Much to Live Well

There are two meanings to this. One, minimalism can make life feel simple and carefree. Two, walking twenty minutes to the store, eating smaller meals, and sleeping on the floor can make one just as happy as someone who drives a car to work, eats a second helping of pasta, and sleeps in a king-sized bed.

The gratitude I felt living the Japanese lifestyle was invigorating. Less meant more in Japan and the more I practiced this, the more in control I felt. Everything in my home and my mind felt clean and organized.

Who knew?

Feeling Your Feelings is Valid

In a society where feeling broken, anxious, and sad is unacceptable, we tend to search for answers to how we can ‘fix’ ourselves.

Have you ever had someone tell you, "stop being so negative." Or "stop crying" Or "quit acting like this and acting like that!"

If there’s one thing that being alone in a foreign country has taught me, it’s that everyone struggles with their own battles, lessons, and challenges.

I’ve read so many self-help books, meditated, looked for ways to give therapy to myself amongst all the rough times in my life thinking something was wrong with me and that I needed to be “fixed.”


Then, I realized, that there are no solutions and there are no real answers. Sometimes there’s just nothing and that is OK! What you’re feeling right now is OK. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to worry. It’s OK to feel anxious. There is nothing wrong with you.

We are beautiful creatures with feelings and emotions. It’s part of who we are. It’s pointless to try and repress. We are meant to feel intensely. Once we start to accept the emotions that arise in ourselves we begin to see things in a more neutral state. We stop judging and making sense of every little thing and we find peace. Often times, those feelings and emotions that arise need nurturing and reassurance from ourselves.


The emotions and feelings are as alive as we are and need love just the same. So, thank your worries for protecting you from getting hurt, thank your stubborn side for knowing what you want in life, thank your sensitive self for having the ability to really tap into yourself and your surroundings. All parts of you are meant to protect and serve you in some way so give them some motherly or fatherly love and understand this is who you truly are and its beautiful. You’ll feel more in control and find purpose in everything you do.

As someone living in another country, I was more intensely impacted by the emotions that overcame me. Now, I know what to do when I feel a certain way and how to manage them.



There are many more lessons where this came from but these are the biggest ones. I am so excited to see what lessons I will learn in my 30s.

Always remember to reflect on your accomplishments. This will put your future into perspective!


Here is my list of accomplishments:

Accomplishment List

· I met with the school board in elementary school urging them to start a talent show for creative and talented kids. It was a success.

· I became Japan club president in high school

· Fought to go to Japan, live my dream, and became an exchange student

· Applied to my favorite school Michigan State University and got accepted

· Was on the Deans List in my college years

· Became Japan club event planner at my university

· I hate math so much but I pushed myself to learn and teach myself without a tutor and passed with a big old A in the class when I felt like I couldn’t do it (proudest moment)

· Took on an internship in Japan for four months

· I got accepted to the JET program (Japan Exchange & Teaching Program)

· Graduated with a 3.4 GPA from MSU

· Moved to Japan permanently

· Quit the JET program due to no placement (literally just did busy work in an office) even though the program wasn’t happy about it. (always make decisions based on YOUR life, not a contract)

· Flew to another part of Japan to find a new job without telling anyone (bravest thing I ever did…literally flew by plane in a snow storm)

· Entered into a “black company” an abusive workplace, managed to quit and fight along four other teachers to leave and gain our freedom.

· Found an amazing new teaching job where I stayed for 6 years

· Explored other passions, signed to a music label and released music on iTunes/Spotify

· Quit music and decided to focus on my own business on Youtube and Instagram

· Literally broke up with every man who put me down or held me back

· Planned my first project at Youtube Space Tokyo with a group of creatives

· Got my first silver play button award from Youtube

· Reached 160,000 Subscribers in February 2020

· Reached 19k followers on Instagram

· Met the love of my life online despite what everyone told me about online long-distance dating.

· Got married a few months later!

· Quit my teaching job to pursue an online business

· Hired Erin as my coach and joined Simply Business Acadamy


What are your accomplishments?

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2020 Kelly Morita