Originally, writer Patrick Brady pitched this piece as a simple travel story. He wanted to go to Shikoku, the smallest and least populated island of Japan, and follow a Buddhist pilgrimage by bike. It sounded like a unique experience, and we knew the photos would be beautiful, so we commissioned the story.
But a month before he left, Patrick called me and confided that there were things happening in his personal life that would likely be inextricable from the trip. What had begun as a quest for adventure was turning into a search for answers to some heavy questions.
Patrick took his trip in April 2017, and filed a draft not long after. We didn’t have a final draft until January 2018. It was such an intense—and intensely personal—process that he wrote about it in a separate blog post, which you can read here. It was a hard story to write and edit because he was not only baring himself to the world, but also because the story was still unfolding, and involved his family. It took time and determination on both sides to coax out the most honest version of the story. Veteran long-form editors Leah Flickinger and John Atwood both got involved at one point, and I’m grateful for their help and direction. But I’m most grateful to Patrick for his willingness to give so much of himself and to never give up on this story—the final product is memorable and powerful because of it.