ON THE WAY
STAY SALTY ...... travelers on the way
photographer / writer / traveler Kaori Kawamura
Go on a journey and be yourself
I can't remember where I read it at all, but there was an essay in which he said that he went to the edge of Sicily, to a place where the opposite bank was Africa, and suddenly felt with his whole body that he had come really far, standing alone.
When I imagined that scene, I felt the same feeling.
In a foreign country, where you don't understand much of the language, labels such as where you are from, where you went to school, and what kind of work you do at what company don't matter at all.
The only person you have is yourself, and that is an unreliable, unsettling, and very freeing situation.
When I look back on my past trips, I think it might have been comfortable to escape from Japan, where I felt like I had to be something, and just focus on what was in front of me each day of the trip and live.
Sitting idly in a sanctuary, listening to the sound of church bells on the wind, or just looking at my favorite painting in a 500-year-old building, those were the times when I could be in harmony with myself without putting myself in any kind of frame, and that was truly living in the "here and now.
A few years after studying European history at university, I went to Europe on my first overseas trip.
It was a month-long trip to visit six countries: England, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain, and France.
With a copy of "Globe-Trotter", "Thomas Cook's Timetable", a Eurail pass and an open-ticket air ticket, I traveled completely free with a friend who was a former colleague.
My friend had only been to Hong Kong on a tour before, and neither of us spoke English very well.
Even so, we chose to go on a freelance trip, perhaps because we had heard about a woman who had traveled to Europe alone on a budget airline ticket the year before.
Although I had been exposed to English since I was a child and even corresponded with an American, it was still a time when Japanese people did not casually go abroad.
The tours were very expensive, and as I looked at the pictures of foreign countries, I wondered if I would ever be able to go there.
So when I saw the London cityscape from the window of the train I took from Heathrow Airport after an endless and unreachable flight on the southbound Singapore Airlines, I remember having a strange, half-dreamlike feeling that I was really in England.
At the same time, I suddenly felt a bit nervous, wondering if my friend and I would be able to make it alone for the next month.
Although there was no Internet and not many travel programs, the number of Japanese backpackers with a copy of "Globe-Trotter" in their hands was increasing.
People began to know that carrying a copy of "Globe-Trotter" meant you were Japanese, and they told me to be careful if I opened this guidebook on the street because I would be a target.
Although we had a rough idea of the route we would take to visit each country and town, we would check the Thomas Cook timetable each time to see if we could find the right station and the right time to change trains.
There was a time when we couldn't decide which direction to go and wondered which country we should go to in the Munich station, but it was a luxurious thing to think about later.
we also took the night train a few times and slept in a normal compartment with a chair pulled out to make a bed and the door curtains closed (although it was uncomfortable because people would open the door in the middle of the night).
When we arrive in a new town, ask the information desk to recommend a place to stay, or call a cheap hotel to make a reservation.
We felt uneasy when we couldn't find a place to stay, but once we did, we were relieved and suddenly felt energetic enough to start walking around the town.
While there is a lot of nervousness and anxiety, there are also fun encounters and coincidences.
When we met a Japanese person on the train who was also traveling freelance, we exchanged information on how that town in that country was, who's paintings were in that museum, and so on, and we even stayed at a pension together.
When we were lost on the way to my hotel in Switzerland, we were approached by a Japanese family stationed there and invited to their home for tea.
The Euro was still a long way off, and each country had a different currency exchange rate, so we had to be smart about how much money we exchanged and how well we spent it.
The only way to get information is to try your best to ask people in a foreign language or to get it by foot.
It was a lot of hard work, but all of the hassle was ingrained in me, and it became a treasured experience.
This first trip inspired me to start learning Italian after a while, and after that I started to go out mainly by myself in Italy.
My first trip to Italy alone was a trip to visit several pen pals, which was another tense and varied experience.
As I became more and more accustomed to being in a foreign country, the feeling of being a nobody began to fade away.
The last time I took an international flight was to Austria in December 2003.
I haven't been abroad since then.
I was supposed to go to Italy and Paris in October 2020 for the first time in 19 years, but that's not happening either.
While I was away from home, I was trying to become a "proper member of society" with my feet on the ground.
However, as the years have gone by, I have come to realize that distracting myself from my true nature and fitting into the framework of society is not the way to be grounded.
What was important was to get rid of labels such as titles and careers, and when I stood alone in some distant land, I could smile and think that I was unconditionally worthy of existence.
Yet, when I am in society, sometimes I am conscious of the outside and try to put a label on myself.
That's why I want to get on an airplane again, go to a faraway place, and vaguely listen to the sound of church bells carried by the wind.
photographs and text - Kaori Kawamura
photographer / writer / traveler
Ever since I was a child, I have been drawing pictures (comics), writing, and taking pictures.
I've always been trying to send out something.
I hope that I can be a switch that changes someone's perspective and feelings.
I hope to continue expressing myself through words, pictures and photos.