Akina Shu


The daughter, 30,
The father, 73, embarking on a voyage around the world.
When I started out in the working world, I thought that at age 30 I would be an ambitious go-getter in prime of her career.
But, then I realised I would take a completely different path. Something happened that made me put a stop to my life as an employee for eight years since graduation, and embark on a trip on a boat with my father for three and a half months.
That something was: my mother’s passing.
Two years ago, my beloved mother died of cancer. It was a bitter pain for me and my father.
In the final month I could spend with my mother, I took family care leave from my then-work, and I was able to witness her last breath in palliative care. It’s often said that “death is inevitable” and “you only live once”, but through my mother’s passing, I felt those words—so much that it hurt.
I feared that if I didn’t set out to do what I wanted when I wanted to, this life so preciously bestowed upon me would end full of regrets, left wondering “Oh, I should have done that when I had the chance.” This fear overtook me.
Also, above all else, my father’s depression was staggering.
I had bought a house in Tokyo, and was busy with work. While my feelings distracted me, my father was alone in Yokohama, and since he had retired from work, he must have felt very lonely. While I thought about him in the back of my mind, I now think that I was using work as an excuse not to visit him so often. I’d occasionally go to see him on the weekends, but our conversation would sometimes just dry up. Does everyone else talk to their dads? (haha) To be honest, I always thought that aside from wanting to know what was going on, going back to visit my parents was never all that fun. So boring, I thought. Going out with friends was much more exciting, I truly thought. Sorry, dad!
I loved my old job.
It was in English education, and even now I think it was probably quite rare in that it had the three big factors: good work, good colleagues, good pay. I’ve liked going around the world since I joined that company, and it was easy for me to take leave in the division I was in. I’d take one or two weeks off and travel all around up to three times a year. As a reward for long service, I got two months extra salary, and got to participate in a “Ship Program” run by the Japanese Cabinet Office. Now I think about it, it was a really great job! Lol
That’s why I couldn’t really decide that I wanted to quit.
Though in spite of my desire to jet around overseas, soon the days started to pass by where I would sit in front of my computer in the office, in a staring contest with the screen. While I felt that I wanted to live aboard, and I wanted to take a round-the-world trip, the reason I did the exact opposite was, of course, the fact that I didn’t want to lose the stable pay cheque. Many of my friends told me that if I quit this wonderful job, I’d never find something better. I felt the same way too.
But then, as if the timing had been planned out, I got appointed to another division.
The transfer was such a complete change of scene that I felt like I was in another company. I started to feel like a cog in the machine. Perhaps the victim of being too blessed up to then, after changing divisions I had more sleepless nights, and my friends would start to worry about me and ask, “Are you still alive?” I was doing the work of three people by myself, and pressured not to even succumb to a cold. I started to feel uncomfortable with the way I was working. I eventually took an objective look at what I was then, and I no longer knew what I was living for.
I was completely lost in life. That’s right.
At that time I asked myself countless times “What do you really want to do in life?” Through the death of my mother, I learned that life has an end. Looking at my father’s loneliness, I blamed myself for not spending enough time with him. Looking at myself, someone who was just working to make money, I become overwhelmed with emotions I had been trying to suppress.
I don’t want to become the prisoner of giving my life to a stable job; I want to make a career that suits me.
I want to spend more time with my dad.
I want to see the many lands of this world.
When I thought about what kind of career would suit me, it wasn’t a nine-to-five position at a company with the same old office. I wanted to be recognised as my own person. I wanted to work while travelling around the world. At that time, one of my friends who I had met on the Ship program who had become my mentor told me “If you sign up as a volunteer interpreter for the Peace Boat, you can travel around the world for free.”

And being an interpreter would help me polish my English! AND I can travel around the world!
ANNND if I get the interpreting position, I can take my dad along for a father-daughter world tour!!
In that time when I wanted to turn my life around, there were no other thoughts that entered my mind. Rather, the thing that put an end to all the emotions that had been consuming me, was the new life as a Peace Boat volunteer interpreter.
So then, without saying a word to my dad, applied for the volunteer interpreter position, then got carried away in my fantasy plan of travelling around the world with my dad.
Whether or not I got the interpreter position, well, I’ll save that for the next post. Because all this I went through was just the first step in my massive life changing journey.
Tags: thirtysomething, Peace Boat, volunteer, around the world, life, world tour, father, ship, father-daughter trip, interpreting