This Odd Arrangement

My time was running out as quickly as sand through a glass. Back in the real world–the nontravel world–I was caught up in this odd arrangement whereby I agreed to spend all day doing things that were unbearably dull and monotonous for which I was compensated financially, much in the manner of a sea lion being rewarded with a halibut.

This is from Hokkaido Highway Blues by Canadian humorist Will Ferguson. It’s a superb book if you’re interested in Japan and great if you’re into long-term travel more generally. Ferguson hitch-hiked his way up Japan from southernmost Cape Sata to northerly Rishiri Island, following the cherry blossoms as they erupt across the country.

How much more Escapological–how much more motile–could you be? For a time, anyway.

Ferguson worked as an English language teacher in a Japanese high school before undertaking his journey. He saved up some money and took a period of leave with which to enjoy a micro-escape and to complete his adventure. There’s a sense throughout the book of playing hooky, of avoiding responsibility, of being on the lam, and–because of his limited funds and his intention to go back to work at the end of the adventure–of time running out.

If you’ve ever taken a micro-escape/mini-retirement (perhaps you’re on one now?) you’ll be familiar with this sensation: of ticking-clock countdown dread, of agoraphobic near-total liberty, of damn-it-all-to-hell Selma and Louise cliff-edge exhilaration. Beats sitting at a desk.

Give it a read. Ferguson has good insights into Japan and travel more generally, and he’s good company at the same time: a funny fellow and a devil-may-care fellow traveller.

(You could also check out Issue Seven of New Escapologist for an introduction to Hitch-Hiking; and Issue Six for an article about “Freeter,” the Japanese Escapologists.)

About

Robert Wringham is a humorist and the editor-in-chief of New Escapologist.

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