Three years ago today I left my engineering office for good. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen in my future, but I decided to stop being a baby and take control of my own happiness. One week later I departed for my trip to the US and haven’t stopped moving ever since. It’s not true in a literal sense because I travel quite slowly, settling down for a few months at a time, visiting families and such. But I’m still on a quest to find a home and build my own path.
It’s been quite colorful, these past three years. My life at the office was drab and gray, but now I feel pain and joy in full spectrum. My life is back in Technicolor again.
I’ve been fortunate to see some extraordinary things along the way. I’ve been to the Arctic and the Outback, to the African desert and ancient Icelandic glaciers, and I found out there are lessons to be learned, inspirations to be found, and stories to be heard in every corner of the world. And no matter what scale of life people live in, they have their own stories to tell.
People often ask why I travel. It used to be simple: I wanted to see different places. Growing up in a small peninsular country, I didn’t know much about the world. Moreover, I wasn’t really interested in geography or history. I was more of a science girl. I developed a curiosity for the outside world on my own and tried my best to experience different things. But I guess it wasn’t enough. So I set off to see the world, and I’m glad I did.
Why I travel? To find similarities and differences. I always thought Koreans were peculiar people with a unique history, culture, and language. I thought no one could possibly understand our culture, our food, language, and customs, and no one would. But I found that lots of places, some on the other side of the globe, practiced similar customs as we did. We had similar life values, similar customs, and similar personalities. Learning similarities and differences between cultures has been a great joy on my journey.
The great Australian Outback
Why I travel? Through travel I can be more true to myself. I always encourage people, especially girls, to travel solo at least once in their lifetime. Domestic or international, alone. It was a tremendous experience for me, and what informs who I am to this day. One’s sense of responsibilities is totally different, I always say, when you are alone on the road. And you can truly find out who you really are.
Through the years I visited many countries and numerous cities and towns. I always try to find positive side about each places, and I normally can, but some places are just closer to my heart. The Australian Outback for instance. I spent five days in Queensland’s Outback last week. Going from Brisbane to Charleville was a big change in environment. The Outback is rough, dry, and frankly it’s in the middle of nowhere. But the entire time all I could think was, ‘I have to come back’. I loved every minute of it. Somewhere in Cunnamulla I wondered, ‘Why do I love this place so much?’
In the Alaskan Arctic expedition I had a similar discussion with Nikolai, our driver. He’s originally from Russia but settled in Coldfoot, an Arctic town. By average standards, it is considered a harsh place to live, but he was in love with it. Alaska has also remained one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. Nikolai said, “People are more honest here,” and that pretty much sums up another reason to travel: the people. When I was talking to David, one of the Kooma people in Cummanulla, I said to him that I loved being there, that the scenery was so beautiful. Pieta Mills, who was taking me around in Cunnamulla added. “Beautiful place, beautiful people.”
The Outback or the Arctic isn’t for everyone. Both for visiting or for living in. They’re places where you need to have a fly-in doctor and School of Distance Learning. A mailman only comes once a week, and you have to deal with slow Wi-Fi. As Kevin, owner of a farm outside of Charleville, Queensland, said,
“When we break our leg, we pray to God”.
Conditions can be harsh and unlivable. But one thing for sure is that people are more honest and kind in this kind of environment. It’s simple when you think about it. If you are in a place with a shortage of water or negative 40 degrees, you have to be honest with what you feel and need to know exactly what you need. When you bump into someone on the street, you can’t just glance and walk away, because you’ll meet the same person again on the other side of town. Everyone naturally understands the importance of helping each other. Indeed people are beautiful here. In some way, the harsh condition encourages them to be better people.
I feel more honest when I’m on the road, especially when I’m in these kinds of ‘harsh’ places. I don’t have to care about what to wear or how I look. Survival is more important that appearance. I learn to appreciate my family and friends. I see the greatness of nature, and the harmony. I make the best out of what I have in my own way. I also learn how to cope with unexpected situations. It helps me think what’s more important and what’s not in life.
Long story short, I travel because I get to learn more about what kind of person I am. I can be more honest with myself. Life is challenging enough even with a daily routine, and the challenge is grater when you don’t have a straight path into the future. I have my ups and downs in all the rainbow’s many colors, but at least I don’t lie to myself. I would never know all of these about myself if I was still working at the office, surrounded by gray. Or maybe I would have eventually, but not like this.
Three years of Bucket Living. It’s been hard but I can’t think of myself without this path.
Cheers to many more years of honesty!