It’s addictive really. Something changes inside of you after volunteering in Ishinomaki. Or maybe nothing changes. Maybe something wakes up. It would be superficial to call it by any range of emotion it covers. Instead I will refer to it as belonging. For the first time in three years of living in Japan, I belonged, I’m needed, I fit. Even those born or raised here seem to leave Ishinomaki with that same sense of belonging. Where does that come from?
Touching that cyclical rythmn of life, for just a moment, inevitably leaves you unbearably thirsty, extravagantly wiser, and horribly exhausted.
Four more days we spent there. Our team shoveled, shoveled, and shoveled. The stories are never ending. A woman related her house’s survival due to a tree transplanted by her late father. A burly sea urchin fisherman gave us a CD of his son’s band’s tribute to Ishinomaki. And an elderly resident thanked me for being the object of her laughter after terribly dancing the so-ren setsu (a traditional fisherman dance) [I'll post pictures once I have permission].
We worked side by side teams of Japanese people from throughout Japan. We worked side by side residents helping neighbor’s rebuild. We worked side by side those who’s homes disappeared along with the water. Every connection we made will last a lifetime, I can feel it.
Not to mention, every night we ate and slept with many other volunteers. We had a miniature society of kind hearted slightly crazy people all placed in one room. During the day, I belonged to a cleaning crew. During the night, I suddenly belonged to a giant slumber party. I have so many memories from such a short period of time. We did yoga, played card games, shared food (of which I had very little… Everyone remembers my noodles for that is basically all I had)… We even have inside jokes (CMMだよです). There are no words in my limited English and Japanese vernacular. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic to have met such wonderful people.
Is that why I’m begging to go back?
It’s deeper than that.
Yes, everything I’ve tried so desperately to relay in the past few posts bleed with the attempt at portraying the beauty of Ishinomaki coupled with the beauty of volunteering… It’s not my reason for wishing to go back. I also think it isn’t the reason anyone goes back. It may be wonderful to help, and enjoying the process adds a lot, but that’s just the surface.
If you think about it, If you delve into the desire to return, If you pause for a moment and look around, it’s everywhere. The tsunami, water, buried homes and countless lives, but the world goes on. The gardeners tend to their gardens. The fisherman take up new posts. A society licks its wounds. Like a phoenix, a city rebuilds.
This cycle, this key moment where creation replaces devastation, destruction, and dilapidation, is key. Touching that natural cycle of creation, being a part of the order of things, and having a chance at placing yourself in the crux of recreation. That’s where it comes from.
That is why I’m going back.
So what happened?!? Right? I promise to keep everyone updated and I go dark for two weeks. Well, I took a day of rest after temple 38, so it seemed liked the best time to setup blogging from my phone. Wish me luck!
Though we may stumble, we must never forget to keep our chin up and eyes fixed on the horizon ahead
Eyes On The Prize
In the first few days, I was slammed with what felt like a scalding fire directly below my left knee. This was accompanied by a massive amount of blisters and general sunburn. After only the fourth day I had to take my first day off. It was devastating to say the least.
But I fought.
Through the pain I realized nothing comes to those who don’t withstand the tests put before them. My fellow Hikers had many problems that I escaped from easily. My tent is warm at night. My rain gear (North Face Pro Hard Shell FTW!) is excellent, and I had the luxury of two years gym training under my belt. Even with these luxuries i have had to withstand other mishaps. However, I’m always willing to get back on the horse.
When Will We Learn About The Hike??
Well, there are a few answers. (1) You can follow me on Twitter. From there I will update whenever possible. Soon I hope to take more pictures of other people and temples. For now it is mostly small updates on my location. (2) You can keep reading my blog! Please do! However, I must apologize that I won’t have as much time to update it as I will Twitter.
I’m excited to keep moving! I’m soon entering the second half of the Henro portion of my journey. As it continues, I’ll update you on what’s going on, rant about philosophy, and provide some first hand experience for those wishing to follow in my footsteps.
