Many of us have them… drunken nights that change our lives – normally for the worse. I had one such night in Japan several years ago – except that this drunken night changed my life forever, in a very good way.
To set the back story, I was an English teacher in South Korea. During a long weekend, I headed to Japan for a three night break with a group of friends. We had a few drinks, had a few more drinks, and before we knew it we trying to order vegetarian breakfast muffins in McDonalds before being forcibly removed – however helpful you think that you are being, restaurant staff do not want customers to help with the cooking of food. For this reason, please remain on your side of the counter at all times.
Giving up our silliness for the night, we decided to go home…. Until my friend and I bumped into a couple of young ladies – and attractive young ladies can be the downfall of young men around the world. Rather than going to bed, we joined them for a drink, failing to initiate any real conversation as we shared no common language. Shortly after the sun rose we realised that we were in imminent danger of missing our bus. We left the bar at full sprint, got hopelessly lost, took a taxi to the wrong place, and by the time we found our hostel, all of our friends had gone. We jumped into another taxi, raced to the bus station, arrived just in time to catch our bus, and ended up at the wrong platform. By the time we found the correct platform, our bus had departed minutes earlier. In case you are wondering why we didn’t just call or message our friends, this story occurs five years ago at a time when neither my friend nor I owned a smart phone. In fact, neither of us had a working phone in Japan, making our friends completely unreachable at the time.
In the train station we found out that train tickets would cost us the equivalent of £130. Not wanting to pay that sum of money, we decided to hitchhike. By now it was about eight in the morning. From a small cafe we were given a paper bag, onto which we wrote ‘Hiroshima’, the name of the town we were going to. We then proceeded to ask everyone who would listen (and some who wouldn’t) where we should go to reach Hiroshima.
At length, we got a ride, but not to Hiroshima – but three hours in the right direction. I fell asleep in the car and we ended up taking a train to Fukuoka instead. It cost £113, so we didn’t save much money, but we did have an awful lot of fun. We met up with our friends in Fukuoka (by using an internet cafe as we had no phones) before heading back to South Korea to return to our teaching jobs. I then had a thought – what if I kept on hitchhiking without a plan, without an end date?
I wrote the idea down in my notepad and several months later, that is exactly what I did. I finished my teaching contract in South Korea, headed back to the UK for a friend’s wedding, and hit the road with a tent and a sleeping bag to hitchhike alone for the very first time. I was (technically) homeless and unemployed, but very happy. What ensued was one of the most life changing and eye opening journeys I have ever undertaken – it didn’t enlighten me or make me a better person, but it positively affected my life. All because of one silly drunken night in Japan.
You can read the full story in The Boy Who Was Afraid Of The World or subscribe to the Great Big Scary World YouTube channel to watch more videos from the journey.