In 2009, about 10 years ago, I agreed to coffee at Starbucks attached to Indigo in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It was with John Himpe, whom I barely knew, but had seen at various gatherings with mutual friends. One random day he asked me on a date via Twitter. Despite being a shy, insecure, closeted 23-year-old, I said yes.
I took the 30-minute city bus to the coffee shop (I was still in University at the time). He was sitting on a worn, brown leather couch with his “Venti Americano with light room,” patiently waiting. This was before I even had a proper smartphone, so I was sending him text messages while en route to tell him I was running late.
Once I arrived, I nervously sat across from him on a comfortable chair, drink in hand (I don’t remember what I got as I wasn’t a coffee drinker then). After a few minutes of talking, I remember my nerves slowly melting away with every passing minute. John always listened, and even on our first date, he’d ask plenty of questions and listen to my long-winded answers.
When the barista came up to us and said they were closing in 5 minutes, we knew that 4 hours had gone by without notice. He offered to drive me home, then asked if we could do coffee again the next evening. I said yes.
The moment I stepped foot into that Starbucks, I had felt an instant connection (John told me on many occasions he felt the same). Since that evening, he and I were inseparable. At the time, I had no idea how much we’d impact each other’s lives and how John would become a key part of TDR Explorer.
John Himpe was always a storyteller. He had a way with words and a talent for capturing your interest. He had a long career in broadcasting, including television and radio, throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta. His former colleagues and long-time friends have done excellent write-ups. They do a better job of describing the broadcasting world and the impact he had.
Once I finished University in 2010, John wanted to celebrate my achievement. I got a BSc. in Computer Science, for those of you wondering. He took me on my first trip to Walt Disney World in 2010. Growing up, we never had the means to travel, so visiting a Disney Park was never on my radar.
After that first trip, like many others, I instantly fell in love. I wasn’t a writer by trade, but I began to chronicle our Disney trips on a blog titled “Fat Hobbit.” Over the years, we traveled to Walt Disney World multiple times, as well as Disneyland Resort, and Disneyland Paris.
I recall one day I told him, “You know, you look like that kid from UP.” He thought it was the most hilarious thing he’d ever heard, and it stuck. I’ll never forget his adorable wheezing and crying laugh when he saw the resemblance.
Both John and I were always planning the next trip right after the last one finished. Most of you reading this have done the same thing, I know you have. John was always pushing me to write and create. He knew the importance of telling a story.
In 2013, he and I made the difficult decision of moving away from each other temporarily. He was offered what was his dream job in Regina, Saskatchewan. At the time, there were no jobs for me, which made it difficult for me to follow. After lengthy discussions, we came up with a plan for me to spend a year in Japan while he was in a different city. One year later, we’d re-evaluate.
Then in November of that year, I made the move to Tokyo, Japan. John visited just a week after I moved there. That’s when we crossed two more Disney Parks off our list. This was during the 30th Anniversary, and Happiness is Here was a brand-new parade. During this time, I started blogging more about Tokyo Disney Resort and shortly after changed the name from “Fat Hobbit” to “TDR Explorer.”
A year came and went. John was still in Regina, and I was still in Tokyo. We’d see each other every 4-5 months from traveling to Canada or Japan. We always made the point of talking to each other every day on the phone. That was our priority above all else.
In early 2015, I started to discuss with John about finishing up in Japan and coming home. Fate would have it that he was suddenly let go from his job in Regina. This threw our lives up in the air.
One of John’s dreams was to travel the world and tell stories. This was a topic we’d discussed many times. Then in late 2015, he created a podcast, blog, and YouTube Channel titled “Gone John.” He used Japan as a home base, and I saw him every few months (we still talked every single day, even if that meant using terrible wi-fi in a hostel in Vietnam). He even got to interview Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt.
For the first time in my adult life, I’ve been confronted with a blank canvas. There is literally nothing staring back at me. It’s an opportunity we don’t get often in life, and is one I don’t want to squander.
John Himpe – Gone John
To finish off his travels in early 2016, he and I took our first trip together to Hong Kong Disneyland. That was the last Disney Park on the list (Shanghai Disneyland wasn’t open yet). There’s something special about traveling to someplace new, getting lost, and finding out you booked a horrible hotel in the middle of Hong Kong (it was so bad we forgot the name). Don’t worry, we moved to the Disney’s Hollywood Hotel when we had days at the Park.
A friend of mine in Canada asked tongue in cheek if streamers and confetti exploded as we walked through the gate. They didn’t. But, as the turnstile made that click-click-click-click sound we all know, a smile grew across my face and a tear crept out of the corner of my eye. We had done it. We joined a small, but passionate, group of Disney fans.
John Himpe – Gone John
Once his travels were complete, John headed back to Canada. By this point, he was editing our podcast, videos, and blog posts. I learned a ton from his endless knowledge on how to craft a story from nothing. We both decided that it was best I stayed in Japan because Shanghai Disneyland was opening soon and the website was still growing. We would figure out what to do once he was back in Canada.
Every day when we talked, he would ask me, “When can I edit the next video? I have some ideas you can try.” He was always pushing me to become better than I was the day before, regardless if I wanted to or not (I’m quite stubborn). He saw the impact TDR Explorer had and did everything he could to help grow our reach every day.
Just as I was looking at where to go next, in fall 2016 I was fired from my web development job in Tokyo. That was another wrench in our plans to move back together. John told me that I couldn’t leave Japan yet, because what I was doing wasn’t finished yet. We continued to push the website forward. This is when my co-founder and I began our small company, Niche Japan.
John took every opportunity to let me know how immensely proud he was of what we created. John’s co-workers, friends, & family have told me repeatedly that John spoke of me constantly.
John was more than eager to edit all the videos and podcasts. I’d get random clips sent to me in the middle of the night of my bloopers. Some days, he’d call me randomly in tears because he was laughing so hard at the outtakes. He told me after every video that he loved piecing it together to tell a story. He’d also send voice clips of the podcast that sound horrible out of context. There was never a shortage of laughter.
John and I always saw each other as much as possible. Even when we couldn’t physically be together, we’d talk every day. He loved coming to Japan to experience the different seasons. His absolute favourite thing to do was sit and soak at the onsen.
His last trip to Japan, all he wanted to do was his favourite activities. We did just that. He was happy.
John Himpe is an integral part of what this website has become. Without him and his experience, dedication, and love, none of this would exist. TDR Explorer is because of John Himpe. Not only that, he was my partner in travel, adventures, and life. We shared so much in our 10 years together, more than I ever could have imagined.
As I write this, I’m in that Starbucks where he and I had our first date, almost 10 years ago. Who knew back then a simple “yes” would not only change our lives but thousands of others.
I’ve asked myself if this was the time to finish TDR Explorer. The thought of continuing this journey without him breaks my heart. But I know John wouldn’t want me to. He’d want me to continue what he and I created together.
While our chapter together is over, there are many more stories to tell. I’ll continue creating and telling these stories when I’m ready. My heart is in pieces.
Thank you for all the adventures, John ❤️ Until next time, Explorer. I love you more.
If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.
Winnie the Pooh
I’ve had many Explorers ask how they can help during this difficult time. One way is to give to the John Himpe Memorial Award at SAIT in Calgary, Alberta. John graduated from their excellent Broadcast News program in 2000. This was one of the major stepping-stones for launching his career in media.
As always Explorers, I can’t thank you enough for your continued support. Thank you.