Travel, the act of journeying to distant places. Exploration, the investigation of unknown regions. Wanderlust, a strong innate desire to rove or travel about.
Travelling is a concept that everyone can identify with on some level. For some it’s a two week summer holiday in Spain lazing by the pool, forgetting about work, and just enjoying a good book. Others prefer something a little more adventurous. Whether it’s exploring The Golden Circle in Iceland and taking in the northern lights, embarking on the Camino de Santiago, or white water rafting down the river Soča, we all have our own definition of what travel and exploration mean to us, and while perhaps different, one is not more authentic than the other.
But what about the rest of us? The rest of us for whom travel doesn’t fit neatly into either category. Those of us for whom travel and culture cannot be satisfied by a visit to the Louvre, or lunch on the Prinsengracht. We all may love to travel, but there is a difference between being a traveller and being a tourist. A tourist may leave their country, but they never really leave their home. They bring it with them wherever they go, and so they are partly closed off to truly experiencing anything outside of what they already know. Their culture doesn’t just follow them, they apply it to everything they see. A traveller, however, leaves their home at home, and takes with them only a desire to see, hear, and learn in the hope of changing and growing. A yearning to be bombarded with new ideas, and to let them wash over you. It truly is a mind expanding experience. But it comes at a cost, and I don’t mean money.
Once you’ve done it, it can be impossible to go back. Living and becoming immersed in another culture changes you, and not just because you learn someone else’s way of life, but because afterwards you can’t stop thinking and wondering about what else there is to experience. If you let yourself you could sit back and daze for hours about the countries, cultures, and new experiences that are out there just waiting for you. It’s an amazing gift to be able to get up and go. There are a lot of reasons why for some people travel isn't an option: family, work, and financial commitments, for some it’s just not possible. But I wonder a lot about the cost. Is the price of exploration that I will never again feel content living in Ireland? That thought terrifies me more than anything, and mine is a long list of fears.
I loved living away from Ireland. I was terrified of going and that is something I will never deny. My first blog post about moving to South Korea will detail all of the emotional angst I experienced before leaving, including what was a very tough first week in Seoul. I am somebody who hates change, it’s really hard for me. I used to think I’d die before I’d change. But if there’s one thing I’m more afraid of than change, it’s staying still out of fear of moving forward. I can live with missing an opportunity as long as I’ve said no for the right reasons.
I think this kind of angst is something that most people experience when they are teens and have gotten over by the time they reach their twenties. Not me. I was a ball buster in my teens. Strong, confident, and motivated, the world was mine to conquer. It was the college years that really kicked my ass. Failing exams, gaining weight, losing confidence, losing friends; I really struggled. When I left Ireland I was a recent graduate suffering from low self-esteem. And as afraid as I was of going, I thank God for Chris every day for pushing me into it. Moving to Korea changed me. The people I met, the friends I made, the experiences I had; both good and bad, it completely altered the way I view life. Not to sound snobbish, but these days I see the world through a very different lens. The best way I can describe it is that I grew into myself in Korea, and by the time I left, I really liked the person I had become. Before leaving Ireland, life felt linear, my world felt small. Now, it’s wide open. I’m excited about what’s coming next. We have a big trip across America planned this summer followed by our move to New Zealand. I wish I felt this excited about Ireland. How much easier life would be?
Watch out for my next blog on Tuesday 15th March. International Living: An awkward girl's first week in South-East Asia.