Mt. Fuji Overlook

The first time I wanted to go home while travelling

I would consider myself a cautious traveler. Before I go to any country, I first plan a route, check common scams, look into the ‘worst’ case scenarios, and of course prepare my travelers’ insurance. (click here for details)

Still, usually nothing goes as planned. I have missed many buses and trains. I have gotten my backpack stolen with all my camera gear and electronics. I got the worst food poisoning in my life while in India. Even then I knew those things were part of the journey and that life would go on. Finally, I had an adventure where I wanted to go home.


A friend and I had planned to climb Mt Fuji, explore, and come back on the last bus of the day. Not much could go wrong in my mind. Well I guess I could not make it to the top.. I knew I wasn’t in the best shape.

My friend however was in a military group in college, so he was fit to say the least. It was obvious I was slowing him down, so we agreed to split up and meet at the top. To my embarrassment, even a group of older ladies were lapping me. What do they do anyways to be in such great shape?!

I was struggling to make it higher and higher, and found myself taking many breaks to say the least. Drenched in sweat, but determined, I look at my watch. I realized I needed to go faster to meet my friend at the peak at the time we agreed.

I was in such a rush, I find out at some point I was going on the wrong path, it was the one meant to take you down and it was extremely steep, so I doubled back. As I was making my way up the main path once again, I noticed that the clouds seem to be rushing up the mountain, and that I can start to hear thunder.

At this point, I’m concerned, but not alarmed, as I can see what I think is the top of the mountain and I know I’m about to meet my friend. As I got closer to the peak, the sky was getting darker. I reach the peak, and my friend is nowhere to be found. There is no one in sight and it has started raining lightly. I check my watch, look at the sky and know that if I don’t start going down, I would miss the bus.

The Way Down

Remember that steep way down? Well I do. It not only starts to pour, but I can’t see. My glasses are fogging up, my cheap poncho from daiso is barely shielding me from rain. I’m alone, I look to the side and see many sheer and steep drops. “Is this how I die?”, I wonder to myself.

Finally, as if to answer my prayers, I hear people behind me. It’s a couple and I can also see the fear in their eyes.

Now the rain is pouring and thunder and lightning are surrounding us. I wondered if we would make it to the bottom. I remember being told the average hiker takes 3 hours to go down the slope. At this point my shoes were falling apart. The soles of my shoes were literally tearing off and rocks kept getting in. Between no traction and sharp rocks, I kept sliding down what felt like 45-degree angles.

At some point we found a bunker. I was faced with a decision, stay in the bunker and be stuck overnight or keep going down, hope I make it to the bus, AND find my friend. I found myself wishing to be home for the first time since travelling in my entire life. I wanted to be safe and warm in bed. This was a first, I loved the excitement of the unknown and spontaneous adventures I had lived, many times feeling like the world couldn’t hurt me. Yet, I was now faced with true danger, a sobering effect.

What experience made you want to go home, when travelling?


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Justin Gonzalez

Travel Blogger / Digital Nomad

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