Follow your Thumb

By Dan Yoder

My heart pulled me to Japan , my gut sent me to Sapporo, but I followed my thumb across the country. Wanderlust took over and  I quit my job , packed a bag, swallowed any anxieties I had and stepped out on the side of the  road to hitch my first ride.

Three months have past since I first stuck out my thumb on a chilly November morning in Asahikawa. From this experience I would eventually discover that Japanese hospitality went far beyond my knowledge and that generosity to a perfect stranger still exists in this world. I have to admit I was hooked from the start. There is so much excitement in meeting new people and not knowing where you will end up at the end of the day.

First I hitched across the length of Hokkaido from Rebun island all the way down to Hakodate. It was excellent but I recommend doing this type of trip in summer for obvious reasons. Along the way I met so many interesting people , ate delicious food and made so many unforgettable memories.

From Hokkaido my thumb eventually led me all the way down to Okinawa. Every city I stopped in had something great to offer and a different twist on the culture I have grown so accustomed to in Hokkaido .  After six years of living in Japan and a month of hitchhiking I can confidently say there is always something new to learn about this county.

If you are interested in this kind of trip here are a few pointers that should help you out. First , study Japanese! Many people are nervous to pick up foreigners if they can’t communicate, but don’t let this stop you. Second make a fun sign with the direction or city you are travelling to. Third be patient , I usually waited about 10 minutes to catch a ride, but at times it took over two hours before someone stopped . Also try to stand in front of places ( convenience stores , bus stops, parking lots ) that are easy for the cars to pull over. Finally the most important thing is to smile and make eye contact with the passing drivers. With these few tips you are ready for an amazing adventure.

Recently I have moved on from Japan and am now traveling around Southeast Asia. My experience hitching sharpened my traveling skills and opened my eyes to how beautiful this world really is. But it all started by putting myself out there and just doing it! I encourage you all to give hitchhiking a shot and there is no better place to try than Japan . Life is short , keep exploring! The best time to trace is right now !


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