Even when the journey is uncomfortable and tests our boundaries, hindsight always gift us with an appreciation for the experience. In Hitching Rides with Buddha, author Will Ferguson takes the experience of the journey-in this case a weeks-long hitchhiking expedition through Japan-and weaves it into a fascinating tale about the subtleties of Japanese culture. This book is an enlightening story about how our travels do so much more for us than provide a means for arriving at our destination.
Hitching Rides with Buddha is Ferguson’s tale of a trip he conceived in Japan while drunk on sake at a cherry blossom viewing party hosted by fellow teachers at the school where he taught. He decided he would hitchhike the entire length of Japan in order to follow the progression of the blooming cherry trees when they emerge each spring. No one had ever hitchhiked this route before or followed the cherry blossoms either. After drunkenly relaying his idea to his Japanese colleagues. Ferguson set out on the journey of his lifetime.
Hitching Rides with Buddha is a great quest story that provides an illuminating look into Japan. Ferguson intersperses tales of his journey with maps that let readers learn a little more about the geography of the country. He also writes about Japanese culture, discussing Buddhist altars, crime and safety in Japan, and capsule hotels among many other things. As a result, the book creates a comprehensive look at Japan, Japanese history, and living as a foreigner in Japan. It is a must-read for anyone thinking of visiting, or any readers who are curious about learning what it’s like to travel through another person’s perspective.
Ferguson, who is also a well-known comedian in Canada, has a way of conveying the culture shock that all travelers have experienced in a way that’s easy to identify with. Even if you’ve never been to Japan, the sensations of being unfamiliar with a place are the same the world over, and you might find yourself nodding in agreement with many of his observations.
Ferguson doesn’t just use his humor on a surface level to allow him to coast through his story. The book takes on a deeper, more reflective tone without pontificating about the romanticized traditional culture of Japan. This book is a great reminder that as travelers, we endure journeys that can be uncomfortable. But the memories we take away from these experiences are infinitely valuable.
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