Four years ago, my cousin moved to South Korea, and he invited me to come and visit him. A year later, a friend from college told me that she was moving to Seoul to accept a teaching position, and that I should come and stay with her. Asia was never a dream destination for me, and I knew nothing about Korea. The invitations came several times a year, and I’d always vaguely accept, never really planning a date.
Then, one day in March, I bought a ticket.
Traveling to a foreign culture is not a decision to be made lightly, especially if you don’t speak two words of the language. My first impressions of Seoul were jarring, and even as I got used to the culture, I always felt like a stranger. Everyone is well-dressed in Seoul, typically in Breton-inspired nautical style. The women are painfully beautiful, and the men are lovely, with delicate features and perfect skin. When I travel, I’m a bit lax with my style, and since there are very few foreigners in Seoul, I stuck out like a sore thumb. What manner of beast is this? everyone seemed to wonder, and here I should mention that no one has a problem with staring at you.
I haven’t gone abroad since college, when I spent a year studying in France. The worst part is, I haven’t really wanted to go abroad, because I was too busy trying to find solid ground here in America. It’s hard to leave Los Angeles, because once you find your rhythm in this crazy city, you don’t want to let go for fear of never finding it again.
Travel can be quite melancholy. The more foreign your environment the more you challenge yourself, and the further removed you are from the familiar and safe parts of your world. It’s interesting how being away from home can remove the barriers you put up in your mind, as well; how past slights and arguments can rise to the surface and disarm you once again. It’s so easy to distract yourself from the unpleasant sides of life when you’re at home, but ultimately it’s important to deconstruct your demons and experience the freedom of really letting go.
I’m sitting in my bed writing this, slightly jet-lagged and disoriented from the flight. My trip was an incredible experience, to say the least, one that solidified my relationship with my friend, my cousin, my mother, and my relationship with travel. I’m also listening to the Out of Africa Suite as I type this, which makes everything seem much more wistful and adventurous.
I think the curse is finally broken; I’m ready to relinquish my hold on the safe parts of my life and open myself up to adventure. I have a lot more photos to share, so check back over the next few days to read about the rest of my trip!