10 Simple Ways to Enjoy Life’s Journey More

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” ~Eckhart Tolle

I wake up. I take a look outside.

I take a breath in and just appreciate where this dream has taken me.

I want to be a ninja.

Yeah, it sounds a little strange.

Probably even weirder when I tell you I have a Master’s degree in education, am a former teacher, and I’m about to turn thirty.

You could call it a quarter life crisis, assuming I’ll live to be 120.

But I prefer to call it my life’s calling.

It is my childhood dream. So, when I say, “I want to be a ninja,” I’m talking about the ninja from my eight-year-old brain.

According to my eight-year-old brain a ninja:

  1. Moves to a far away land
  2. Trains extensively in martial arts
  3. Challenges the traditional methods of life and work

About a year ago I quit my job in America. I moved to Japan (a far away land). I now train full time in martial arts five to six days a week.

I’m doing everything within my power to turn this into a lifestyle. I write about my experiences in hopes of encouraging others to make the most of their lives.

It is easy for me to romanticize my life to the outside world, but the reality is that I can get just as caught up in the monotony of day-to-day life as anyone else.

After being in Japan for a year I can get so caught up with achieving my next goal, the next item on my to do list, that I forget how wonderful life truly is.

I live in a land with thousands of years of history, culture, and beautiful architecture.

And with all of this sometimes I can still walk through my day like a zombie.

I’m trying to be a gosh-darn ninja! Ninjas don’t move through a day like a zombie.

So, as I have become more and more aware of this, I have worked hard to make sure I am constantly enjoying my journey. If you’d like to do the same, I recommend trying these 10 action steps:

1. Take discovery walks.

It is so easy for the novelty of my peaceful neighborhood in Kyoto to lose its appeal. So, a couple of times per week I go on a fifteen-minute walk and try to discover ten new things. I have found small temples, a graveyard, a spring with fresh water, a playground, and some new friends.

It's important to remember that there is always something new to be discovered in our everyday environments. Go on a walk and commit to finding 10 new interesting things. You might be surprised by what you discover.

2. Attend free local events.

When I walk around town, if I notice a sign that promotes an event, I write down the date, time, and location. The best part about these is that they are free and outdoors. I like to head to farmers markets where there is food, culture, and happy people.

Head to your local city or county office and get a list of all the upcoming activities. There are always some events going on. You never know what cool things you might find. If it's something you wouldn’t normally do, that’s even more awesome!

3. Take lessons or classes.

I decided I would do something where I would feel totally out of place: I started attending Japanese tea lessons.

The makeup of the group includes: green tea, women over forty-five years old, and me, a twenty-nine-year-old dude from America. This is completely out of my comfort zone and new. And to my surprise, I love it!

Push yourself to try new activities, even if you think they aren’t for you. I never drink tea and used to have zero interest in tea ceremonies. But now, I have made new friends and experienced a new side to the culture.

Go out and start something new.

4. See the sights.

Some of the wonderful aspects about Japan are the beautiful temples and shrines. Every week I go out and explore these.

What are some famous sights in your area? Go check them out. If you have already been to them, try to discover something new about them. If there aren’t any famous sights in your area, then go discover ones that aren’t famous.

5. Keep a gratitude journal.

Everyday I write down at minimum five things I appreciated that day. Then at then at the end of the week I look over my list. This means I have thirty-five reasons to be grateful (from the whole week).

Try it out. It can really increase your appreciation of day-to-day life.

6. Create stories.

It’s fun to make up stories in our heads about the world happening around us.

My favorite is creating stories about how people are on their first date. It’s really funny when I do this while in the grocery store!

Why is that person texting on her cellphone? Why is that child crying? Why is that woman giggling?

You might be impressed with your own creativity.

7. Bike more.

I bike everywhere. It’s amazing to me what I end up discovering while biking around Kyoto. I have discovered new restaurants, stores, temples, and even an English movie theatre.

Biking allows me to experience so much more because it is easy to stop, pull over, and go explore by foot. In a car, we move so fast that it is easy to miss out on all the awesome around us.

Go on a bike ride around your neighborhood. You might be shocked at some of the things you have missed while driving.

8. Create a detailed plan for your day.

I love planning out my day because it allows me to include all of the awesome things I want to happen. Time is going to move whether we plan it or not, so I figure why not take control and choose how we live our lives.

