Going solo

In a week's time, I'll be in Seoul, with only a couple of sightseeing items left on my Lonely Planet to-do list. In two weeks' time, I'll be trying to stuff all my things into my backpack for the flight home.

The thing about long trips like this that aren't vacations per se, is that at the start they feel as if they're gonna go on forever, in both good and bad senses of the word. I flew into Seoul in late April and skidded into May, which passed in a blur of hiking, cave visits, bus rides and banchan (the side dishes served with a Korean meal). Now I'm in June and I don't know where the time has gone. If next year someone asks me, what were you doing in May 2009, all I'll be able to muster is, "I was in ... Korea?"

This is also the first time I've travelled solo for such a long stretch, which is remarkable because I've never been very good at doing anything solo. BoKo once remarked that he was surprised I'd decided to become a freelancer because I'd always struck him as the kind of person who liked being around other people. I think that's still true, but since I split up with Terz, I've also had to learn to be more comfortable with being by myself.

And I mean that in a very deliberate way, like choosing to go watch a movie by myself, without asking anyone else along, or having dinner on my own at a Thai Express outlet. These are not extraordinary things, but as someone whose first impulse is always to call friends and see who's free to hang out, it takes a little pep-talking to myself, to stop worrying about what other people will think, to get myself out there.

So in a way, this whole trip has been about getting myself out there, even though it was a professional decision to come to Korea, not a personal one. I guess I was ready for the personal challenge, though, because even though I'd established early on that unlike Vietnam, probably no one would be travelling with me this time, I was surprisingly not freaked out by it. Yes, surprisingly, because I've found in the last two years that far less demanding situations can be disproportionately upsetting.

And now I finally get why Adri was always so thrilled about packing a bag and just going, solo, wherever, whenever. Sure, I've got a job to do here, I can't ditch a town just because it's boring (Chungju, I'm looking at you), but there's still some room for day-to-day whim and fancy. I've even gotten used to the stares and questions. Solo travellers are a rarity in Korea, where the culture is very group-oriented, especially when it comes to eating. I think there's the added mystery of the fact that I'm a solo traveller and Asian and (if I get to the point of mentioning these details) 35 years old and not married.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've taken this trip in my stride better than I thought I would, despite some bumps and hiccups along the way, and in no small part it's due to family and friends who have been my personal cheering squad along the way (not just for this trip, either). I don't think I could have made this journey at any earlier point in my life, but for now, everything seems to be in place.

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At 6/03/2009 5:18 am , Blogger Unknown said...

I like this. I'm proud of you. :)


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