The thoughts that keep me up at night
2016 is gone and New Year’s Day has come. The Earth traveled another 940 million kilometers (584 million miles). Where did the time go? Oh I know, I worked, traveled, watched movies, binge-watch TV shows, read books, spent nights in airplanes, trains, and airports… I was busy living.
During all the excitement, I felt a lot of emotions and made decisions that have affected the course of life. But it wasn’t just I who experienced a tumultuous year. 2016 will be remembered as a notoriously terrible year. I’ve reached a point where I couldn’t even watch my beloved political satire shows anymore, and you know how much I love comedy. The reality is so terrible, I can’t laugh about it anymore. So much blood has been spilled, literally and metaphorically. In the last days of this horrible year, we also lost some of the most inspiring people in the world like Carrie Fisher. Can this year be done already?
The world news aside, let’s focus on the small details: a life. No matter what’s happening in the world, we have to power through our individual lives, right? It’s not like watching a terrible movie; you can’t just quit and move on. We have to keep trying.
A new, or the first, home
So, let’s talk about life. It’s been almost two years since Stephen and I got married. A lot of people have asked me ‘What’s changed?’, but in fact, not much has changed. We are still two individuals who are creating a life together. We are committed to our co-living but also we respect each other’s individuality like traveling solo. We are still nomads without a permanent address. Over the years of full-time travel, I’ve had many meltdowns over the fact that I didn’t have a home or a stable life. It’s the continuous fight between the old me with the traditional upbringing and the new me who is embracing this new lifestyle. They get along most of the time but when a fight breaks out, it’s bad.
After a careful consideration, we’ve decided to find a home. Being a nomad is great and all, but it was slowly taking something out of me. I needed a root, a place to go back, my own kitchen, a group of friends, and a routine. But the question was, where? The fact that we are from two different countries (Korea and USA) and working for ourselves make things a bit more complicated. Neither of us can live in our home countries more than 90 days and we all know the rules are a lot more strict in the US.
Korea and the US are both good places to live, but considering the work we do, we thought it would be better to stay in the US for now. Living an unconventional life is a constant struggle in Korea, at least right now. And I like America. You know, the American Dream is still a thing where I’m from. There are so many possibilities and people celebrate individuality.But the question was, how?We had to apply for a visa. “But you’re married now. Don’t they just give you one?” Oh hell no.
The thing is, being married is one of the reasons I can apply for the permanent residence visa (also known as a green card). It doesn’t promise you anything. I won’t bore you with the details (wait for the full post once I have it on my hand!). But yes, we are in the process of getting me a green card so we can live and work in the US.
But the question was, where in the US? Stephen is from Pennsylvania but we wanted to live somewhere different. I always dreamed of living in a place where I look out the window and admire the beauty of nature. A place that’s full of a loving and kind community that I appreciate being there every day (like Stars Hollow!). We considered a few places: Flagstaff (AZ), Denver (CO), Taos (NM), somewhere in Utah, Washington State, and so on. There are 50 states to choose from. But for the first time settling down, I wanted to be the place where I know I love, I already belong (sort of) to a community, and has a striking landscape right out my door. Can you guess where it is?
Anchorage, Alaska.We don’t know what’s going to happen with our visa process. It’s been almost a year. If the visa comes through, we will be moving to Anchorage, Alaska. Stephen hasn’t been back for 18 years but I’m certain that he’d fall in love with the nature and people there. Making Alaska my home has been my dream that’s been brewing for the last 6 years. I consider the whole time on the road these past few years was a journey to find a place I could call home. I never felt quite right growing up in Korea. I didn’t fit in perfectly. My appearance, my personality, my interests… I always had to restrain who I really was to be seen as a good Korean. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country and I intend to live there at some point in my life, but I want to see who I can really become without all the restrictions of my conservative society.
So when can I be in Anchorage? It’s all up to the US government, but hopefully before this summer I’ll be there to explore the vast nature of Alaska and settle down. Wish us luck!
Travel: frequent short travels instead of long-term
For the last 6 years, I’ve been constantly moving. We stopped for a few months at a time when we visited our parents. But most of the time, we’ve been on the road. Now it’s time to slow down. I love the idea of exciting adventures but you can’t have the best of the both worlds. The minimalistic living is a fantasy to us all but I’d rather choose to live that way than be forced to. Now I have to travel with a small amount of belongings and it gets tougher each time because I go for work at the same time (nice clothes take a lot of room) and that means passing through different climates. I miss wearing jeans or shoes other than hiking boots, having my own little routine and friendly neighbors, you know, the normal and steady life. But it doesn’t mean that I want to stop traveling. Instead, I would rather travel short term more frequently than leave for long term.
One of the books I read in college said, “We leave because we have somewhere to come back”. Yes, that. I want that.
The never-ending questions about having a baby
Especially in recent years, I’ve been realizing how much I’m like my parents, especially my mom. We all deny it when we are younger. “I’m nothing like my parents!” we think. But as people say, blood is thicker than water.
I’m not talking about something big like I became a doctor because my father was a great doctor. No, it’s more subtle things, what I found in day-to-day life. My mom is very smart, more than she realizes herself. Her brain spins so fast, she comes up with solutions in most situations. People also say ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’ and that cannot be truer for my family. She raised me and my brother without any help in a tiny apartment in a big city with small earnings, and that’s not something everyone can do. My parents now live comfortably in their late 60s, and that couldn’t have happened without my mom. So yes, there are so many reasons why I look up to her. I often think ‘What would my mother do?’. When I realized ‘This is totally what mom would have done’, I couldn’t help but feel a little hop in my heart. I am my mother’s daughter. Being like her would mean that I’m wise, strong, and can be a good mother like her.
Stephen and I talked about having kids. We are still talking about it and secretly we are picking out names. But the reality isn’t so easy. First, we don’t have a home. How can you raise a child without a home base? Can we get health insurance when I get to the US? What if my visa application gets denied? How can we raise a baby with our current income? What if I can’t get pregnant? There is so much I want to do in my life, and can I do it all when I have children? So many questions and no easy answers.
Meanwhile, I’m not getting any younger (boo biological clock!). My friend once told me not to draw too many conclusions even before things happen. Situations will sort themselves out, he said. And that’s true. Even 30 years ago, my parents raised me and my brother with so little but we turned out fine.
What excites me about having a kid is that I can pass on the knowledge I’ve learned from my parents. This isn’t something you can learn from a book. It’s only by living together and showing through examples. We don’t know when it will happen, or if it will happen at all. But I can’t wait to say “This is what grandma does.” someday.
It’s this time of the year making me think about all of these thoughts. The old one is gone and the new year is here. One thing I know for sure is that I’m constantly searching for happiness. So let’s hope for more of that.
What about you, what thoughts are keeping you up at night?