How did this happen? I am staggering along the corridor towards my cabin and everything is slightly wonky and I know it is not from the movement of the boat. People are looking at me in a funny way, or is that my paranoia? What’s Karen going to say? 2 hours ago she left me on the top deck, sketching the horizon. (On our trip I got into sketching as it made me stop and observe more than just taking a photo and moving on). Now, I am pretty drunk and I didn’t spend a penny on alcohol.
We are on the boat from Osaka, Japan to Shanghai, China. It takes around 48 hours to get to Shanghai which is the pace of travel we have gotten used to since we left London 6 months ago. So far we have travelled by train, bus, horse, and boat. Who knows what else we will be travelling on over the next year. Slow travel is so rewarding. You get to see stuff that you will never see when you are 39,000 ft in the air. You also get to have experiences that rarely happen on an aeroplane. Like this one.
The sun was slowly setting over the East China Sea. I had almost finished my sketch when I heard people shouting out to me. A group of Japanese travellers were sitting on the floor drinking. They called me over to join them and I accepted. These first 6 months of travel have taught me to say yes to everything. By doing that we have had some amazing experiences so far and many tales to tell when we get back home. Si a todo!
The Japanese really let their hair down during Sakura (Cherry Blossom Season) and when they leave Japan. The group I joined met on the boat and decided to have a drink together on the top deck to admire the views. I learnt more about Japan in those few hours than I did in the month we were in Japan travelling around. They wouldn’t let me buy a drink. Maybe it is a Japanese custom where if you invite someone to join you then it is up to you to provide the refreshments. Normally I would have felt bad about not buying my round in but we still had a year of backpacking to go so if somebody offers you a free drink (free anything actually) then you accept it!
The Japanese rarely get longer than a week off work at a time so they tend to travel close to home. Places like London and Barcelona are on their wishlist but they generally wait until they retire before travelling long haul. One of my drinking buddies told me a funny story about Japanese travellers in Paris. It turns out that for a lot of Japanese people, Paris is their dream destination. They mainly get inspired by Hollywood movies so they have a rose-tinted view of the French capital. Now, I love Paris, I could easily live there but we all know that the real Paris is nothing like the movies. So imagine these ultra polite Japanese retirees in Paris for the first time. They have waited and waited and they finally get to the Paris they watched in Amelie. Wrong! In fact, the experience is such a culture shock for them that many of them literally have a breakdown and there is a helpline they can call to explain to them why Paris isn’t like they imagined! There is even a medical term for it – Paris syndrome. This is why I love slow travel, you really get to talk to your fellow travellers and learn new things.
As I knock on the cabin door, I realise that I need to hold on to something to stop me from falling over. I swear the sea has got rougher. Karen opens and starts laughing instantly. She knew from the moment she saw me that I was slightly tipsy. My new-found friends demanded that I drag her out to carry on our session in the canteen area. Who was I to argue, after all, the drinks were on the house and we had all the time in the world. The perks of taking it slow.