Time Flies & A Passport Says Goodbye
Time just flies.
Ten years ago, about this time I was sitting in front of a camera in a photo shop to get some passport photos so that I could then head to the post office and mail in my documents to receive a passport. I’d had one previously which I’d used to travel to Europe a couple of times with my family and with my senior class, but I needed a new one to start my adventures in Asia. I had gotten a job in Seoul, Korea and I was getting all the odds and ends wrapped up and making appointments to get the things that were necessary and of course a passport was one of those things.
I did NOT expect to still be in Korea ten years later when I would have to renew my passport. But as one of my favorite authors would say, “so it goes…”. I didn’t even expect to be in Korea when I had to get additional pages added to that passport just a few years into my stay. But here I am. Ten years later and I’m still residing in Seoul, Korea.
Here’s to ten years and the places this passport and I have seen! Of course this passport has seen Korea again and again, so rather than dwell on where I’m still dwelling, I’ll go straight to the side trips and adventures that have given this wanderluster and dreamer pause, memories and lessons on life.
Japan: Nagoya, Kyoto & Nara
My first trip out of Korea was to Japan to visit my university roommate. Chika was studying abroad in Ohio and now I was meeting her where she called home. We met her in Nagoya and then headed to Kyoto and Osaka. We saw the sites, ate some delicious food including cow tongue and I realized just how different Japan and Korea were which meant I would have to go and see more places in order to appreciate just how different each one is. My world was getting bigger and bigger by the minute. While some would say, “of course they’re different”. Yeah, I know, right? But, when I graduated and was looking for something to do abroad, I had looked at Japan first only to find that teaching there didn’t come with all of the amenities that it came with in Korea and a counselor literally told me that it was just north of Japan, so it was likely quite similar. Boy was she wrong. While people the world over may be similar in some ways, cultures and histories are very different.
Vietnam: Backpacking from Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City and the Mekong Delta for a month
I wrapped up my first year in Korea with my first backpacking trip. A month and a half carrying a pack on my back on airplanes, boats (big and small), trains, automobiles and motorbikes. I learned about forgiveness from the Vietnamese and acceptance. I started my trip in Hanoi in the north, hopped on and off the train going all the way south to Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. We saw Dalat, Hoi An and a few other places. It was my first time backpacking and my first time realizing that travel isn’t expensive… it doesn’t have to be anyway. If you’re after adventure and experiences and want to learn about other cultures and meet new people, it’s possible with very little money and just a pack on your back. It’s something I hear again and again from people back home. “I just don’t have the money to do all of that travel.” It doesn’t take as much as you think. Really.
Cambodia: Siem Reap, Angkor Wat & Phnom Penh
After Vietnam, we hopped a boat through the Mekong Delta and went to Cambodia. It was the first place I felt fear and then I learned about what fear really is when I visited the Killing Fields. It was an amazing swirl of emotions though as I next headed to Angkor Wat and was amazed by the historical architecture and beauty of the country. A part of me was still mighty protective and cautious and learning how to get by traveling this way but by the end, I was a pretty confident fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants traveler. For someone that generally likes a good itinerary, this was a big lesson to learn.
While I wouldn’t say I found Beijing especially appealing, I did enjoy the sites of the Forbidden City and have a good tale about almost freezing on the Great Wall of China and being hit by fly by fireworks on Lunar New Year. We ate food well past its expiration date and survived and really, any time with good friends is a good time. Celebrating the Lunar New Year in China was awesome and while the temperatures were beyond frigid, we made the best of it and kept pushing ourselves to get out and see everything that we could in the four days that we were there. The architecture really is amazing and the historical sites breathtaking.
Nepal: Kathmandu & Pokhara
I was ready for another backpacking adventure after my third year in Korea and Nepal was calling my name. There was always just something about it and it, but mostly the people, truly lived up to the calling. The architecture was gorgeous and the people full of smiles. The views amazing and the hospitality beyond. We got left on the side of the road after a rafting trip and a village took us in for the night, fed us and gave us a tent to sleep without asking for anything. It was that and more that made me realize how special Nepal and the people there truly are. The colors were intense, the dishes delicious and the culture enamoring.
India: Agra, Ayodhya, Delhi, Jaipur, Mt. Abu, Pushkar, Udaipur & Varanasi
India was hard. It wasn’t just hard because we were two females traveling together. It was more than that. I think it had a lot to do with leaving a country where seemingly everyone smiled to a country where seemingly no one did. The women we met along the way that we hoped could help us when we were lost or help us when we were nervous, didn’t know English and the men always seemed to huddle up around us in groups that would make any traveler nervous. The sights were amazing though and once we got used to seeing cows just meandering anywhere they felt, we found our stride and pushed ourselves to see as much as we could.
This was actually my second trip to Fukuoka, but this was a trip for enjoyment and not just to get a visa to work in Korea. We saw Tochoji Temple and ate it up at the yatai street. We took a train to nearby Dazaifu and of course ate sushi. We saw the castle ruins, visited manga shops and ate some motsunabe with some Japanese friends. It was a great three day adventure.
After a couple years with most travel around the Korean peninsula, I was looking to get out and about to a new place again and that’s when Krabi and my best friend who lives there was calling. The beaches of Railay and the Khao Sok National Park were spectacular and it was all the more special to see it with my friend who now calls the place home. We may move apart and live countries away, but we will always be friends and as an expat that’s so so important to remember. People are always coming and going it seems but some of the friendships we make along the way will last a lifetime no matter where people end up living.
We did NOT have enough time to really enjoy Sydney, but we just HAD to get there to be a part of my sister’s wedding! It was a whirlwind with an amazing wedding ceremony, a party and then it was off to the city to see some sights before we had to go again. Sydney, even for the short time, made us know that we just HAVE to go back to Australia and explore so so much more of that amazing country. Can’t wait to do it with our Australia brother-in-law too!