9. Get out of your comfort zone.

One of the most fun and challenging things I do is practice my Japanese with strangers. Sometimes, it’s a good conversation, and sometimes it goes nowhere. But either which way, it breaks me out of my comfort zone, and, more often than not, makes me feel alive.

Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. It can be anything: try a new food, take some dancing classes, or maybe volunteer.

10. Take a break from the world.

Sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming living in a foreign country. The culture, language barriers, and challenges can get to me. I always take one day and plan nothing.

I read a good book, eat some good food, play some video games, do zero work, talk zero Japanese, and just relax. We all need a little time to do nothing every now and then.

If we take intentional action to make sure our lives stay fresh, we can enjoy the journey every day.

Photo by Phil and Pam

About Izmael Arkin

Izzy quit his job as a middle school science teacher to follow his childhood dream: to become a ninja. Subscribe to his blog to learn the mindset, actions and principles to turn your dream into a reality. You can also like his Facebook page to get daily inspiration.

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  • Ruthy

    To sum it up – you are calling us to be PRESENT in our lives.

    Loved it. Thanks.

  • Jamie Alexander

    11. Get into character

    At night I put in my ninja costume and throw my grappling hook over my shoulder. I then zip up buildings and patrol the Kyoto skyline looking for bad guys and keeping the city in order.

    You forgot number 11 Izzy lol

  • aaron

    I’m going to try some of these things today:)

  • ViridianGirl

    Wow, thanks for this post. This was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. Arigatoo!

  • Tra

    Gratitude journal – love it! THANK YOU

  • Thank you for the checklist! It seems you and I have a similar dream, only I want to be a samurai. Maybe one day I’ll run into you in Japan (which I’m fascinated by but never been to). One day. For now I’ll do the best I can today.

  • I love your dream, Izzy, and I love how you have flung yourself at it wholeheartedly. But I also like how you have given us really doable ideas for discovering our own inner ninja. Arigato!

  • Raina

    Love your message! You’ve inspired me to take things a little more lightly. Good luck to you on your ninja journey!!

  • Katy M

    I absolutely love this. As someone who has studied martial arts for a good portion of her life, I can understand the dream of wanting to be a ninja full time 🙂 Good luck and I’ll see you sometime during “ninja creeping hours.”

  • These are awesome tips Izzy! I’m from Los Angeles and have lived in Costa Rica for the past year following my passions too. It’s amazing what happens when you actually do what you’ve always wanted to do. I’m 33, it’s never too late to dig down into figuring out what truly moves you. Thank you for taking a stand, and for sharing ways that people can take simple steps that will make a huge difference. I just subscribed to your blog!

  • Adrienne

    Loved this! Thanks so much!

  • Tazchick

    Love this! Now I think that if I want to become a martial artist, it’s not a silly dream. Thank you! 😀

  • Haha :). Super awesome Katy. Ideally, if I am really a ninja – you won’t see me, right?

    Thank you for the kind words – I’m really glad you found it helpful.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Well even if it is a silly dream you can still do it! I laugh at myself all the time (which is really important when pursuing a dream). But deep in my heart I feel with all the conviction in my soul that this is what I must do and will do!

    I’m really glad that it has opened your eyes to see it is possible!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

  • Super Awesome Adrienne :). I’m thrilled you enjoyed it.

  • Hi Jeffrey :).
    Man! I love this line:

    “It’s amazing what happens when you actually do what you’ve always wanted to do.”

    It truly is. I have been blown away by how much my life has changed simply by starting. There is no way 3 years ago I could have imagined that this dream would take me this far. But the crazy part is that now I believe way more is possible.

    I’m super excited that you subscribed to my blog. Feel free to shoot me an email and share your dream with me (just reply to the welcome email).

  • This makes me want to dance Raina! I’m talking some serious dance moves :). I’m thrilled this has inspired you.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  • I am all in!

    I’m really glad you found this helpful – this is the exact reason I write and share my story. I want to encourage and inspire others to follow their dreams.

    Thanks for taking the time comment Bobbi :).

  • Hahaha! That is super awesome man. Actually in Japan your dream makes more sense. (I’ve learned this the hard way).

    Ninja’s in the traditional sense were basically hired mercenaries. But Samurais followed a strict code of honor (though it didn’t always work out this way). A little while back I did some training in Tokyo and they kept on telling me they all wanted to be like Samurai. I asked them about being a ninja – but then they explained to me why ninja’s were bad and samurai were good.

