Photo above – Somewhere near Pokhara, Nepal in 1997. I hiked up in my Holland footy shirt with a Japanese friend to get a glimpse of the Himalaya. All we got to see were clouds.
This isn’t a post about outdoor life in Japan so if that’s what you were after feel free to move on. But if you’re an E.U. citizen, and I know some of you that visit this website are, then I’d like to say a few words.
On January 31st the U.K. left the E.U. and it has made me sad, ashamed, and angry. Since the referendum I haven’t known whether to feel proud or embarrassed to be British. In all honesty I usually feel both in equal measure. I know that most Brits are tolerant and decent and are open to diversity and multi-culturalism but occasionally some can get caught up in a wild national narrative based on misguided notions of colonial greatness and superiority. Reading this this morning highlights that and disgusts me but it seems like the view of a disgruntled and ignorant individual. At least I hope so. Of course, the E.U. isn’t perfect and there is obviously a viable case for the U.K. leaving and going alone and taking back control. But from a freedom of movement perspective I’m saddened.
In a few years from now I will have spent more than half my life outside the U.K. and thanks to the kindness, tolerance, and acceptance of people from around the world my life abroad has been a wonderful experience. It has been the experience of my life. My first overseas trip was to the Netherlands. My first trip overseas alone was Inter-railing across Europe when I was 17 (Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, France, Monaco, and Spain). I had no money, no life experience, just pure blissful ignorance from what I was getting myself into. I even tried walking into a Monaco casino as a smelly, skint, 17-year old backpacker and being politely turned away, when in all honesty I should have been laughed away at the door. But that freedom! It was new, it was exotic, it was an adventure. It was the adventure that started all the other adventures. Throughout my childhood my father was often away in Munich, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Paris, any number of places for his job as a long-haul lorry driver. Europe always had a presence. I announced to my classmates during a Spanish GCSE class when I was 14 that I would travel the world and have been to Australia within ten years (I went when I was 20). It was that Spanish class, and my teacher in particular, that opened my eyes to the wider world because he had been given the opportunity to travel to Spain, learn Spanish, return to the U.K. and educate us all on the possibilities of travel, global cooperation, and foreign experiences. After the year in Australia I wanted to fly straight to Amsterdam to look for work instead of back home simply because the E.U. allowed me that opportunity.
If it wasn’t for the E.U. planting those seeds of freedom, global togetherness and mutual understanding then this website, my life in Japan – everything – would probably have been different.