The colorful wolf

April 21, 2010

I suck at camping

Filed under: Spirit of Japan,Thoughts — randy @ 18:38
Tags: ,

I get the feeling that I’m not feeling what I’m supposed to be feeling. More on that later.

As said in my previous post, I could stop anywhere, so I did. I didn’t quite make it all the way to the southernmost point of the peninsula, I’m still about 25km’s away from it. I commenced my ‘usual’ strategy of starting to look for a place to set up my tent around 16:00. It took me over 20 minutes to even find a place that would remotely be worth considering for a place to stay for the night. This is doubly annoying for me because this place is the opposite of what I thought it would be. When I went cycling to the southernmost point of the Shikoku island there was one (narrow) road, to the left of it the ocean, and to the right of it a mountain. No place to sleep anywhere. This road though, is wide, and has a bloody McDonalds and KFC and a huge shopping center next to a fairly large town! How can I get in the camping mood when it’s like that?!

Anyway, I finally ventured into a weird street that eventually dead-ended at a luxury hotel. I turned around and on that some road going back I encountered an old man at the side of the road, unloading timber from one of his cars to one of his other cars(?!). I asked him if he knew of a good place to camp or put up a tent in the area, and he told me there was no such thing, but I could stay here. Right here, where he was unloading his stuff, at a small ‘parking’ area at the side of the road. He also told me that putting up a tent is too much trouble and I could stay in one of his abandoned cars that he had parked there. This place by the way is really small, maybe 10 meters long by 2 meters wide. Several cars were parked there, including a huge truck filled with wood and covered with dust and twigs and rocks, as the area was next to a cliff, and most of the cars looked like they hadn’t been moved for at least 10 years. I thanked the guy for his kindness and told him I might be back later.

I went back to the national road, intending to cycle further, but not even 500 meters ahead there was a long tunnel and another uphill climb. At this point it was already getting dark so I decided to cycle back to see if I could find a better place to stay. I chose to follow a road near to the ocean and ended up at an awesome beach. Exploring the area for a suitable place to camp meant that I had to pass a horde of middle school girls who were playing at the stairs leading to the beach. As I passed them I got the usual ‘HARRO!!!’ that all Japanese children say to foreigners. I answered in Japanese: “I can understand Japanese, you know”, which got me a lot of giggles.

The place I found near the beach was perfect. It was hidden from view, located under a bridge, with a beautiful view of the beach and cliffs in the distance. All I had to do was wait for the sun to set and people to disappear, and I could set up my tent. I then got on my bicycle to find a restaurant for dinner, cycled 500 meters, found a business hotel, checked in, and that’s where I am now. This ends my ‘I suck at camping’ tale. Because of the horrible uphill in the morning and the long anti-sun afternoon break I only managed to do 80km today.

(Warning! Boring rant starts here)

I’m getting used to this lifestyle, so I’m finding more time to think along the way. One thing that pops up in my mind several times a day, usually during a tough uphill section, is: “Why the hell am I doing this?”. I swear a lot in my mind on the uphill sections. This is just a mild example.  My original purpose, conjured up while in the warm confines of my cozy little room in front of my big lcd screen, was to decide whether or not to stay in Japan or go back to Holland. I had hoped that, by pushing myself to my limits, I would get some interesting new perspective on life, and the ‘right’ decision would magically become clear. This is (perhaps obvious to an observer) absolutely not true. First of all, no matter how I try to see it, this trip is not a challenge. It’s certainly a heavy physical effort, but I am doing nothing new. I am going to places that I know how to handle, talking to people in a language that I understand, doing things that I’ve already done several times before. There is no mysterious new thing for me in this trip, 99% of it I know beforehand. My other reasoning was that this trip would give me some time to think over my situation, carefully consider every option I have and then decide what to do. This is also bullshit. Due to the physical exertion every day from 6AM to 5PM I am dead at the end of the day, and I don’t even want to think. This is getting easier the past few days (hence this blogpost), but still, my mind is preoccupied with daily life all the time. I always have something to do: break down the tent, pack my bags, cycle up a hill, look for a sleeping place, set up the tent again, find a place to eat, make dinner myself, etc. etc. Not a single free moment to think, except for those days that I find a business hotel or youth hostel, because in that case I save some energy by not having to put up my tent, inflate my sleeping mat, roll out my sleeping bag, prepare my warm sleeping clothes, etc. etc.

In other words: double fail! 1.  This trip is not the challenge I had hoped for. 2. This trip does not provide me with a new unique perspective on my situation nor enough time to think about why I went on this trip in the first place. Now that I know this, I am becoming less motivated to continue. I’m not sure any more what I’m supposed to be doing every day. On the one hand I want to enjoy the scenery and the sights and take my time, but the uncertainty of the weather and the uncertainty of finding a place to stay every night are making this difficult. On the other hand I want to cycle as fast as I can to the finish line so I can end this trip and do something else instead. I haven’t had a really bad day yet, where I wasn’t able to find a place to stay. Maybe I should aim for a day like that, it might make things interesting again.

Anyway, I’m too stubborn to give up something I’ve already started, so I’m definitely seeing this through to the end, even if the end is meaningless. Tomorrow is supposed to be rain again, unfortunately. Perhaps the weather is bringing me down, perhaps it’s the fact that everything is so much more… normal? difficult? gloomy? than I expected it to be. I remember the first trip I did with Kamil, cycling from Nagasaki to Kagoshima and then taking the ferry to a random island near Okinawa that turned out to become our favorite place. The weather was great all the time except for one day, and we always got lucky in finding a place to stay. We always ended near on onsen, river, or ocean, but always with a beautiful view, onsen or restaurant nearby. Oh well, I should stop ranting, have to get up early tomorrow. Cycling in the rain again…

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1 Comment »

  1. I think what’s most interesting is how your cycling trip is like a mini-metaphor for life in general. There are a few parallels from your post today that had me smiling:

    “This [life] is not the challenge I had hoped for.”

    “This [life] does not provide me with … enough time to think about why I [was born] in the first place.”

    “I’m not sure any more what I’m supposed to be doing every day.”

    “On the one hand I want to enjoy [the good things in life], but the uncertainty of [the bad things] are making this difficult.”

    And my favorite (in this new context):
    “Anyway, I’m too stubborn to give up something I’ve already started, so I’m definitely seeing this through to the end, even if the end is meaningless.”

    Based on your internal conflict, it looks like your philosophical journey is off to a good start. You weren’t getting this wet and tired just for some exercise, right?

    Perhaps cycling seems just like swapping out one daily grind for another, but the important distinction is now you’re working for yourself and not somebody else. In the same 24-hour day that everyone shares, you now have time to focus on thinking about yourself instead of other, less important distractions.

    I know you have a map for your cycling, but do you also have one for your introspection? This voyage of self-discovery might be frustrating or aimless if there isn’t a set of important questions to guide your thinking.

    So write down a few. What do you hope to find out?

    I just started reading The 4-Hour Workweek, so many of these are fresh in my mind, such as: “How would your priorities and decisions change if you could never retire?”

    “What is the pot of gold that justifies spending the best years of your life (working and) hoping for happiness in the last?”

    “Two hardworking chaps are headed toward each other. Chap A moving at 80 hours per week and Chap B moving at 10 hours per week. They both make $50,000 per year. Who will be richer when they pass in the middle of the night?”

    (I won’t add anymore to risk diluting what’s already here. Have fun!)

    Comment by b — April 22, 2010 @ 17:02 | Reply


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