My first home in Korea was, considered by my Korean friends, in the complete countryside. I lived in what we would refer to as a village, a quaint offering of stores on the main street to the north and a vast expanse of rice fields and farm land to the south. While living in a somewhat remote location came with its challenges; limited transportation and a decreased social life, there were also many advantages, most notably the nature I was surrounded by. Since moving from Buksam, I've continued to seek out the parks, river walks and mountains near my home, which thankfully in Korea, is not too hard to do. Even now, despite living in the "Gangnam" of Daegu, I've found two escapes from the busy streets and traffic of the blocks immediately surrounding my home. Unsurprisingly, my morning routine has often included walks down random back alleys and side streets, but more often than not I find myself at either 야시골 or 범어 공원.
The first, 야시골 공원 [Yasigol park] is only a 10 minute walk from my apartment and while it's on small hill there's a 200 m walking path around the perimeter. The uppermost area of the park includes the standard outdoor gym you often find in Korea, complete with a drinking tent for the ajossis. On all of my visits thus far I've, unsurprisingly been the youngest patron, but that almost makes me love it more. My morning walks are also my time to catch up on my "to be listened to" collection of podcasts, which is every growing. I also have a weird habit of only wanting to listen to podcasts when I'm moving, maybe it's because I have less to be distracted by and can thus actually focus on the topic at hand, but it works.
I've gotten in a habit of starting my day with both NPR's "Up First" and KBS's "World Radio News" as a way to stay on both what's going on at home and in Korea - seeing as I have little exposure to other news outlets living here. Also, I've recently been listening to Jay Shetty's "On Purpose" and have discovered so many new rabbit holes to explore because of it. It's funny, when Jay first entered the social media field with his videos I was put off by his delivery and the general feel, but the podcast platform is much more approachable. Honestly, I think it's more the people he brings on the show than it is Jay himself that I'm drawn too, but either way this podcast is full of some golden information.
The first episode I listened to completely resonated with me and could very well be what drew me in for more, "Why small talk should be banned and 9 questions that go deeper". If you know me, you know that I loathe small talk, which is amazing due to how much of it I'm forced into while traveling. "Where are you from, how long have you been traveling, what's your favorite country, etc. etc." These questions just do my head in, I'd rather sit in silence than talk through pleasantries, but that's just the introvert in me. I would much rather dive in to deep conversation, discuss something meaning full and actually get to know those around me, able to learn if they're worth my time and energy. The podcast spoke to that fact, investing energy in people that you feel will reciprocate it. I feel that so many people are tired, busy, and worn out these days, but I think a large part of that is due to expelling our energy on wasted efforts, people included.
Depression, Anxiety and a slew of other mental health disease are at an all time high, and as much as everyone is talking about it, are we really doing anything to change it? As with any problem, the solution lies in identifying the origin, but these days it feels that people are too busy pointing fingers. Social media, main stream media, fake news, politics, Trump, unemployment, racism, student debt, and the list goes on. Although I'm a fan of social media you can find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I also am a firm believer that it has been a catalyst to the growing mental health crisis. Many humans today live their lives through their screens and lack genuine human interaction and relationships.
I've lived abroad for the majority of the last 10 years, coupled with an extensive list of solo travel adventures, so I'm well aware of how easy it is to become comfortable with loneliness. It's easy to fill relationship voids with Instagram likes, but the few moments of happiness those bring isn't sustainable. The moment of feeling appreciated or admired is fleeting. While social media can be part of the problem, to me, it is also a vital tool in keeping relationships alive. Having lived as an Expat for years and traveled extensively, a majority of my friends are often thousands of miles away from me, and thus we sometimes must rely on the internet to stay in touch. This takes me back to the fact that social media alone is not the problem, it's just the mode with which it's used. My goal for myself, and hope for others, is to remember to dive deeper than face value, remember the person behind the screen and make an effort to connect with them, building real connections.
For those too lazy to to listen to the full episode, here is a recap of the questions Jay discusses:
These questions don't even need to be used in conversation to prove valuable, ask them of yourself, chances are you will discover or realize something.
Where to start. After living in this country for three years I have memories, experiences and stories galore. I'll now always be a bit partial to the Land of the Morning Calm. Filled with delicious foods, beautiful nature and friendly people, I'm always happy to return.