Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Runaway Photo: Scenes of Jodhpur – Rajasthan, India
October 4, 2013
Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
Runaway Photo: Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
October 11, 2013

Where Everything Began

“How did you get into this business?”

This is one of the most common questions I get whenever I meet new people. Given my job and my lifestyle, I’m not someone they typically encounter on a day to day basis. I don’t have a permanent residence (although I’m trying to change this), and even though Korea is my home country, I’ve stuck to a rigorous travel schedule for last two years. And this is my job.

Being home these last few weeks has given me a good opportunity to look back and think about why I got into this whole work-and-travel business. While I was tidying up my old boxes, for example, I found my previous passports. (I’m currently on passport number 3). My very first passport was issued in 2004, right before my first trip to New Zealand. It almost looks new, so very thin and clean. It was made before Korea started using the Electronic Passport. Thumbing through the pages, I came across my first ‘Visitor’s Permit’ stamp at the Auckland Airport, New Zealand. And that’s when It hit me, ‘This is where everything began.’

In my interviews with various publications, I’ve often mentioned my trip to New Zealand. If I hadn’t gone on that trip, I wouldn’t have become who I am today, with the global perspective that I am thankful to have now. Who knows, if I hadn’t taken that trip, maybe I’d still be happily working at an office. But I’m not. And that’s because of this stamp with a little fern on it.

 

Recently I had a chance to think about what I’ve been doing for the last two years, and where I should go. Sometimes I blamed myself for constantly wanting something more and better. Why can’t I just be happy with what I have? Why do I have to be special? What’s so wrong about living a ‘normal’ life like everyone else? Whenever I have felt like my whole world was crumbling down, it always seems so easy to live with the flow, to take the easier path, the path I know so many people back home are happy to take. I sometimes feel like I’m struggling to create a utopia that I can never reach. But then, when I get out of these mini life-crisis funks, I always think to myself, ‘Hey, feeling pained but colorful is better than living in gray’. Finding my own purpose and walking on that harder-to-follow path is what makes me feel colorful.

 

I changed rapidly right after the trip to New Zealand in September 2004. I was extremely captivated by the new and exotic world out side of my homogeneous country. Even with my tight school schedule, I planned one trip at a time, to see a bit more of the world. Back then, I felt so proud of my passport with a few foreign stamps, and even handwritten approval from the Malaysian train conductor/ border patrol. The photo of my passport page was my desktop image for a long time.

 

Compared to myself seven years ago, I feel like I’ve become a bit of travel snob. Traveling still excites me, but sometimes I forget to appreciate what’s around me. And this apathetic attitude is a sure sign that something’s got to change. Life combined with work and non-stop traveling, has made me physically and emotionally tired for quite a while. Seeing my old passport stamp was a great reminder of why I jumped into this life from the beginning. The opportunities, excitement, and diverse world outside of my country; that’s what got me. While I’m struggling to find my own path, I still have a lot of opportunities on my hands that I never thought I could get, and it’s up to me to make something out of them. I’ve decided to change my work patterns and styles, and I found a new purpose to my lifestyle that I’m excited to share with everyone soon. It’s a good thing.

 

When you meet a big obstacle in your path, it’s good to think about where everything began. Go out, walk around the block, get some fresh air, and think about why you started this in the first place. I gained a little bit of patience. I have come a long way since nine years ago, and even though I have further to go, I’m excited for what’s up ahead.

 

What about you? What is your New Zealand passport stamp?

 

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

15 Comments

  1. Sometimes it is indeed important to look back and just think about all the decisions that took you to where you are today. What started it for me was my time spent in Australia I think that was the beginning for me. Good article all the best and look forward to finding out what your next big step will be.

  2. Ayngelina says:

    What a great and inspiring story but also to show people it doesn’t happen overnight but it can definitely happen.

