The Birth of a Dream (Hitchhiking in Japan)

It sounds silly to say this now, but this website and the way that I now live my life, all came about as the result of a drunken night in Japan. This video is one of the first videos I ever made – about five years ago – and shows one of my first attempts at hitchhiking. This lead to me hitchhiking across Europe for six months, then writing a book about the experience, The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World.

As described in The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World, this is what happened in Japan.

“I was working as an English teacher in South Korea and we had been granted a five day weekend due to a national holiday. This is rare in Korea because they don’t really believe in holidays, so to make the most of it, six of us took the ferry to Japan for a couple of days. We were in this fantastic town called Kyoto, beautiful old temples mixed with nature, all set amongst a city more modern, clean, and developed than I have ever known. It had everything in one place and we were all so happy to be there and to not have to go to work for a few days. On our last day there, we were supposed to be catching a bus at seven in the morning, so everyone had gone back to the hostel to catch a few hours sleep. Everyone except myself and my American friend. We discovered, like so many before us, that pretty girls are the downfall of men across the world. As the sun rose, we were at a bar enduring stuttering conversations with two attractive Japanese girls. Neither of us had phones or watches so it wasn’t until someone told us the time that we realised how close we were to missing our bus. We jumped out of our seats and started running back to the hostel. Never before have I left a bar without paying for my drinks, but our sake-clouded minds were so panicked that we were incapable of thinking clearly about our actions.

“We ran up and down the streets because we couldn’t remember where we were staying and all the street names were in Japanese. By the time we got back to the hostel, all our friends had gone. If we hadn’t got so lost trying to find the hostel, we might have made it back before they left. We grabbed our bags, jumped into a taxi, and headed for the bus station. We literally missed the bus by a matter of minutes because we were in the wrong terminal. If we had spoken Japanese, we’d probably have been able to ask for the right terminal and made it there on time. We walked over to the train station and found out that the train would cost us nearly two hundred pounds. Rather than paying two hundred pounds for a train, we went for breakfast. A sit down and some food always makes things better. Not that we needed it, but we ordered another beer too. By the time we finished breakfast, it was nearly nine in the morning and we decided that the best way to get to our next destination, would be to hitchhike. It was one of those mind clouded ideas that most people forget about, but we had to follow through on it because we didn’t want to pay for the train. We asked every policeman, every passer-by who’d stop for us, every everyone where we should go. Eventually we found our way to a set of traffic lights and caught a ride with a friendly young Japanese couple.

“Not knowing what would happen or if we would make it was so exciting. I didn’t want it to end. But of course, we had jobs and lives to return to. The next evening, I took my notebook and I wrote down that I wanted to hitchhike, without plans, without an end date. And here I am. Except that no one wanted to come with me when they were sober. If I hadn’t missed that bus, none of this would have happened.” 

Click here if you would like to read The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World.

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