Today our holiday officially came to an end. We’re heading home tonight and, as always when holidays end, it’s bitter sweet. Sweet in terms of remebering the experiences we’ve had, the things we’ve seen, and the people we’ve met; but bitter in that it’s all over! And so quickly; 2 weeks seems so short – we were only just getting into the swing of things!
One of the down sides to visiting such remote parts of Japan is that it takes AGES to get back to civlisation. Our train trip back from Shari to Sapporo (via Kushiro) took all day – or at least it felt like it. By the end of the 8 hour train journey Shane’s bum was numb and I was no longer fascinated by the scenery. Sure, the mountains, forests, valleys and farms were pretty, but even “pretty” has its limits. Still, the long travel day gave us lots of time to reflect on the last couple of weeks and to think about what others travels we want to do in the future.
It’s been great coming to this far Northern part of Japan and seeing some of the remotest, wildest and most spectacular areas in the country. All 3 of the national parks we visited (Rebun-Rishiri-Sarobetsu National Park, Daisetsuzan National Park, and Shiretoko National Park) were awesome in their own way, and they each offer a completely different kind of scenery and experience. For anyone who loves the great outdoors and wants to enjoy a completely different side of modern Japan, we say: do it! The joy of visiting these wildernesses for us was being able to enjoy the serenity, breath in the fresh air, soak in the atmosphere…., and then go back to the relative comfort of our hotel/ryokan for a good night’s sleep. We’re not mountaineers or madly adventurous*, and one of the joys of Japan for us is that you’re never too far from a (reasonably) civilised town. The public transport and roads are also great so you can easily access amazing natural sights just doing day trips (of course, if you’re looking for the camping, pooping-in-holes, multi-day-trekking-through-the-wilderness kind of experience you can easily do that here too, we just chose not to).
*Translation: If I have to dig a hole to poop in it, I’m not going. Not even if YOU paid ME.
Overall we’ve really enjoyed this, our third visit to Japan. We set out with the intention of seeing some amazing natural wonders and having some adventures, and we did. It’s also been really interesting coming back to a place we’ve been to before and seeing what’s familiar and what’s new. We’ve learnt that the key to enjoying a place we’ve been to previously is not to try and recreate the same experience we had last time – we just try to enjoy each visit for what it is and what it brings. Regardless of how many times we go back to a place we know each visit will be unique and the key for us is to get a much out of it as we can each time. Additionally we’ve also learnt that it’s important not to go anywhere with too many expectations of what that holiday will bring – you need to be open to whatever experiences are on offer.
It’s been quite interesting, thinking about the differences between travelling like this (i.e. on a “holiday”, when you know it’s for a finite amount of time and you know you have a job, a car, bills and a “regular” life to go back to), vs. travelling in that open-ended way we did during our sabbatical last year. We’ve noticed that when we’re on “holiday” we never quite unplug completely from the world – i.e. we have to keep an eye on emails coming through, make sure the bills are still getting paid, etc. During our sabbatical, however, there were none of those sorts of things to think about (or at least very few). The joy for us of travelling in that open-ended kind of way is that we had so few concerns and responsibilities, outside of the moment-to-moment considerations of travelling. Ultimately we had more freedom whilst on sabbatical; this, in some ways, made the whole experience more fun. Hmmmm…. maybe we’ll just have to take another sabbatical at some point in the future.
Whatever shape our next trip takes, one things for sure: we can’t wait to go travelling again! This short holiday in Japan has reinforced for us that travelling is the best investment we can make for ourselves. Coz life’s is not meant to be lived in one place!