Teeth-chattering, gut-wrenching, and consciousness-challenging… All words I’ve recently used to explain my newest adventure to my students, here in Japan. Every time I’ve mentioned the idea and the diet/exercise program I’ve adopted along the way, my wonderful students wonder audibly whether my sanity has been in check, or thrown by the wayside.
Change is inevitable. Controlling change creates results in otherwise impossible situations.
Just one piece of the provided puzzle; Every day, when I wake up, and when I go to bed, I heat a cup of tea, draw a bath, and throw in a few bags of ice. I then proceed to jump in, and ride it out for 20 minutes. Doing so, my body, after exercise, feels sore less, and I will possibly lose centimeters off of my waist. But why go through the trouble?
You see, recently I’ve become a fan of Tim Ferriss’ new book, The 4 Hour Body. This books fascinates me. I’ve had the chance of reading many books detailing different diet plans, different plans for gaining or losing weight, but this one struck a note I don’t usually let the world see. A secret world that few have realized exists. I’m happy to say that I’ve been a member since my 7th grade science project entitled, “Sleep Deprivation and it’s Effects on a Middle School Student.”
Self Preservation vs. Self Renewal
What I’m talking about can easily be expressed in two words, “Self Experimentation.” It sounds crazy, really. Thinking of this conjures up images of illicit drugs and back alleyways. Well, To calm my family down, I’d like to quickly lay out my little disclaimer:
I am in no way, tampering with illegal substances, attempting to do anything crazy, and definitely not shooting myself up with heroin or anything of the sort.
With that out of the way, let me describe my interpretation of Self Experimentation. I’ve always been interested in my abilities, strengths, and most importantly weaknesses. Why do I have acne? why can’t I do the splits? Why can I only stay awake for 56 hours without hallucinations? From these questions, I always find myself reaching for the limits of my ability and recording the results along the way. Let me say that last piece once again, recording the results along the way. I believe Self Experimentation, simply stated, provides evidence (although anecdotal at times) for those performing more clinical studies. We do this everyday. we risk holding cell phones to our face (or worryingly keeping them in our pants), why not be more conscious of things and provide results whenever possible.
That book, is, like… an instruction booklet for physical Self Experimentation. Okay, that doesn’t describe it exactly. It’s more like the diary of a Self Experimenter.
With that, I’ve slowly been revamping my base site, http://krijali.net to showcase my present self-experiments. The first one can be described as a combination of characteristics found in the earlier mentioned literature. If you would like to learn more about these experiments, please subscribe to my base-blog and you’ll receive updates whenever my body decides to produce results one way or another!
Masochism vs. Curiosity
Some of my friends have asked me if I revel in pain. I’d like to clear everything, and say no… no, I don’t. What I revel in can be described as possibilities. What can I do? What can you do? What are we capable of, alone, and together? And for that, I do something as crazy as take two ice filled baths every day.
This last weekend I took a quick trip to my favorite backpacking store in this area. After spending many hours in the store, I finally made a few purchases. I have been saving for a while and it was finally time to make the first major set of purchases.
What’s most important when hiking for three months?
Sleep, sleep, sleep and feet. With that, my first purchase consisted of a sleeping bag, a mattress, shoes and more socks! The sleeping bag was recommended to me by a friend. It’s a Mont-bell ultra light spiral Down Hugger (#3). It’s graded for a comfortable 0 degrees Celsius, and it’s really really small.
The mattress is an ultra-light, 165 cm mattress from a company called Isuka. Originally, I planned on buying a shorter mattress but… then again, I’ll be hiking for a few months.
I also purchased Keen hybrid-life hiking shoes. I’m really excited to get out with them!
AAAAAND some socks.
The Next Step
The next step is to continue my training, save money, and work on the next purchases. Next, I’m looking at tents, clothes, and smaller items. Soon, I’ll post more on the development of the themes I want to portray along the way!
