Warby Park has been out for nearly 12 hours. I open the Tabi Kaeru app and see that his home is empty, his hat no longer on the coat rack.
I text my friends and tell them how concerned I am. “I’m worried about him,” I text with an emoji. “Maybe he’s dead,” one of my friends says, “Can they die?” The possibility never entered my head… until now. “I don’t know!” I text back, eyes widened. I check the app again every twenty minutes or so. Nothing. I remember packing his bag in the morning with the best food, charms, and blankets I could afford. He was too absorbed in his book to notice but I knew he appreciated the effort. Warby was researching for the next journey. A frog like him was busy with his goals. It was his world. I was a bit player, but a player nonetheless.
An hour or so after my friend dampened my hopes, I check the app once more to pluck some clovers from the yard when I’m hit with a notification. I take a screenshot and translate the message from Japanese to English in Google Translate. “The picture has arrived,” it says. I reopen the app and see, voila! A postcard! A solemn Warby sits in a field, looking out to the mountains in the distance. Poetic. At peace.
Warby Park is a frog in the smartphone app Tabi Kaeru, or “journey frog,” (for iOS and Android). Tabi Kaeru, created by the same developers that brought us “kitty collector” Neko Atsume, is a game revolving around the life of a small frog that likes to go on adventures.
The frog will journey regardless of your input, but depending on how you help them prepare, by packing their bags with food, charms, and tools, they will travel further and bring back different souvenirs and photos. The game is different than most apps that encourage compulsive checking, something I’m not entirely used to yet. My concern for Warby Park (the name I gave him at the start of the game) is a product of how I think games like this are supposed to work. I set Warby up, twenty minutes later, something has had to have happened, right? But this isn’t true. And the pace at which my plucky frog friend goes about his life has oddly enough, taught me some lessons that I hope to take with me through the new year.
Reading is fundamental.
When Warby Park is home, he does a few errands. He eats (what looks like a bowl of cereal), and he begins plotting for his next trip. One thing that he does for hours at a time is read. During one of his reading sprees, I checked in on him. I assumed he was brushing up on some language or history lessons for his next destination. I text my friends, “He’s been reading for hours.” One of my friends texts back, “I think this game is boring.” Do I agree? I check back on Warby again. He’s still reading, only this time, he’s starting to doze off himself. His eyes slowly close, but he perseveres, and keeps reading.
I’ve never seen anything so dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. I started thinking about the last time I bought a book and read it. The average person would be ashamed to admit that a frog avatar in a Japanese phone app made them pick up a book for the first time in months, but here we are! I admired the way that little Warby sat himself down to read, something my short attention span hasn’t allowed me to do in a very long time. A couple nights after I download the app, I too buy a book, and sit down and read it. It’s hard, not gonna lie. I fight the urge to turn on some music, or check my phone again (“maybe Warby’s reading too?”). But I persevere, and end up having a good time doing it. It’s a skill I want to hone again, so I try again the next day, and the next.
Write it down.
Another thing Warby truly enjoys is writing. I’ve seen his quill move furiously across a page for hours. I consider myself a writer, only I write when the mood strikes me. I’m not very disciplined. But every time Warby is home, he reads, he writes, he eats, and he preps for the next trip. Those are his routines. I rarely consider writing part of my routine, it seems… wrong to see it that way. Writing is art, yes, but writing is also the natural path through which my brain expresses itself. As someone who enjoys playing with words, watching Warby scribble on a page made me think that writing should be part of my routine as if it were exercise or eating.
I wonder what Warby writes down in his journal. Is he keeping track of his finances? Or is he recapping his journey for his own personal understanding and memories? Both of which are habits that I can use! The discipline that Warby possesses is admirable, and it got me to crack open my own journals to establish some writing routines.
Good things take time.
I don’t consider myself an impatient person, but something about holding a phone in my hand and expecting an update every four seconds brings out the shorter side of my fuse. Whenever I check on Warby I expect something to have changed. But no, Warby is reading or he’s gone, and he will be doing either of those things for a while. What’s the rush? Life is about the journey, not the destination, and packing Warby’s bag has been an exercise in understanding that.
Do I want Warby to be prepared for the dark? I should invest in a lantern. Or do I want Warby to stay warm and cozy? Maybe he should take some blankets. No matter the journey, I want Warby to be prepared. In a motherly way, I want Warby to have a more exciting and fulfilling life than the one I have known, but the slow pace at which Warby explores also gives me plenty of time for self-reflection.
Am I prepared for what’s to come? Am I ready to take on the world? The way that little Warby lives his life, I’d like to think that if I approach things as disciplined and well-rounded as he does, I’ll be alright. If I take my time, put in the effort, and go out into the world as prepared as I can be, I too can come back with a wonderful mementos of my journey.