So, I could lie to you and say I decided to move across the globe alone because I wanted to chase my dreams.’ In reality, my impulsive decision came about from a string of failed relationships and a tarnished ego. Let’s go with the lie because it makes my life sound a little more put together.
After graduating university in 2015, I joined the coveted group of ‘the lost.’ I suddenly felt that familiar nauseating feeling that I usually get during my notorious all-nighters the night before a final exam. This feeling, in conjunction with unhealthy habits, multiple fights with loved ones and dealing with the first of many heartbreaks, had me feeling a serious type of way. My only relief would be to light up and exhale my problems. For a short time, I would feel a certain degree of pleasure, as clouds of romanticized dreams, ‘what ifs’ and prospective leaps of faith filled my mind. But once the high wears off and sobriety hits, the feeling of emptiness returns. One typical summer night after work, I realized I need a complete change of lifestyle and mindset: I need to not depend on people or things for happiness. And with that realization, I decided to move abroad and spend time alone.
FOREIGN GIRL IN A FOREIGN WORLD
After a night of binge Google searching (as if Google has the answer to life!), I came across blogs of people teaching abroad. I fixed up my resume, sent an application to a recruiter on a whim and scored an interview with a school. That was it - I was heading off on a new adventure in a place completely unknown to me.
LIFE IN KOREA
After spending nearly 48 hours in the air, I finally arrived to South Korea. I immediately took on the role of the ‘local’ and hauled my entire luggage onto a bus, hoping it was the correct route to my destination. With a Korean bus driver that could not speak a word of English, and being a delirious Canadian girl that could not speak a word of Korean, communication with the other was difficult. Yet, it was at this moment that self-communication was most simple. I recognized my emotions, and in that I felt the highest level of self-confidence. That reassured me that I was not only doing the right thing, but that I was in the right place.
Taking this chance to live and work here in Korea, has given me the opportunity to overcome humankind’s most psychoanalytical basic fear – the fear of being alone. I have placed myself far away from expectations and routine. In that I have found joy in small things: seeing my student ace a test, observing my students’ interactions, hiking to the peak of a mountain on a casual Sunday, people watching from my six story window in my studio apartment with gigantic glass windows that surround my entire bedside wall (this makes it basically offensive to the fung shui of the room not to creep on neighbours!), taking late night strolls by the beach, writing in my journal, singing karaoke off key and burning my beef on the grill of Korean BBQ. In Korea, I no longer feel plagued by subconscious conformity and unwarranted angst, like I did before. Being alone here, I am removed from anything and everything that was familiar to me and forced to dig deeper in life. Now, I am lost in myself and the simplicity of day to day pleasures like hearing, “Hello Chelsea Teacher!” as my students routinely greet me upon my arrival, with my iced cinnamon cappuccino, marking pen and attendance sheet in hand.
TRAVEL’S GREATEST LESSONS:
After living abroad for six months, and counting, I can truly say I love both South Korea and myself. In travel, friendships are intense but short-lived. Relationships will likely last as long as your visa. That is completely okay because in travel, you find that the best relationship is the one with yourself.
If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be to travel. Appreciate each day as a renewed opportunity. Necessity is the mother of invention; and in your quest of self-reinvention, you must regard solitude as a prerequisite to genuine happiness. Once you travel far enough, you will meet yourself.
After writing this post, I took a late night run to the beach in an effort to reflect. Nothing became clearer than the soulful message the waves were singing to me – the hymns of resilience. The waves relentlessly push to shore, making way for more powerful waves. The fresh waves mask the gloomy, torrential downpour of yesterday, and sets a positive precedent for tomorrow. After seeing the wondrous waves in full force and feeling pure bliss as the whimsical wind taps me on my back; I reassure myself that there is no one and nothing I would rather share this experience with than myself.