A Five Day Escape from Seoul

Photo taken by David Domagalksi in Boseong

Summer vacation was a mere seven days at the school where we teach. It was supposed to be nine days (a week wedged between two weekends), but our director decided to make it a few weekdays bookending one weekend. We were all already peeved about this fact and had resigned to them not changing it, when they came to us a month before vacation and asked us if they could go back to the original plan. They wanted to do a summer intensive program over vacation, as if the students don’t have enough on their plate already, but could only do it if it was a full week. Half of the foreign staff had already bought plane tickets months prior, so the school not only screwed the teachers and staff out of a nine day vacation, but also screwed themselves out of a potential money maker. Welcome to Korea.

Irritating politics aside, we considered many potential destinations before deciding to stay in Korea. Our first plan was Japan, but as we were thinking about buying plane tickets, the tsunami and earthquake hit and we decided it wasn’t the right time. We knew we needed to buy plane tickets months ahead of time and we weren’t ready to commit to expensive plane tickets to a country that was in the middle of some serious problems. Plus Dave grew up close to Chernobyl and we figured that the last thing he needed was to visit a country emitting serious radiation.

Then we thought about going to Malaysia or Singapore. We decided against traveling to either place for several reasons. I was afraid of going there, meeting other backpackers and coming down with a terrible case of wanderlust. That would make coming back to Korea too difficult. We also thought that it wasn’t worth spending the airfare to go there and back when we’d be in the area in the winter anyways. Why not just wait. Lastly, we realized we hadn’t traveled south at all and weren’t sure when else we’d be able to do it. What a shame it would be to leave a country we’d been living in for a year having not seen much of it at all.

So, we decided on two destinations: Busan and Boseong. Read more

It’s More Than Wanderlust

I just found the perfect description of my wanderlust in the book I’m reading right now called A Fortune Teller Told Me (which I highly recommend, so far it’s fantastic). Terzani, the author, writes how his need for travel comes not from his body but “from another source, that brought with it a baggage of old yearnings and homesickness for latitudes known to me in some life before this one.” I’m not one to believe in reincarnation, but there is something true about this statement none the less.

I seem to be searching for places that have remained untouched and am continuously disappointed when I find time after time that a place has been infiltrated by the West and the tourism industry. I don’t want modern hotels or Pizza Hut. I don’t want to see a 7-11 on every street corner and I would much rather swim in the ocean than a hotel pool. Yet I also find myself enjoying the comforts and conveniences that come with modernity. I couldn’t have internet access if it weren’t for foreign influence for example. And I quite like air conditioning every now and then. It’s a matter of finding a middle ground that is difficult.

I am writing this as I sit on the river bank of the Mekong in Thailand looking across at Laos. I managed to find a wonderfully laid back guesthouse in a Lonely Planet and am so happy not to be in one of the concrete block hotels mentioned beside it in the guide book. But it almost isn’t enough for me. I miss the time when I wouldn’t see the headlights of cars on the opposite river bank. You might be thinking that this was way before my time and I have never been here before so how could I miss it? But it’s more that I know how it was at one time and know I would have liked that better. Then again, how can I say that as I sit under an electric fan and electric lights wearing REI 99% Deet and drinking a cold beer. I suppose I could do without the cold beer, but I am so spoiled that I’m not sure how long I would really last in Thailand without these creature comforts.

I seem to find myself in a predicament then, I want the best of both worlds and not only that, I want it all to myself. I know, it’s very selfish of me.

When I start this line of thikning, I’m always drawn back to the idea that it’s people like me, the ones who want to go to the untouched places of the world, who end up ruining those very places. If I found it, then so will other people, and before you know it, a little piece of adventure becomes a tourist attraction and the magic is lost. The people in that area will change with the landscape and that place I loved so much is gone, it’s spirit buried beneath asphalt and hotels.

Every time I visit a well known destination it makes my heart ache a little; I miss the way it used to be. I don’t think I have baggage from a different life like Terzani, but a yearning to have lived in a different time period. To have been one of the first set of foreign eyes to see a forest. Knowing that my going somewhere will have a slight, I guess it’s more like extremely small, impact on an area is a huge draw back to travel, but I also feel that if I don’t go to these places then my life would feel like it was lacking something.

After I graduated from CU I couldn’t convince myself to get a real job, a solid post-graduate job, because I knew I needed to travel. I knew I would feel a kind of homesickness for places I had never been except perhaps in someother lifetime. So here I am experiencing those places I yearn for, only to find myself lusting for a different time period.