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Sunday, June 21, 2009

100 Days

100 days. 

That's it. 100 days until September 30 and my last day of work in Korea. 

It's crazy, really. It feels like I moved to Seoul last week. A year ago, I was at home researching potential teaching opportunities here. I hadn't even accepted this job yet but here I am, facing the homestretch.

To say this causes mixed emotions is an understatement. I'm overjoyed at the prospect of going home and seeing my friends and family. I rejoice at the idea of a familiar environment, the return to my old stomping grounds, a place where I truly belong. (No, not Chipotle, although that will certainly be an epic reunion.)

But the idea of leaving Korea also saddens me. I probably will never come back to this country. Never say never, but it certainly won't make the top of my travel list any time soon. Barring work sending me here or a change of heart sometime in the far-away future, I will most likely never return to Korea after October. 

That's not what makes me sad. It's the idea of leaving behind some amazing Korean friends, people whom I hope to encounter elsewhere in the world but know the odds are stacked against it. Thanks to the Internet, we can stay connected even thousands of miles apart but that can't replace face-to-face contact year in and year out. 

I love to travel. Originally upon moving to Korea, I planned to stay here a year and then return to Washington and find a nice, safe job. That's all changed. I can't imagine moving back to the US and settling down. One day, sure, but not now. How, at 23, can I be chained to a desk with a mere two weeks' vacation when there's an entire world to explore? 

Joyce wrote a fantastic blog post about this a few days ago. There's a part of us that envies our friends who went the route of domesticity -- job, house, car -- "real life." I crave that kind of stability, too. Being able to decorate an apartment with the cool mirror from Belize and cute tea set from England and interesting candle-holder from the Philippines. 

But I know that when I'm 60 or 70, I won't look back and regret traveling for a few years versus working. I might be a little poorer for a while but ultimately richer for life experiences. My grandparents didn't do much traveling until all of their children moved out and my grandfather retired. Now I email back-and-forth with my grandmother and she tells me what places she missed and knows now she'll never see. Every time I talk to her, she encourages me to keep traveling and exploring. She even joked once that, "You have the travel bug, just like your Omah."

THAT is what I've discovered living in Korea. It's become about more than just daily life here. It's become about reshaping MY life in the future. 

100 days to explore, discover, eat, travel, learn, interact, encounter, adapt, enjoy and conclude my Korean life.

100 days. It's not very long.