I’ve spent much of my first winter in the Republic of Korea sick in some way. This has caused loneliness because I haven’t been able to do much with others. People here have told me this happens to a lot of folks in their first year. We’re exposed to new plant life and allergens, apparent dust and pollution from China, and Korea’s own pollution. It takes adjustment. Because I live in a rural, farming area, there is also a lot of burning here – even in personal yards. So, I get it. But it has really, really, REALLY gotten me down. Like depressed. Like REALLY DEPRESSED. To the point that I considered moving back to the States – at least long enough to get well. I can’t spend a bunch of my life ill, you know?
I’ve also been deeply grieving the loss of my dad throughout the month of February, which is the month of both his birth and his death. Losing my dad was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. However, the first five months of last year left me little time to breathe let alone grieve. I spent time with my dad as he died and then stayed after with my mom. We also did everything necessary to sell a house, two cars, and many possessions to move across the world. And we also lost one of our pups, attended my dad’s memorial, and I visited my mom one more time and Chris went on a trip with his sons before we moved here in May. It makes sense that now would be the time to grieve. But it is also a lonely process, and I found I really had no one with whom to talk. I really miss having a best girlfriend.
To help me with my sadness, sickness, and depression and to help me stay here, my husband (who is truly wonderful) suggested I plan a trip on my own to somewhere I’ve wanted to go. He said I was a good solo traveler, and if that would help me stay, I should do it. Can one imagine the spark that lit in me? At first I thought, what a nice thing to offer to me. And it went no further. Then I read a story about a guy being rescued in Yosemite, and this little fire of curiosity and excitement started in me. I’ve been to Yosemite twice on my own and once with Chris. I’ve solo camped in a tent throughout Utah (Arches, Dead Horse, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion), the north rim of the Grand Canyon, parts of Colorado, and Yosemite. I drove a pop-up on my own from Texas to Wyoming and Montana (Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier) and also to California (again Yosemite). I do, indeed, know how to travel alone. Thinking about a get-away, where I can get away from social media and television and just commune with nature somewhere, inspires me. It doesn’t cure loneliness, but it is about solitude rather than being alone. “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone” (Paul Tillich). It seems to be very therapuetic for me. Chris seems to know this.
We have so many travel plans while we are in Asia. One of the reasons many of our fellow expats came here was the opportunity to travel to places that are more difficult to see when in the States. Many people visit Japan, China, Thailand, etc. But how often does a person with finite means get to come to Asia? Most often it is a single, big trip. The journey starts with a 12+ hour flight across the International Date Line with a minimum price tag of a grand for the plane ticket alone (and, depending on where one is going, will amount to a 20+ hour day of travel with likely connections/layovers). So it isn’t something most people can do with much frequency. But we’re here, and we’ve already seen Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore with plans for many other countries.
And we can’t neglect our home country. There is much to see here. We will have our first house guests soon as Chris’s mom, brother, and one of his sons are visiting, and we’re planning a Seoul visit. My mom will come in April, and we may go to Jeju Island or spend a long weekend in Busan. If I go on a solo trip, it may be summer or fall. Just this past weekend, Chris and I went to the first time to the Baekcheonsa Buddhist temple. It is just a few hops, skips, and jumps from our house, yet we didn’t hear of it until the winter and then didn’t make time to visit. As one can see from the photos, it is a beautiful place.
I also posted photos of Daeboreum, which is a Korean celebration of the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. We attended that this weekend as well. There are many traditions that have been handed down through generations for this holiday. People used to play a game called Geuybulnori, which involved burning dry grasses on rice field ridges to kill crop-killing insects. That tradition has become the lighting of bonfires throughout the country, including in major cities. On our walk home from the one we attended, we saw two others burning within a mile radius. Many other traditions exist for Daeboreum involving food, drink, and games. It is said if one cracks a peanut shell in their teeth and eats the peanut, one will have strong teeth and avoid allergies in the coming year. Chris’s workplace handed out peanuts, and I certainly had one to help with my various illnesses! Before judging this, one must consider the traditions in their own and other countries for the New Year celebration.
Perhaps I’m prepared to start up blogging again. There is much to share, including our trips and our daily living. But I find my blog is most about me and personal growth and realization. I appreciate those of you joining me on the journey.