  3. Thank you for such an honest post about these feelings… it takes bravery to be a full time traveller and say openly how it your lifestyle really makes you feel.
    I’d love to share my New Zealand passport stamp story with you but it would be a bit long just for a comment box. 🙂
    Love that quote you bolded… about being pained but colourful. I agree 100%…

  4. Nicole says:

    You know what, I honestly never thought of my “New Zealand Stamp.” I guess I’d have to relate mine to school. I tried, worked my way towards my career. And I’m happy for that. My husband and I have great jobs, which afford us a lot of time to travel. Life is good. But it didn’t happen that way overnight. It took time and patience and energy and motivation to move forward.

  5. Beautiful post. One thing really struck a chord with me — about being a travel snob and forgetting to appreciate the things around us. I don’t think of it is being a snob, I think of it as being burnt out. Even now, when I am not traveling as much, when I visit a new place, I forget to appreciate those things. I prefer to simply relax versus really go and explore. It is a terrible thing, because I lose focus of what I love. None of us are perfect, we are all out there trying to define ourselves, to figure out what it is we TRULY want in life. For some, travel helps us get closer to that goal. You keep doing exactly what it is you NEED to do and everything will fall beautifully into place.

  6. sanchezmark says:

    Great article! I agree with what you’re saying. As long as we are spending wisely and buying things we actually need then it’s okay to spoil ourselves ratehr than dealing with broken things all the tieme

  7. Awesome read Juno! We just got in the business recently and we are having a blast. Almost a year already of doing this business and it has its ups and downs but more often than not, it is definitely more of the up side. The ending and the starting is the hardest part and we could still remember how we quit our jobs! Nice read!

  8. Ah-ha! Nice one! Feels like I can totally relate to this actually! 🙂

    My NZ stamp is the UK one, by the way.

  9. My first trip out of the Philippines is Hongkong and I was just 6 years old that time. The next plane ride happened after 15 years and that is Singapore trip which I got for free because I won in a contest! I was able to attend a blog awards night and my closest friends won as well. It was then I realized that blogging and travel can go together and I’d be able to do what I really want. Unstoppable now 😀

    I do believe though that we need to slow a bit sometimes. It’s nice to be ‘normal’ every once in a while 😀

  10. Oh you tease. I want to know what your next plans are now. 🙂

  11. Erica says:

    Mine is my Barbados stamp from our honeymoon.

    Being at home has definitely got me thinking about how I think about travel. Also, I think our next big trip may be to Korea!!! 😀

  12. Alex says:

    Mine is my Thailand stamp from my first solo backpacking trip at age 19!

    I can very much relate to your feelings right now, but I agree with Diana — I don’t think its snobbery, I think its burnout. I was feeling it recently as well, though I’m happy to say that at the moment Peru is reviving me!

  13. Love it, and having known so many Koreans when I taught ESL I’m always so impressed at what you’re doing these days because I’m pretty sure none of the ones I met would have been brave enough.

    I guess my “New Zealand passport stamp” is my Japanese one, first time I lived overseas. Although really it dates back to age 9 when my parents took me travelling and I’m so grateful to them for that.

  14. jennifer says:

    I have also struggled with “why can’t I be happy with what I have” thing. I am very fortunate to have certain things like a job with a ridiculous amount of paid time off and an insanely cheap apartment in NYC.

    But one day, I realized I am not required to be happy with what I have. I could either spend time beating myself up for being so selfish and wanting so much more, when I already have so much. Or I could instead, put that energy into making me happy. I chose the latter.

    My “New Zealand” was Iceland. It was my first passport stamp. I didn’t even leave the airport. But just being in that airport, after decades of being scared to travel anywhere that far by myself, gives me the hugest feeling of self pride. Because I got me there, for myself and by myself. That was the day I stopped letting my fears control me.

  15. […] not visit New Zealand while we’re down there. New Zealand is, as many of you know by now, where everything started for me. The wonderful world of traveling, joy of meeting interesting people, the importance and diversity […]

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