The Inevitable Wall
As with any project, there have been many pitfalls along the way. I’ve had difficulties, recently, finding time to go for practice hikes, finding time to study Japanese, and finding time to think over my goals and reasoning for such a taxing journey. More importantly, I haven’t had time to update all of you regarding the status of things as time goes on. Originally, my plan was to update you twice a week. After a while, this schedule wasn’t conducive to the events that actually went down. Plus, I want to begin a Japanese version of this blog.
So I’ve decided to update when it hits me. Easy enough, right?
Not exactly. Instead of adhering to a schedule, it’ll be difficult to have accountability. So I’ve created a system. That system is chocolate. If I finish a post, I’ll eat a piece of chocolate. Let’s see how it goes!
Given The Circumstances
With this in mind, I’ve still had many steps and leaps toward my goal. The cash needed for the hike has been building slowly. However, with each day comes a new chance to slip up. I’ve come to demand of myself a todo list in the morning. More of an anti-todo list. With a few select items, I mark the slight travesty of accomplishment. For example:
- Don’t spend money needlessly at convenience stores.
- Don’t waste hours without purpose.
- Don’t check Digg every 23 seconds.
This list contains the things I wish not to do during the day. The list won’t strictly control my life, just provide a reminder of what I don’t want to do.
The Bottom Line
I’ve hit many hardships along the way, especially in the form of cash, but there’s always a chance to find opportunities in situations that otherwise seem to have none. Every moment overwhelmingly overflows with decisions. Each decision provides a different path for the future. Interestingly enough, each path has consequences and each path has benefits. Focusing on the benefits and acknowledging the consequences provides a consciousness of the situation. And so,
My new goal; Maximize every moment to it’s full potential. I recommend you do the same.
Like everyone else, I have many bad habits. My hike will require mastering these bad habits in order to make sure they don’t get in the way of my goals. So I’ve created a goal of smashing one bad habit a month. The first one being my spending habits. I plan to instill the following five mantras in myself by the end of the may.
1 – When it comes to money, I come first
Exactly. Many financial books explain this in detail. Basically it goes like this: Every paycheck I receive, I pay myself; Every payment I receive, I pay myself; Every investment that matures, I pay myself. Putting yourself before your bills will ultimately help you save money, control spending, and become generally happy. Now, this doesn’t mean going out to dinner after each paycheck. It simply means taking that first chunk of money and investing it in yourself (Read: Chocolate, Stocks, and CDs).
2 – If it’s convenient, it probably isn’t a good idea
Vending machines, convenience stores, fast food, and low end restaurants in general have it in for me. Not just me, you’re on their list too. We all are. For this reason (and for my wallet) I’m going to avoid convenience food like the plague. Sadly, this means I must spend more money when I go out to eat. That’s true, but my more expensive outings are rare in comparison to the daily stops at convenience stores.
This doesn’t include food-that-happens-to-be-convenient. For instance, I have very healthy noodles and natural cheese that I tend to eat every morning. It’s very convenient. I simply boil the noodles, shred the cheese and I have breakfast! I’ve avoided all of the preservatives, pesticides, and gag-inducing artificial ingredients. More importantly, I save a lot of money at the same time.
3 – Watch out for costly addictions
Happily, I don’t smoke and I rarely drink. This doesn’t mean I have avoided having a laundry list of addictions. I love chocolate, coffee, and gadgets as well as the next Wes Andersen film. Thankfully the latter are few and far between. Anyway, because of these addictions, I tend to spend a lot of money. I buy chocolate, I go out to cafes, And I quote Bill Murray. It’s high time I stop spending money out of an emotional craving.
4 – Mottainai! (もったいないなぁ）
Wikipedia defines mottainai as “a sense of regret concerning waste when the intrinsic value of an object or resource is not properly utilized.” That’s a mouthful. Basically, if something isn’t used to it’s full extent, it’s a waste. Like throwing away blank paper, coffee grounds, or grandma. As lazy as you may be, grandma is still useful. With this in mind, I hope to cut down on my wasting of materials I could be using and reusing.
