When I left the United States, bound once again for Asia, I only had a few plans on the horizon. My best friend in Korea was celebrating a milestone birthday and an ex-coworker was getting married. Being free of commitments or schedules I told them both I’d be in attendance. I thought three weeks in Korea would give me some time to regroup after roaming around Thailand, get my plans in order for the next few months, maybe fit in a few workouts and even do some writing. Exactly none of that happened though. Instead, I transformed into a social butterfly and made sure to visit as many old friends as I could, without running myself too deep into the ground. After three weeks, ten cities and roughly 20 different reunions I was longing for a vacation, but it was all worth it.
Become friends with people who aren't your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn't the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn't come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow.
I had a somewhat crazy realization the other day while talking to some fellow travelers. We were all sharing our stories of where we come from, where we’ve been and where we may be going. I was telling my story as I normally do but then at one point talked about being ‘homesick’ rather than referencing my hometown of Wisconsin I found myself speaking of being homesick for Korea. You know the phrase "You don't know what you have till it's gone" well with travel this couldn't ring more true.
As I go from one country to the next I’m constantly building friendships, adapting to a new way of life and discovering new foods. As I become accustomed to these things they’re suddenly ripped away when I decide it’s time to move on and experience yet again another country. Sure, I only have myself to blame for the constant movement I must endure, but that doesn't make saying goodbye any easier.
I could not be happier to be free from the dorm living and cafeteria food. Although I made some great friends at orientation and am now miles away from them I am confident that I will keep in touch and see those that mean something to me. The last few days of orientation were more of the same, lectures about how to be a good teacher and survive in this country and more bland, not too authentic Korean food. The last lecture my class had was a short Taekwondo class and it was probably one of my favorites. The instructors were awesome and you could tell they really appreciated us being here to teach. I really underestimated how grateful a majority of the country is that we are coming here to teach. I hadn't thought about it as being a big deal but the more I realize this the happier I am that I'm here.