As I travel the world, meeting kind soles with warm hearts, I'm often asked what initiated this love of travel. Did I grow up in an adventurous family? What ignited this fire? It's hard to say exactly, but it wasn't family travels that led to a continued passion. Disney World was the destination of choice as I grew up, trips I wouldn't trade for other experiences, but also not the kind of trip to inspire my galavanting across the world, on my own no less. What I attribute my lifestyle to is my curiosity, my thirst to learn, explore, see and do. I've always been a curious person, interested in 'why' and having trouble accepting 'because'. A close second goes to the continued support and encouragement I've received throughout my life. Parents, grandparents, an older brother, friends and extended family, they've all played a vital role in making me the girl I am today. Managing to avoid the 'you can do anything' [bs] mentality, they were there to encourage me to follow my heart and pursue my dreams. So, when I told my parents I wanted to quit my job and move to South Korea to teach English, I knew I'd be creating a problem.
For as much as they supported me in following my dreams I was still their little girl, someone they worried about 24/7. That was four and a half years ago and my promise of "one year" has since come and gone.
"Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And if return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you" ~ Anthony Bourdain
Sincefirst leaving home for that 'one year' I've visited over 30 countries, made everlasting friendships, had a few accidents, became a yoga teacher and learned to fully appreciate life. The people I've met during my travels have taught me a lot about how to live and changed my outlook on what life should look like, although I always did think should was an ugly word.
My first two years were spent teaching English to an amazing group of students in Buksam, South Korea, alongside the support of my co-workers, who really felt more like family. Never in a million years would I have guessed I'd find home in such a place, but I'm grateful I did. Korea was the first place I created a home of my own and because of that I'm sure it will always hold a special place in my heart and mind. My students became friends and co-workers family, both factors which made leaving extremely difficult, but something that had to be done.
I planned to backpack through SE Asia for five months, complete a yoga certification course in Thailand and eventually work my way back home. This all happened successfully, even coming home was okay, it was the idea of staying that scared me. I thought I could stifle my wanderlust with a few weeks in California, and maybe a long weekend in New York, but neither did the trick.
Within months of being home I found myself buying yet another one way ticket to Asia. History repeated itself. This time there was no official English teaching job on the itinerary. Instead I had arranged a placement in Cambodia where I would be volunteering as the resident yoga teacher at an awesome womens spa. Before this started though I took some time to revisit countries and friends I had been missing, volunteering and celebrating the new year in Taipei, making new friendships in Indonesia and having way too much fun in the Philippines. This six month trip entertained, educated and eventually wore me out, but returning home was again, not easy.
What's next, Europe, South America, back to Asia? After a summer at home I booked a ticket to Europe, but not long after the universe aligned. Everything pointed towards Korea, one sign after another telling me to return. From weekends with previous students to delicious food and even old friends hunting me down on facebook, all of these played a role in how I wound up here. After being offered a job in Andong, at what seemed to be an amazing academy, I had to cut my trip to Europe short, return home and once again pack my bags.
I never dreamt of returning to Korea and choosing Andong as my new home, but that's just the way life works sometimes. I spent (nearly) a year teaching for Gaon English school, and oh was it an eventful year. My life in Andong was a complete 180 from what I had in Gumi, private English schools lack the community of public schools, and I made minimal effort in creating a support system in town - instead often returning to my old home. The year challenged me, taught me things about myself, and even provided me with my first real heartbreak, but I made it out alive. I rode a roller coaster of emotions over the last year, falling in and out of love with this country time and time again and although I'm on the verge of saying goodbye, I know I'll be returning...
I just celebrated my 29th birthday, meaning I only have one more year before the landmark 3-0, to some I should be married and starting a family, while other believe I'm in exactly the right place. Although the last few years have been full of more life than I could have ever hoped for, part of me feels that they snuck away. Being away from home I've missed so much, birthday's, weddings, graduations and even new children. It's hard to be away, but at the same time I can't imagine sitting still. There's so much I still want to do and although I know I have the time for it, I struggle to focus on one thing. There are still so many places to see, friends to revisit, jobs to explore, and learning to be absorbed, for now I'm just trying to take it all one step at a time...
"Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity..." ~ Gilda Radner