Sitting here on the ferry headed to Honshu I have to wonder where the last five weeks have gone. I hate to be cliché but, it feels like only yesterday that I began my journey. So much has happened that it’s hard to keep everything straight. The challenges I faced, the people I met, the emotions I felt, and it’s only the beginning. Luckily I’m keeping a blog of all (or at least most) of it.
I can’t say as I’ve had any epiphanies while walking down the lonely country roads but I have been showered with little golden nuggets of wisdom (and no I’m not talking about all the rain that fell). Each experience, from trying to walk to Sapporo in the pouring rain to being offered unimaginable kindnesses, has taught me something. A lot of what I’ve learned, or in many cases rediscovered, can’t really be described. I know it sounds like a cop out and a way to avoid writing thousands of words on deep philosophical topics but, tough. When I think that I can describe the nebulous feelings that now beat in my breast I’ll open up Word and give it a try.
Hokkaido was a great place to start my journey but I also think it spoiled me. Despite the bad weather, cold temperatures, and getting used to the child hanging on my back the warmth of the people more then made up for it all. It wasn’t just the help that people offered me but the spirit in which it was offered.
People, in my opinion, help for one of three reasons; pity, duty, kindness. When someone sees me by the side of the road with my thumb hanging out one of three thoughts goes through their mind. ‘Oh that poor boy, I’d better help him out because he looks so sad/helpless/whatever.’ ‘Oh, I’d better help out that foreigner by the side of the road because he is a guest in my country (or it’s a parental desire to help).’ ‘Oh, that person looks like someone who needs some help let’s stop and ask.’
You can guess which of those cars I enjoy getting into and which of those I hesitate to enter. I would say about 90% of the people I talked to were of the third kind. Maybe it’s something in the water or maybe it’s the make up of the land and the pioneer type spirit necessary to enjoy a place like Hokkaido. That’s why I’m kind of worried about how Honshu will turn out. Then again, it will just be a different experience. Variety is the spice of life, or so they say.
People look at what I’m doing and wonder how I can do it. I look back at them and wonder how can they not be doing it. What I’m doing isn’t for everyone, there’s no doubt about that, but it is for me. The more I stray from my comfort zone the more interesting experiences I have. The more I push myself the more I feel I can do.
Most of the time what I’m doing feels natural, like another day at the office but on occasion the realization of what I’m actually doing strikes like a bolt of lightning to the roots of my soul and I can’t help but smile. The most recent was as I stood on the shores of Lake Onuma. Behind me a fire that I built with my own hands crackled cheerfully, a half moon stood out stark white in the night sky, and a cool breeze drifted across the water. What I felt can’t really be described, but if I had to put it into words it would go, “I did this.”
Hokkaido is done now, a check mark on a list of places I want to go. That list of places I want to go is ever evolving as I learn more and more about myself. Where exactly I will end up next I can’t really say. I know I have a few goals for Honshu. The first is to visit a sword smith and witness their craft. The second is to visit as many craft breweries as possible and write some articles in order to fulfill my promise to a friend.
Having specific goals feels good. It gives me something to grab on to and work towards. Without something to work towards I am a ship on the sea with no rudder drifting with the currents. One of my personal goals for this trip is to fix my aimlessness, sink my rudder deep into the water and set course for somewhere and with little steps like the ones above I am beginning to do just that.
My goal for Hokkaido was to see as much as I could and experience as much as I could of the island and I feel that I accomplished that. Now on to the next step.
And just as a note, there are still a few posts about Hokkaido to come. If I remember correctly I left off as I went to bed in Shikabe not knowing what was going to be that town’s last surprise for me.