    Though it didn’t change my dream at all! :).

  • Awesome! I love keeping a gratitude journal. It has helped me appreciate the beauty of everyday life.

  • Yes! I’m happy this is what you needed to hear and you got to hear it :).

    I hope it compels you to take action today!

  • Excellent Aaron. Go make it happen :).

  • Nice Jamie!

    Yeah I totally forgot this one :). You know, I would have included it but it just didn’t seem practical to expect other people to do this… Yeah, that’s the reason I didn’t include it…

  • Super duper exactly with a cherry on top!

  • Lauren

    This is fantastic. I’m printing it out so I remember to do this stuff!

  • That is so awesome Lauren :).

  • Darren

    Love the mindfulness! I don’t want to be a Ninja but I do want to be more present in my life! Cheers 🙂

  • Siobhain Danaher

    I love this, thank you, Namaste 🙂

  • Jeffrey

    Wonderful! I also use my bike as often as possible. Until it gets too cold and snowy here in Montreal! Thanks for all your healthy advice!

  • Glad you enjoyed it Jeffrey. Riding the bike in the cold is a journey in and of itself!

  • Awesome Siobhain :). I’m glad you liked it.

  • Hahaha! Well, even though you don’t want to be a ninja I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Jeffrey

    Yes indeed! Also, re: #9 . . . I am a musician, and one of the most amazing ways to experience new “places” for me in my musical universe is to learn new instruments, and to play familiar songs in as many different keys as possible. After all, there are only twelve! We discover new things each time we see something old and familiar from a new point of view!

    Very cool that you have built a life for yourself in Japan. I was there once about 8 years ago and I totally loved it in every way!

  • Tania Belkin

    These are all great tips. Hard to decide which is my favorite. I used to do karate 5 – 6 times per week. But what made me more aware was yoga classes once per week. Yoga, as I found out, is a great complement to karate.

  • An awesome blog 🙂 lately i’ve been thinking why am i on this earth and what should i do with my life 🙂 thank you for the tips !

  • Guest

    An awesome blog! Lately I’ve been thinking what to do with my life… I even wrote a bucket list ^_* thank you for the tips !

  • Sidharth Seal

    Excellent article Izzy, absolutely loved the idea of living the dream. I think you have some wonderful ideas, sort of makes me want to do the same.
    Your story is inspirational, although I am curious, how did you manage to fund yourself and survive in a foreign country? Just a fleeting thought really.
    Thank you once again for the wonderful tips!!

  • What a great post! I enjoyed it and will enjoy the life too.

  • Roopali

    Izzy this is simply awesome!

  • Ralph T

    Truly inspirational. I always dream about leaving everything and moving to a distant & foreign place (sort of an inner peace journey to Tibet, for instance). I’m 26 and for the first time I am moving out of my country to live abroad – exciting experience. Yet, I always have this ‘craving’ to go farther away…

  • loser

    Great post, wish I could also follow through on this kind of plan. Unfortunately about the time you decided to move to Japan I decided to get married and have kids – big mistake! So I’ve pretty much trapped myself into being tied down to the same routine due to taking care of family. but I do hope others will read your post and give themselves the courage to live authentically before they make a mistake like I did and lose that opportunity.

  • Mason

    Your words really inspired me to take action and do something I really wanted to do. At times, I feel like this world is a sea of people that have only one mission and that is too be successful. But you made me think about the true happiness that comes first. You, who felt like you had nothing to live for decided to pursue a dream that came true. I envy your courage, and your drive to do it. You are truely anazing

  • michaela

    Loving this blog, I’ve just began to realise my life’s journey and although I’m going through hardship and chaos I’m now finally at peace and feel excitement about the road ahead, letting go of people who stand still or move backwards can be difficult but when u find your journey nothing can stop you from going down that rd and negative words and actions from those who are just jealous begin to push u closer to your destination, I’m truly amazed and have never felt so wonderful xxxx

  • Whit

    Thank you very much for sharing. A big help for trying to balance a fulfilling and meaningful life amongst responsibilities.

  • Zineb

    My dream is to live In Japan
    I hope one day I can visit it and live my dream as you did.

  • kat

    Such an awesome blog makes me want to live my passion out i keep telling myself just a couple more months then im leaving my job to do more fitness stuff what I love thank you for sharing .