Why I Travelled to the East

and Wrote a Book About it

The Fool about to plunge into the void
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
“The Road Not Taken”

This is the Preamble for my travelogue The Strange Path to Finding Happiness: True Stories From A Fool’s Journey To The East That Will Change Your View Of Life.


I’m not the first to go East, so why did I write this book?

Well, because I took a road less travelled by, and for the last thirty years or so people have asked me why I did it. Over and over. Trying to explain it every time got tiresome.

Could I put the answer on a little card to show them? That would save time and trouble. After trying this, I realized that I would need more space. So I tried a flyer. My explanation still would not fit in. Not even on two flyers. Thus, this book: The Strange Path to Finding Happiness writing project was born.

I sat down to write, but the more I wrote, the more the story began to take on a life of its own. I discovered that I am not alone in the world. A travelogue cannot exclude all the stuff around you. All kinds of strange and interesting characters appeared on the stage.

They popped up in rural Sweden, in the deserts of the Middle East, and at the end station of the Silk Road, Japan. Then there was all the culture and history. The myths, stories and symbols from the past. They were part of the people I met. One man was even dead, but very much alive in folklore. I met him in the middle of the night in a graveyard.

In retrospect, I can connect all these little episodes to explain why I eventually ended up in Japan — why I had to go to Japan. Unlike many of my compatriots who arrive here with a nice expatriate or diplomatic post to land on, my arrival was rather bumpy. I had no return ticket. Nor did I have any intention, unlike many young foreigners, to make a heap of money as a model or English teacher. True, heaps of money are not easily made by anybody anywhere, but chances are zero without a plan.

I travelled here just to find out what the hell it’s like
and to see what I could learn from it.

This is odd in most people’s eyes. Even today, Japan is a land shrouded in mystery. To dive into a mystery, with no guarantee of success, hardly seems like a good idea. It’s diving into an abyss. Still, that is what I recommend you do. It’s the only thing you can do — in Japan or anywhere else. And when you look back on your own story, connecting the dots like I will do here, you’ll see the larger picture.

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is said to be one of the most misunderstood poems ever. His intention was apparently not to encourage you to follow your heart. Rather, he wanted to comment on people who always regret their past choices, like his narrator, who “shall be telling this with a sigh.”

Think about it: if life is a journey, then the road not taken can never be taken. Nothing can happen again. You are where you are because it’s the only possible place you can be. That’s the why of why I travelled here. I had no choice but to dive into the abyss. And in spite of not becoming rich, famous, or beautiful (which you can do if you get rich first), I am happy. So be the Fool. Travel to the unknown. Follow your nose into the abyss.

You will see that it makes the world a more interesting place to be in.

Your Humble Scribe,

Hans

In the INTRODUCTION you will meet the guy who convinced me to set out on this crazy trip → Read: “My Secret Travel Companion

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