Korea taught me a lot of extremely important life lessons. Sometimes learning was difficult, mostly it was extremely fun.
In Korea I was forced to confront my own cultural and personal philosophies, my ways of living, and my expectations - this is because I often had to justify them verbally to sceptical locals. When someone says "you must be very rich because you living in a house instead of an apartment," it makes you take a mental step backwards to confront your own expectations and definitions of wealth and lifestyle.
|Okay guys, my house is less this,|
So what did I learn? A few tangible things, like "eating a whole raw garlic clove won't kill you," "some people are just assholes," "pain is temporary," and "Dokdo is Korean" (j/k).
|and "Gochujang is delicious in literally everything."|
BUT: There is one lesson I learned in Korea that has proved to be The Most Important Lesson.
That lesson is this: Being challenged is GREAT.
I was extremely happy in Korea. Yes, part of that was having a low-responsibility job with lots of recreation time to pursue my hobbies and travel Asia. But more than that, it was the experience of being challenged every day. Every time I over-came something, or saw something new, or did something totally different and outside of my comfort zone, I got an instant boost of happiness and confidence.
|For an entire year, I was basically this monkey.|
Before I left Korea, I made a promise to myself that I would always live my life like I did when I was there. It might not always be possible to take amazing vacations to Japan or to have a mountain-top running trail 100 metres from my apartment stairs...but it is possible to challenge myself on a daily basis, to explore the world around me like a visitor, and to make time for adventure.
Since I've been back I've been pretty successful at sticking to my promise. I've done things I never would have done before Korea, and explored places around my old home town that I somehow managed to never see. I did a 5 day canoe trip with a mostly-stranger, I kicked ass at an ultimate tournament, completed the 7 summits race, I found a bunch of new trails that I hike and bike relentlessly, I climbed two mountains I'd never climbed before, I stayed the night in a cabin on one of them, I joined a yoga studio and a brand new ultimate league, I made a bunch of new friends and rekindled my relationships with old ones, I applied for jobs I wasn't qualified for (and even interviewed for a few of them), I applied for a PhD, I tried and failed at single-track downhill biking, I ran over twenty kilometres in one day, I started swimming again. I feel fear, stress, and insecurity all time time, but instead of being a barrier, these feelings motivate and excite me.
I've really missed writing in this blog...but having more or less acknowledged that I'm not going back to Korea any time soon (unless my education AND my work prospects here in Canada should fail me), I feel like continuing my writing here would be inappropriate. Besides, I want this blog to remain as a resource for future teachers and visitors to Korea. I've had quite a bit of response to the hiking trip posts thanking me for English guidance, and I wouldn't want to dilute those posts with stuff about my adventures in BC.
My new blogging venue is over at onewomanwilderness.blogspot.com. I'll be doing something similar to what I did here. You can expect travel and trail info, photos, product reviews, and the occasional opinion piece.