We were extremely excited to be entering Italy. A place close to both our hearts, mainly as we got married here in 2008. But considering this, neither of us had travelled extensively here and I had never been to the south. It was into more familiar territory – a part of Europe close to home, food we were used to eating, a language we could almost understand. We were happy to be in Italy and the six plus weeks we spent there definitely did not disappoint us.
Just over 18 months since we said our goodbyes to our home and headed off into the unknown, ok maybe not the first day (we went just down the road, to one of our favourite lakes) but afterwards it was the big start to our adventure we’d been thinking about for 3 years. Now here we are today, a whole year and a half later with the end very much in sight. We have never had an end date, we always told people the trip would be 18 months to 2 years. We have given the month of June as an estimate of our return but we’re not 100% sure. We shall see!
July 30th, 2015
We’re almost there. After a hell week of packing, cleaning, paperwork and bureaucracy, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re actually packed (more or less) and after our last day at work tomorrow we’ll be ready to set off on Saturday morning.
Our first leg will be relatively familiar, down the length of Japan. We have some grasp of the language and feel at home here, so it’ll break us into touring life gently. It’ll allow us to sort out the inevitable niggles and problems before we venture into the less familiar terrain of South Korea and China.
The weather for our departure day is looking like it’ll rain, but there’s nothing we can do about that. First stop is Lake Shikotsu and then Tomakomai. From there we’ll take the ferry down to Hachinohe in Aomori which is on the main Japanese island, Honshu. Our next post will be from the road!
July 12th, 2015
Busy, busy, busy. It seems like we’ve had round after round of festivals, farewell parties and late nights this week. Luckily we’ve got a few quiet days off coming up so we can really get things dialled in before we head off.
We also spent a few days hosting John and Gayle, aka the Sloths on Wheels. They contacted us through Warm Showers for a place to stay after cycling around Hokkaido for a few weeks. They’ve come from the UK and been on the road for 3 years so were full of useful information and great stories about the places we’re looking forward to riding through over the coming months. Their blog is here, check it out. Hopefully our paths will cross again somewhere down the road.
We’re having our first taste of the visa application process too. Although ironically it’s for the country in which we’ve been residing for the last 5 years. On the day our work contracts expire, our Japanese working visas will do the same. So unless we leave the country on the same day, we need to apply to change over to an ordinary tourist visa. It’s nothing compared to some of the visa stresses we’ll have in Central Asia, but it’s still extra paperwork and a bit of a pain in the arse.
Another form we recently filled out has had an unexpectedly positive outcome. After the Sea to Summit race a few weeks ago, we thought we’d get in touch with Mont-Bell, the event’s sponsor, with a cheeky request for some sponsorship for our trip. A couple of weeks later, after applying for their ‘Challenge Support Program’, they came back offering us product support for our clothing. We’re delighted that they want to help us out as we do genuinely think they make great outdoor gear and we already use a lot of their kit. With more and more people undertaking similar adventures to ours, we’re aware how hard it is to get any kind of sponsorship from large companies, so it’s awesome to have such a well respected Japanese company onboard! Obligatory link – Mont-Bell
Three weeks from today we’ll be on our bikes boarding a ferry to leave Hokkaido.
June 29th 2015
So it turns out that finishing our jobs, moving out of our apartment and setting off travelling for 18 months all on the same day is looking like it might be quite stressful! A lot of excellent touring cycling blogs have posts showing the preparation stage of the tour with neatly labelled and stacked gear ready well in advance of departure date. This cycling blog isn’t quite there yet. I’ll post some pictures anyway…
We’re doing our best to be efficient and get things in order, but we’ve acquired a lot of stuff in our 5 years here, and selling it or getting rid of it takes time!
At the same time, we’re trying to collect together all the gear we’ll be taking with us. We’re lucky to have two spare rooms so one of them is for stuff we’re getting rid of, and the other is for cycling and travelling stuff. Apologies therefore to the Warm Showers members whose requests to stay with us have had to be regretfully declined. Our place is just too much of a mess and we have very little empty floor space left!
We are also trying to make the most of our last month in Hokkaido, which of course involves hiking, camping and cycling with a lot of the same gear we’ll be taking with us. That’s making it extra hard to keep things organised!
We just got a nice box of cycling stuff from Wiggle delivered too. Really an excellent service, free delivery from the UK within a few days of ordering.
The imminent deadline of August 1st for us to move out and leave does at least give us the kick up the backside we need to get organised. We have to be ready, because we don’t have any choice!