The desire to wander in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic
Posted on 13th Apr 2020 by Bob Heffill

For Quest Japan and Hike Japan walking adventures, the pandemic and travel restrictions have resulted in all our spring tours being cancelled and uncertainty about summer and autumn 2020.

The word ‘unprecedented’ is being widely used about this pandemic. The numbers affected are huge, and measures in place to help stop the spread are some of the most severe I can remember. However, there have been a number of global events which have had a significant impact on the travel business since I started Hike Japan in 2003, seventeen years ago:

. In the couple of years before I decided to embark on this venture, there had been the September 11 2001 (9/11) attacks and the subsequent ‘War on Terrorism’.

. The Iraq War, the Second Gulf War, started on 20 March 2003.

. The world was also dealing two SARS pandemics at the time which, like COVID-19, originated in China, in 2002 and 2004.

. The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, considered to have been the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

. The Great East Japan Earthquake which occurred at 14:46 (JST) on Friday 11 March 2011, the catastrophic tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

These crises have made the challenge of keeping our travel business going particularly difficult. But we have survived, and our journey continues. Life’s challenges can change us, make us stronger.

A couple of quotes, the first from Haruki Murakami, the author of a book on the sarin gas attack in Tokyo in 1995, Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” Haruki Murakami

We may emerge from events changed, indeed the world as we know it might change, but time and time again I’ve seen how our passion for travel, our desire to explore and seek adventure, are not diminished

“Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind – filled with a strong desire to wander.”
Matsuo Bashō, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches

Green exercise, including mountain hiking, walking, and getting into nature, great for relieving stress, may be just the thing to do once we move beyond this pandemic and all travel restrictions now keeping us at home.

Walking through the woods

Just me and my endorphins

Japan mountain high

Richare Thaler, Early Spring Imperial Pilgrimage Route tour, April 2008

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