I stood beside the road.
Well, here I am, I thought. This is it. This is what I came for. Weeks of anticipation, days of planning, a big backpack, and a shiny new compass in my pocket are all telling me it's time to begin.
I stuck out my thumb, facing the traffic. I felt ridiculous.
Dozens of cars whizzed past, taking no notice of me or my outstretched thumb. I looked at the drivers with a helpless smile, silently asking them to stop. They offered nothing but foul exhaust fumes.
Was hitchhiking in Japan really possible?
Ten more cars passed. Then twenty. Then fifty. A few people waved, some smiled, but most just looked at me, curious, but unwilling to stop. I pictured the cars' occupants talking about me:
"I would never pick up a hitchhiker."
"He might not speak Japanese."
"Yeah, and he could be dangerous."
I began to question the feasibility of my plan - to hitchhike thousands of kilometers around the island of Hokkaido. It was an ambitious goal, especially considering that I'd never hitchhiked anywhere, much less Japan.
Longer, and longer, I waited. Doubts supplanted hopes. Would cars really st---
BRAKE LIGHTS! A car had stopped.
I stepped up to the open window and told the driver where I was going. With a calm smile and a wave of his hand, he invited me to get in.
My adventure had begun.