I recently had the opportunity to spend time in South Korea — 10 days visiting my closest friend and exploring an entirely new world. Below are some thoughts about the importance of travel and a brief recap of my favorite aspects about the country.
Obviously, most of us attribute traveling to growth - it teaches you about the world, introducing you to sights you’ve never seen or experiences you’ve never had. but the more I travel, the more I’m grateful for what it teaches me about ME and my ability to get outside my comfort zone. Case in point? This trip I just got back from was my first journey to Asia. I was nervous about a lot - languages in different characters, unfamiliar food, the heat, it goes on. And guess what: all of those things were hard! There were times in the past 24 days where I just wanted to be home in a familiar environment.
But what kept me going was the sense of wonder that arises — a childlike feeling that is often buried as adults going about our day to day. I found myself rephrasing my frustrations (I can’t figure out this train system!) to awe (I’m out here navigating this massive underground web of transportation!).
There were a lot of things I liked about South Korea that I might not have noticed until I stopped the comparison game. It’s easy to view a new place in the light of the one you live in, but it’s harmful to your ability to ingest something completely new.
I did my best to wake up every day with the enthusiasm of exploring an entirely new world—which I did, thanks to my host (and best friend of 10+ years.) We wandered, laughed, ate, marveled; everything that makes travel so special, we did. I stopped finding discomfort in the unfamiliar. And at the end of the trip, i felt my sense of adventure and wonder renewed, as it should be.
Why I Loved South Korea:
Masculinity isn’t a ‘benefit’ - it’s just as acceptable for men to be delicate and gentle as it is for them to be muscular and bold. I thought a lot about what this means for society as a whole—if it isn’t better for someone to be masculine, there’s no reason for toxic masculinity to fester. So what if a man wants to wear lip gloss or a crop top? In Seoul, they do so without any iota of discomfort. America should take note.
Public transit! The U.S. is SO behind the rest of the world when it comes to subway systems - I had an easier time riding their trains in a brand new city than most people ever have in NYC.
Embrace the cute - the entire country loves characters, colors, even couples outfits. And it doesn’t make them any less ‘valuable’ of a society; I’d argue it makes them appreciate the joys of life a little bit more. I adored the ‘friends’ that I found all over the country ( shout-out to my favorite, A Peach) and the sense that you can love whimsical at whatever age you are.
Sense of urgency = minimal. People don’t jaywalk across the street to save a few seconds, nor do they expect to get their coffee to go en route to wherever they’re going next. Instead, they emanate a sense of calm purpose without the hurriedness I so often define as necessary. Folks gather at coffee shops to spend time with one another, rather than avoid conversation as they rush to their next stop. What if we all slowed down a bit? I have been trying to be more intentional about why I’m rushing since my return, and it’s difficult, but I think it’s helped my overall daily sense of well-being.