World Travel by Bicycle: 350000 km in 30 years

Yasuo Noguchi is a veteran of world travelling. His specialty is bicycle. He has completed the round-the-world bicycle trip twice, and now doing section-hiking like world travel; take a week or so bike vacation every year to complete the round-the-world travel in long run.

There are, it turned out, more world travellers than I thought. Once I start looking on the web and bookstore (I mean, amazon), there are more than enough books about world travel. It almost seems like every world traveller ended up writing at least one book about their stories.

This book is full of stories and tips. Plus, he is doing this for over 30 years, that gives the contents depth (he is not pretending that he knows. He Knows).

The best part was how he categorized Japanese foreign traveling “generations.” We take advantage of Japanese passport and strong Japanese currency and all that, but behind it there were long history of predecessors. It was surprising to realize that, we have only less than 50 years experience of world travel, for general public. 

1st Generation (1964 – 1970)

On 1964, Japanese government permitted Japanese people travelling oversea for sightseeing. Limit was only once a year, and you could not take out more than $500. Foreign travel was luxury activities, only for the riches. Some budget traveller made it out, it was very tough journey, financially.

2nd Generation (1970 – 1978)

Now they could bring $1500, but tough time continues. They could use some of lessons from 1st generation, which made thing little easier, but they still had to earn money on the road. Some started unique travel on bike. Naomi Uemura (one of my heroes) is in this generation.

3rd Generation (1978 – 1987)

Japanese economy went up and average income is higher than ever. If one work hard for several years, he could take once-in-a-lifetime around-the-world journey. Still you had to work longer to gain travel time. Two-year work might have given you half a year travel. This is when the author started his first journey.

4th Generation (1987 – 1996)

Now we are talking about “bubble” generation. There are unlimited supply of jobs in Japan. You could go on travel, and once money runs out, he could come back for “recharge”, find quick jobs and money, and fly back. Japanese money was strong. Everything was so easy. This is when Japanese TV started sending poor comedians overseas… 🙂

5th Generation (1996 – )

After the collapse of the bubble economy, young people started seeing traditional career path might not worth it. Some started living on budget, working part-time (or アルバイト). Once they saved some money, they fly away for cheap destination, and when money runs out, come back for more part-time jobs. Time is not as easy as bubble era, but Japanese created society where you don’t even have to work full-time to survive. Noguchi-san call this generation weaker, lacking in boldness, or the ability to take action.

Yes, sounds like my generation. 🙂

This is where Noguchi-san stopped, but I believe next 6th generation is coming soon. As I can see in non-Japanese group already, there are increasing number of digital nomad, who left corporate life for long term travel, but still making a living on the road using laptop and Wi-Fi. The world is flatter than ever. Travelling is no longer “travelling,” but can be a way of living. At least, that’s how I am thinking these days…

Surely we are living in an interesting time.

Hunt for more travel books continues…