5 – I costly investment trumps any deteriorating shortcuts
It sounds counter-intuitive when you first read it, but I promise it’s not. Anything I purchase, I see as an investment. Whether it be stocks, food, or Japanese learning textbooks. Seeing things as an investment will change your perspective on everyday objects. If I have a few dollars to spend, I could use it on a new small textbook, McDonald fries, or a few songs on iTunes. It’s all relative to whatever my goals are.
Why am I telling you all of this? And what’s with that graph? Well, a month into planning, I just realized I still spend an obscene amount of cash at local convenience stores. Each purchase has been small. Maybe a 200 yen drink one day, and a 500 yen package of beef jerkey the following morning. This quickly destroys any budget I had. It’s true that sometimes it can’t be helped. (Read: I like to sleep in). However, my spending could easily be curtailed if I were to place accountability on myself.
By making my goals, mistakes, dreams, misfortunes, and winnings public, I plan to become the master of my shortcomings.
For that reason, I’ve decided to display a graph of daily goals publicly. Each day, I will enter in the positives and negatives within the field of each month’s goal. And instead of boring you with a detailed description of my daily habits, I’ve provided a cute graph (from Joe’s Goals) that’ll show my progress in any given month.
The first month: Spending.
To consolidate the laundry list of advice I’ve received lately, I thought it would be ideal to let everyone in on my progress. After reading through e-mail, comments, and links to other blogs; I’ve narrowed down the list to key ingredients which hadn’t entered my mind without the help of those who’ve gone before me. Without further ado:
PACK and BOOTS
Anyone familiar with the Puss in Boots would see the importance of boots. Along with this, I’ve been reminded about the importance of trying on everything. Happily I have a year to look around locally before buying anything!
Psh! Who needs maps?
Yeah – my thought exactly. Seriously, why would you need maps while hiking for five months??? (Read: Sarcasm)
Freezing Sleeping Bags!
The rating system of sleeping bags are not necessarily a comfortable temperature. They’re more of a minimum (who knew!)
A Blade (not that one)
Although I would prefer bringing a sword (Wouldn’t that just be awesome?), a small utility knife could come in handy. So for now it’s made the list.
Water Bladders F(or)T(he)W(in)!
I do think it will be a much better idea to use a bladder system as opposed to water bottles.
Calculate, Calculate, Calculate
I received overwhelming amounts of advice when it comes to calculating different things. Whether that be calories, distances, or the best time to see cherry blossoms on Shikoku.
This was brought to my attention. Very, very, very important.
Spending the afternoon crawling through the web of backpacking supply chains, I’ve come up with the possible candidates for my supplies for the trip! This is a brainstorming post, so please bear with me. I will keep an esimated running total as we go. Please critique my selections!
