So this is it. It's been a year. I remember right before I left, I read a quote. And it gave me the confidence to jump that plane and go.
"The days are long, but the years are short."
I appreciated it then, but I've lived it now, and nothing has been more true. The winter was rough. Somedays, I came close to running out of the country and hopping the first plane anywhere because I missed my family, my friends, and the simplicity of not having to mime or draw everything I wanted. I missed having anyone to ask for help if I didn't come prepared with a map. I missed forks and pepperoni pizza and not having to carry toilet paper with me. I missed when red traffic lights told cars to stop. I missed walking out in a sweatshirt and not being gawked at. I missed running in a sports bra or tank top and not being shunned for showing my shoulders. I missed .. NORMALCY. Or the normalcy that was relative to me.
Whatever they tell you, whatever you read... even in ROK, which at least in Seoul, can be considered a 1st world country, it's not easy. It's an adjustment. It takes work, and it takes enthusiasm and thick skin to get used to a new culture of people and a different way of life. And thick skin I say in a physical and emotional sense. Because the adjushis and ajummas WILL run you down in the street without a backward glance. You learn there's no real used phrase for "please" or "excuse me." As I've said. It took a while.. But at the one year mark... I'm left thinking.. where did the time go? I am a year older? Am I any the wiser?
I think back to when I lived in New Zealand, it was for about 2.5 months. Short, too short. Or maybe just long enough. There are other things I would've seen, sure, if I'd stayed longer. But i left CRYING the day I had to go home. I wasn't ready. Idk, maybe that's the best way to leave a place. Sometimes. That place is like a dream to me now, and maybe that's why.
Here, I am ready to go. I am. It's terribly sad, knowing this is the last time I'll live in a place that has become so much of a home. I have friends in SO MANY COUNTRIES that I may never see again. That's .... heartbreaking. In a way. But I've seen everything I want to see. I am debating coming back, because I've met wonderful people. I'm 24 years old. And just like I wasn't ready to settle at home, I'm not ready to here either. With each new place I realize, there's a global community out there of like minded people. It's hard to explain that to people at home. Because they all want me back, getting a 'real' job. But.. this wasn't something I got out of my system. There's a difference between tourists and travelers. And I know I've become the one with the thirst to see more and do more.
As for if I'm any the wiser, I've gained exactly what I hoped I would. I left home last August ... in a rut. Job-wise, relationship-wise, and .. direction-wise. I wasn't ready to settle down, that much I knew. I didn't want a steady job, relationship, or plan, really where i'd be stuck in the 9-5 pace, paying the bills, and stressing over the newest set of NYS Educational Standards. That's still true in a way. But now, I'm confident in that. I want to travel, and meet people and enjoy the day to day. At least for the time being. I wanted this perspective, and to be okay with that.
It's hard sometimes, because while my parents are 110% supportive, I know they feel, deep down, that I'm .... having fun. They constantly drop the phrase, "Well this has been nice, but come home because there's this awesome interview coming up......" And I get it, I spend every weekend traveling, and now I'm adding two months to backpack four countries with no committment whatsoever, and missing a chance for a job for the upcoming school year.
However, I have to remind them, hey. I do have a real job, I have been supporting myself in a foreign country for over a year now, and one where I don't speak the language. So, I feel pretty good about that. And I know they do too. I'm so lucky to have such a support network around me. My point is, I know this is what I want for me. And I needed to get OUT, to learn that. I have never felt more at ease with my life and with myself.
I think everyone should do something like this. With a spouse, loved one, or just do it. Jump that plane and GO. BUY THE TICKET. Because nothing is more grounding and eye opening... MIND opening, than spending time living in a foreign country, even if it's only for a few months. Of course, beware. In the areas you gain, you simultaneously lose.
Everything is transient. You have to remember that. At times this year, I forgot it. You start looking past tomorrow, past the next few months, and you have to remember that most of these people won't be there then. People travel for different reasons. Some just want to live it. Commit to nothing, and live just for the day. That's fine, I guess. I would never say I'm one of those people. I get attached. I hope I never grow out of that, or the naivety I know I have. I'm optimistic and I'm hopeful. I trust people probably too much, but at the end of the day, I'm happy I do. But that's what's made the choice of .. to stay or not to stay.... when it can't be based on people, is nearly impossible. Not even human really.
Of course, then you have a Korean man greet you by name, because you come in for his kimchi soup once a week after work. You have the security guards at your school smile. You have an old woman on the bus offer you oranges, cause she has them. You have a random woman bless you in Jesus' name... and welcome you to Korea. Regardless that I'm not religious or new to Korea, it's touching. And it's something I'd never see at home. So where you lose, you also.... simultaneously ... gain.
So, it's time to move on.. for the time being. Tomorrow, I leave for Thailand. I will be going from the southern islands, to Cambodia, up through Vietnam, and into Laos, then back into Northern Thailand. It'll be 8 weeks and change - a little over two months. I'm planning on keeping information in a notebook, and if I don't get to update my blog during my travels, I certainly will be holing myself up in my room for a few weeks when I get home to record it all.
As for now, who knows what's next? All i know is this year and the people i've spent it with, is more that I could've ever hoped for. I've learned about myself. I've learned that I'm stronger that I thought. And when I get home, it's a blank page. And I'm ........ so thankful. The mystery, the unknown, you have to just..... be grateful for that sometimes.