Solo travel and the Japanese traveller

First travelled independently when I was 20. At that time on the road, there were very few Asians, much less people from Malaysia/Singapore. Often I am the first person that people have met from this region!

Amongst the few independent travellers/backpackers from Asia that I encountered back then, many of them were from Japan and some from Korea. I didn’t think much of it then, and just attributed it to the Japanese yen that perhaps made it more affordable to travel over the world. I remember those compact Japanese guidebooks; unlike the chunky LPs or Let’s Go-s, they are usually light and thin but packed with valuable information which you sometimes can’t get in the former. At the time I was still using a simple film camera; but the great Japanese travellers were already carrying those tiny digital cameras.

Fast forward to now: I have just returned from Hokkaido, this being my maiden trip to Japan. Can I be audacious enough to think I caught a glimpse of the source of wanderlust in its people? The adventurous spirit is evident in the number of Japanese people cycle-touring, motorbike-touring, camping and hiking. Out in the wilderness bits of Hokkaido, there is really very little to do except embrace nature, so maybe that accounted for the many people seen indulging in outdoor activities.

But what struck me most was the number of people travelling solo, regardless of age or gender (although more males than females).

One morning at a campsite. I was brushing my teeth. Next to me was a lady in her late 50s in a bright yellow jumper, putting on make-up. Putting on make-up while camping? I was bewildered, and at the same time felt unpolished by comparison. We tried to chat but sadly my Japanese is nowhere near conversation level. Later, I saw her pack up her tent, donned on her leather jacket and zoomed off on a monster kick-ass motorbike. How absolutely cool!

Two things to think about here:

Firstly, it’s perfectly ok to be stylish while being in the great outdoors. Of course style is personal – cosmetics, au naturel complexion – take your pick!

Secondly, and most importantly, let not age, gender nor perceived social conventions prevent you from going on that adventure you’ve longed for.

This trip to Japan has given me quite a bit to think about. Will write more about it on the chinese blog.

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