What advice do you wish you’d given your 25-year-old self? You know that body of yours? The one you’ve been treating with such a cavalier attitude? The one you’ve been gleefully dumping beer and crappy food into? It won’t be all svelte and firm like that forever. Take better care of it!
What advice would you give your 80-year-old self? Remember the dignity of your own mom when she was in her 80s. Draw strength from that.
What do you know for sure? There is more to us than mere molecules. As much as I admire science and the scientific method, a purely materialistic view of the world is woefully inadequate when it comes to explaining our sense of self, of wonder and the ineluctable mystery of being alive. What have you learned? Do not use spray paint on Styrofoam. It creates a bubbling toxic fume that is potentially explosive. (Note: This knowledge was acquired firsthand while helping my son with his Grade 6 science project. You’re welcome.)
What will you never learn? How to fix things around the house. I am the world’s worst handyman. (I think other men are having secret meetings without me where they teach each other manly arts like how to use power tools and what an alternator is.)
Best piece of advice? My father said: Figure out what you love to do, and then figure out a way to get someone else to pay you to do it.
Did it work? So far. What inspires you? The stories that surround us. Every one we meet has a story to tell, some epic, some small, but all heartbreaking and human.
The moment that changed everything? Missing a bus in rural Japan. Without thinking, I stuck out a thumb at the next vehicle that passed. It worked. After that, I began hitchhiking across Japan, eventually all the way to Hokkaido. From that came a series of travel articles, a hitchhiker’s guidebook and a burgeoning career as a travel writer.
Happiness is … Like trying to catch smoke in your hand. Just when you think you have it, it’s gone. Which only makes those few, rare moments of pure happiness all the sadder, all the sweeter.