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Travelling Murakami Style

“Travellers often tire themselves out by trying to cover every “insta-worthy” destination while on holiday.  I took a look into how Haruki Murakami novels can inspire travelers to take a slower approach to travel that allows for a greater degree of personal introspection.”

By Qi Siang Ng

Art illustrations by Steve Scott.

I tend to approach travel with a #YOLO mentality. As I lack the resources or time as a busy Singaporean to travel often, it is often months or even years before I make a return visit to a particular location. Consequently, I tend to run myself flat out on holidays in order to ensure I see as much as possible, not knowing when my next trip to this destination will be.

Unfortunately, such a strategy often leaves me coming away from my travels tired and unfulfilled. Sure, I have obtained the obligatory photographs of landmarks and essential sights to show off to friends and family, but the rapid pace with which I approach each day leaves me without time for contemplation. I thus often return to work or school exhausted rather than refreshed.

To make my travel experiences in 2020 more relaxing and meaningful, I have decided to take inspiration from fiction author, Haruki Murakami and learn to adapt my style of travel based on his works. Readers may have noticed how crucial the experience of travel is to the plot of a typical Murakami novel. His typically nameless protagonists (avatars of the author himself) have not only undertaken long road trips around Japan, but have also visited exotic destinations such as Hawaii, Malta, Finland and Greece.

A typical Murakami “holiday” involves a period of contemplative idleness for the protagonist. Having awakened from slumber in a simple but well-furnished hotel, he (for they are all male) spends much of the day idling, strolling or driving through his destination while lost in thought. These sojurns are interspersed by meals at a good restaurant or a quiet drink at the bar, where the protagonist continues his solitary contemplation or, on occasion, people watches.

As boring as such a trip may seem on the surface, it is the calming nature of such idleness that enable deep thinking and reflection to take place. Often confronted with bizarre mysteries of existential import, mental idleness allows the protagonist to sort out these messy thoughts. His static position also allows him the opportunity to connect more easily with people around him, allowing for deep conversations or romantic opportunities.

While strange occurrences regularly conspire to cheat Murakami’s protagonists of a peaceful vacation, taking a slow approach to travel will allow real-life tourists to enjoy a more restful and meaningful holiday experience. By sacrificing a few photo-ops to soak in the local atmosphere, we have the opportunity to make better memories and reach a deeper level of personal introspection. Contrary to popular opinion, there is often joy in missing out.

Blue Sky Escapes specialises in creating bespoke journeys catering to travellers seeking “slow travel” or #JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) experiences. Get in touch if you are keen on such a journey at ask@blueskyescapes.co .

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