At the time of my graduation from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, I had two goals for the first few years of my post-college life. I wanted to either see as much of the world as I could afford to, and spend time helping less fortunate communities and people. I have been incredibly fortunate in my life in the support from family, friends, and the inherent situation into which I was born. Before I embark on a career I have decided to try my hardest to achieve, at least to some degree, these two goals.
From August 2011 to September 2012, I spent 13 fun-filled months in Korea, learning and growing every day. I lived in a world more foreign to me than I could have ever imagined. I learned a fair bit of the language, and while nowhere near enough to say that I speak Korean without instantly igniting my pants in a blaze of fire, I was able to communicate and get-a- long day to day without any real problems. Coming from the US, Korea might as well have been another planet. However, as different and exotic as Korea was, I only managed to scrap together one journal entry about a literally larger than life prostitute and her severely intoxicated client in the love motel that I was initially staying in. While everything thereafter was new, exciting and noteworthy, I struggled to find any significant events or ideas that I could write about without blabbering on just like every other English teacher in the country. The kids think I’m hairy and bald. The food is amazing. Soju sucks and makes your brain drain puss and blood from your ears the morning after. Koreans don’t seem to understand sarcasm. All of the stories seemed so painfully similar. So, almost before I began, I stopped.
After completing my contract with my school in Korea, I got a short visit from my family to Seoul. Mom loved the temples and hated the heat. Charisse hated the food but loved the clubs. Stephen (baby sister’s boyf) seemed to dig it all. Playing tour guide and stammering translator can be a little stressful so after it all I took it upon myself to enjoy a little Asian vacation. I took off for 10 weeks to bum around South East Asia like millions of travelers before me. I started in Bali, Indonesia and worked my way up to Hanoi, Vietnam, and from there I flew back to Seattle just before Thanksgiving 2012. I had only a basic outline of highlights that I wanted to see and a backpack. I did my best to stay on the ground (as opposed to flying) even if it meant 24 hours on a train. I tried to see the things that tourists don’t normally see as much as possible, though I did see a lot of those too. I saw 9 countries in all in Asia, had my fair share of bouts with bed bugs and food poisoning, and made tons of friends and memories that I’ll never forget. It truly was one of the best things that I have ever experienced and I strongly believe that travelling (along with education) is the best way to spend hard, or barely earned money. I know now that I will never spend a significant amount of money on a car or frivolous luxuries until I am satisfied that I have seen the entire world (at least once). Recently I heard a quote by St. Augustine that went:
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
I agree one hundred percent but I believe that this applies to all of life, not just travel. A new page can be anything from trying new foods, to meeting new people, to exploring a career that you had never considered or had previously been too afraid to pursue. Self-help books are shit, but they are right. We are only limited by ourselves. Being in a constant state of discomfort is addicting and the only way to see what we are capable of.
All that said, I intend to stay addicted as long as I can without destroying my family or losing my mind. As of March of 2013 I am a Peace Corps Trainee in the Community Economic Development (CED) Program in the Dominican Republic. I have only been home for 3 months since returning from Asia. In the three months I spent back, I did my best to balance working an oddly enjoyable dishwashing job, relaxing, working out, destroying my work-out by having fun with friends and family, and preparing to leave for the PC. I knew the time would fly by but somehow I was still in total disbelief when the time to leave finally came. I was hoping that I would be sick of home by the time I left but as it approached, I couldn’t help feeling like I wasn’t ready. It had been nearly a full year since I began applying for the Peace Corps and the beginning had always seemed so, so distant. While I loved it all, I knew the time had to come to an end. It was a perfect break and I hope that I’ll be able to at least briefly repeat it again in the future.