I never knew there was such a vast array of backpacks. I did some preliminary searches and came upon the Deuter 65 liter bag. The Deuter 65 liter seems like it would fit me the best. (My torso height is roughly 18 inches, the journey will probably require between 60 and 70 liters). I’ve been searching around stores in the town I currently live in (Shunan, Yamaguchi, Japan), and sadly they had nothing hardcore enough to work. So I will be buying this through Amazon, here. (Unless one of my awesome commenters have a better idea). Running Total: ￥22,500 ($225)
This will be a little murky. My plan is to simply buy local, breathable clothes. I would love to buy some fisherman pants, but I don’t know how well that will go down. As I listed in my first costs post, I plan to buy sunglasses as well. I am setting aside around ￥30,000, bringing my running total to ￥52,500 ($525)
Completely based on personal preference, I’ll set a budget at ￥10,000. I would love to hear any opinions, and I’ll be e-mailing around to see what people have to say about this. Running Total: ￥62,500 ($625)
Whooo! This is difficult to decide on. I will be hiking for 5 months. I assume I will need something that will be rated at 0 degrees celsius. From there, I’ve found possibilities locally between ￥7,000 and ￥9,000. With that, I also plan on ordering a bivy sack. I found this one, but I have a feeling it’s too expensive. Running Total: ￥94,500 ($945)
As seen everywhere you search for Henro(ness) (The pilgrimage around Shikoku), it’d be best to wear clothes like this. I assume it will cost me under ￥10,000, bringing my running total to ￥104,500 ($1045)
Other Hiking Gear
At last I will be setting aside another ￥15,000 for other hiking essentials. This will include a first aid kit, a shovel, a compass, maps, and water bladders. Running Total: ￥119,500 ($1195)
Okay, this is one of the most fun to research for me, being a geek. I will be bringing a handheld camera, similar to the Flip HD. I decided to go with the Kodak Zi8. The reasoning for this was the ability to swap out CF cards. This will make it possible to shoot an unlimited amount (well, almost). I will do a few tests whether I need to buy extra batteries. With this I will be purchasing as many CF cards as I can before I go (because of that I won’t be figuring them into this total for right now). Running Total:￥139,500 ($1395)
Why solar charging? The goal here was to keep off the electrical grid as much as I possibly can. I will be bringing my phone (mostly for emergency purposes) as well as the camera. So, I started looking for solar charging that could work in a backpacking environment. So, I spent a long time looking for the most rugged panels I could as well as the largest panels that would work. It turns out, I think I will be better off buying a Solio Mag and a Solio Rocsta. I decided on this mix though it may change. Running Total: ￥155,500($1555)
As far as food is concerned, I am planning about ￥1,000 a day. So a high estimate puts me at a running total of ￥300,000 ($3000)
I’ll be attempting to save another ￥400,000 for loans, taxes, shipping, and living costs after the trip is over. That brings my running total to ￥700,000 ($7,000).
Looking at my list, it looks a little daunting to find this money within 11 months. I hope it’s possible! Wish me luck, and if you know anywhere I could find things for cheaper, let me know! I would love to hear any and all opinions.
I’ve received many requests to explain the logistics of the trip as it’s planned thus far. So, I wrote this post for all of you who want to know more about me and my reasoning for this trip. I’ll try to make this quick and short for easy reading!
Location: Japan. Specifically around Shikoku, then to Kyoto, and then from there to Tokyo and back to Kyoto.
Distance: Around 2,500 km (1,500 miles)
Budget: Roughly 550,000円 ($5,500)
Departure Date: March 1st, 2011
Arrival Date: Between July 1st and July 20th
Distance per day: Between 15km/day and 20km/day (7 miles/day and 14 miles/day)
Why do it?
I touched on this with the mission statements. There are really a few goals.
- To help other people – This entails finding every possible way I could help people from helping people I know to random acts of kindness. I’m not trying to save the world with this trip, simply trying to be more spontaneous with compassion.
- To prove I can do it – I want to prove to myself that it is possible, and along with this I want to prove to others the same goal. It isn’t the longest hike ever, or even the longest hike in Japan. However I believe it is unique in it’s goals and configuration. That uniqueness is key. Instead of doing exactly as someone else has done before, I’m tweaking things I’ve seen from the past to fit my dream.
- To provide a path for others - I want this trip to be in writing, on video, and on Twitter. From there, I want to give others the chance to create their own unique journey and enable those dreams as much as I can.
- To work on my Japanese - One of my goals in life is to become fluent in Japanese and French. My Japanese has steadily worked up to conversation level, and I want to take it much further than that!
Any other questions?
I hope that makes a few things clear. If anyone has anymore questions, I would love to answer them! My next few posts will be more about my research and a more thorough essay on enabling the dreams of others. I will keep this one open to editing if anyone has any ideas of what I should add! I look forward to hearing from you!