The longest March ever has passed. April and May weren’t great either. And now we’ve just passed the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice). It’s already the end of June. The first half of 2020 seemed like the shortest and the longest at the same time. Don’t you think?
This pandemic has certainly brought a lot of changes. I’m sure it’s the same for you. This is the first time in my life when everyone in the world is going through the same thing. I’m out of work, and so are a lot of people I know. For the first time, we are not ‘allowed’ to travel due to health concerns. The world always goes through something at any given time, but not on this scale. At least not in my lifetime.
Here are a few things that I noticed about my current life; and I want to hear about yours too.
For more than two months, I’ve been home. I had to travel from Korea to Anchorage in early April and that was quite traumatic since it was during the height of the pandemic. But ever since, I’ve been here. You know me; whether for work or pleasure, I travel around a lot. So it’s been a change and I’m enjoying it. Thankfully, outdoor places in Alaska never closed. We can still go hiking, biking, and camping. That was after my 14-day quarantine, of course. Since then, I hiked, biked, and camped more than last summer. The weather has been fair, so it gave me a lot of opportunities to explore my adopted home state of Alaska.
I have a new office space set up near the window in my living room. I spend a lot of time here if I’m not out adventuring or cooking. Since spring came, I started to notice that we have a lot of birds near my house. There are several trees outside and I’m one small street away from the trail so I guess it makes sense. Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Juncos, Steller’s Jays, Nuthatches, Warblers, and many other kinds.
I see a Robin building its nest, a Nuthatch courting a mate, and a Junco eating out of my bird feeder. Even while I’m driving, I see a lot more birds in ponds, lakes, and marshes. I’ve seen a few-hour-old moose calf standing up for the first time, a Red-necked Grebe catching fish, Tundra Swans and their cygnets swimming, and a bull moose cooling down in a stream.
You know, there have been reports from around the world how nature is healing, like wildlife reclaiming Yosemite National Park. But I’m wondering if there is actually more wildlife because of a lack of human activity or I have more time to notice them. Either way, I’m enjoying it. By the way, did you see the report about dolphins coming back to the canals of Venice? It’s fake news.
I grew up with an old healing method, Korean medicine (closely related to Chinese medicine), which used natural ingredients for body ailments. We would get potions made with herbs that were specifically chosen for an individual. Although now we are all used to western medicine, I always try to practice using a natural method first.
When I was studying intensively during my grad school years, I would come home and make all-natural soap and skincare products to destress. It healed me in a way. I did that for a while but I had to stop when I started traveling. Fast forward to when the COVID 19 pandemic hit. I see a lot of people are learning new skills or revitalizing knowledge from the old days.
For me, my interest in making natural products reincarnated with my passion for foraging and nature in Alaska. I’m learning a lot from books written by Native people, who know how to live on this land. Also, there are books written by people who live in a similar environment, like northern Canada, that introduce how to forage and incorporate those natural ingredients in life.
I’ve always been interested in foraging but I realized it takes a few seasons to get a grasp of things since I’m new here. If I’m not following people around to pick, I learn something new at the end of each season. So far this year I picked an early spring harvest of fiddlehead ferns, mushrooms, and others and also made herb-infused oil and salve. I’m eager to learn about different plants and their usage and grateful for this land. I made pain relief salve with a few medicinal herbs I gathered nearby and plan to share with those who need to relieve pain.
I may have had a late start in this round-the-world travel world, but I was certainly fortunate to visit a lot of amazing places in the last 10 years. I traveled outside of my home country of Korea for the first time in 2004, to New Zealand. I often talk about it since it was a clear moment that changed my life. I started Runaway Juno in 2009. I left my mechanical engineering career in 2011 and started traveling and working on the road full time.
Since I started the blog, I have traveled to some of the most amazing and remote places, learned a lot about myself, discovered new passions and interests, and so many more amazing things happened that I could never fit into just one blog post.
Like many other photographers during this pandemic, I have had an opportunity to look back and edit some of my old photos. Just three years ago, I was drinking horse’s milk in Kyrgyzstan, trekking in Nepal, learning how to milk a camel (yes, a camel) in Mongolia, visiting a Romani family in Moldova, and capturing northern lights in Greenland. I did travel a lot. I did have amazing opportunities to experience so many different cultures. It feels even more special to think about all those, especially now, when the world of travel will be changed forever. The old saying, carpe diem cannot be more true in this post-COVID 19 world.
How about you, what has changed or stayed the same for you? Did you learn any new skills or revitalize an old passion? Please share!