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?