Exactly two years ago today, walked out the very same door, that I had been passing for last two and a half years, for the last time. The 30-month long relationship between us was finally over.
If you are visiting RunawayJuno.com for the first time, here’s a short version of my story:
I used to work at oil & gas plant company in Seoul for two and a half years as a mechanical engineer. I have two degrees in mechanical engineering, including a Master’s Degree on Computational Fluid Dynamics. After two and a half short years of agonizing cubic farm life, I realized that this particular office wasn’t the place for me. I wasn’t happy, and I felt locked up by my own boundary. After an year or so of planning, I finally decided to spill the bucket. I couldn’t handle making ‘bucket list’ with things that I’d never achieve, because I couldn’t have any free time. RunawayJuno.com was up and running (successfully-maybe) by the time, so I made my mind to pursue my passion at writing and photography.
Two years later…
Things have been changed.
Even compared to last year today (my first bucket living anniversary), The last two years was the most exciting, the most painful, and quite the most important time of my entire life. Countless ups and downs, the tears and joy, all the planning, ink trace on my notepad, and meltdowns, it was all there. That’s the thing about making my own life. I’ve created my own job, and now I’m building a sturdy path for myself. I’m able to walk only one step at a time. But better to feel colours, than being gray, right?
I’ve learned so much about myself, the world, and the industry I’m in. Some are personal, some are business, and some are general awakening. Here are big lessons I’ve learned during last two years of bucket living.
This is the number one advice to anyone in any situation, isn’t it? Life isn’t worth it when you fool yourself. I’ve learn it the hard way. Or I have to say, I actually felt it on my skin, rather than just knew it in my head. Among all the businesses, especially writing is a hard profession to be successful if you’re not true to yourself. I’ve been getting a lot of attention from readers around the world because of my voice, but running a blogging business is a whole another story.
I was trying to be successful in the major league, where everyone’s in. I studied English, attended global conference by flying half way around the globe, worked with countless important travel-related companies, whilst looking for my opportunities. I wanted to one of them (one of you). I’ve done quite okay so far in the US market, but it was getting harder because I wasn’t physically living there, and I’m not a legal citizen. There are so many options (such things that are so ordinary to most of people) are not available to me because I’m not a citizen of one of the major league countries that are leading the media industry.
The supporting system of entrepreneurship isn’t available for everyone. I admit, it bothered me. A few of meltdowns were caused by not being able to do something that everyone I knew could. But I’ve decided that not let that bother me anymore. It doesn’t matter other people are doing great with Kickstarter or Amazon business. I’ll find my way around. I’m the leading market in my side of the world. I’m going to use that opportunity to turn the situation around. Don’t worry, I’m still here, and I’m doing what I’ve been doing for last two years. Just adding something more in my radar.
I’m not giving up. Last two years of location independent blogging/ writing opened up so much opportunities for me. I’ve been working, and traveling to 23 countries since last anniversary, and 19 of them were new. I could never travel that much if I wasn’t working in my current profession.
Finally, I had an epiphany when I was in Sri Lanka. I’ve been lying to myself for last two years, keep saying ‘don’t be lame’. Digital nomad is such a cool way to describe a person. I was trying to be one because all the people are doing it just fine, and they are keep saying they love it. I thought I was doing something wrong. But, it’s just not me. I’ve never describe myself as a digital nomad to anyone. For some reason, I was uncomfortable using that term. And now I know why.
The internet connection in Sri Lanka was one of the worst I’ve ever experienced, and it wasn’t a good time to be offline for an extended time. I was preparing a project, and keeping the momentum was quite important at that time. I ended up booking a flight ticket to Kuala Lumpur to work on normal Wi-Fi.
I always knew I wasn’t made out to be a nomad. I need a home, a place to go back, where I could arrange my souvenirs, and I need a place where I feel safe no matter what. I haven’t had the space ever since I moved out from an apartment I lived during my graduate school years. That’s the reason why I can’t travel ‘light’. I’m bringing my home with me, wherever I go. I’m not one of those clean nomad who has one small backpack, wears one outfit for a month. I need a sense of comfort that I can have from a home.
I don’t have an answer, or how to yet, but I won’t pursue the lifestyle I have to travel, and work at the same time for too much long. I will work hard for several months at home, and take a vacation for a month without worrying my business. It will solve a lot of problems, including stress of connection, and a light backpack.
My family and I are the closest. I’ve been told the most awful things that anyone could ever say to other person from my own parents. They are not happy with my decision. I get it, they are old fashion. They were born during the war, and witnessed the power of money for last sixty years. They thought I was crazy, and I can tell it still isn’t changed.
It was quite hard when I was away for 14 months from Seoul. I barely talked to my father, and only thing I’ve heard was ‘when are you coming home’. Seoul is my hometown, but it’s not my home anymore. I went back for Korean New Year in February. When I was having so many ups and downs while jumping a continent to continent, everything remained stunningly same in Korea. For a person’s lifetime, one year isn’t a too long time. I felt the joy of being around family for the first time ever since I had a big fight with everyone. Still, there was some banned subject to discuss, but I had a lot of fun preparing the New Year’s celebration.
When my father said he would never understand me, or support me, I thought I had to leave without him. Frankly, I thought I could. Well, I don’t have any support from my family right now, but at least it is not so much rough as before. They are slowly accepting my decision, and the fact they can’t turn my decision around anymore. It will remain rough, my father would never support my decision if I’m not going back to the office life, but a family is family. It was good to see everyone, even I didn’t get what I wanted. I guess that’s family.
Not just from my family, I felt the greatness of unconditional love through Stephen’s family. Stephen’s parents, and brothers supported me ever since I got to know them. When I see them talking about their son to their friends, with a glow of pride in the face, I got quite envious. I wonder if my family would ever talk about me that way.
I will keep trying, to do my best at what I do, and to make my family understand more about my life. Family is family. It’s important.
Just like the slogan I learnt at the Girl Scouts, I have to be prepared. I’m working as a freelance writer, and photographer as well. Freelancing job is quite slow. There’s a lot of chasing down. Since I’m doing it on the side, and my writing skill isn’t the best, it’s hard to get a decent position. I had a few constant freelance writing position with several companies, but all the positions have been ended by change of company’s direction. I knew writing a blog post one a month can’t be my permanent position, but it came as a shock.
There are many activities I do on the side besides of blogging, but honestly it isn’t bring me much of $$$. I wasn’t really prepared.
I am trying to branch out to a few other directions based on my success on RunawayJuno.com. It will be an exciting year. I wasn’t prepared, but I’m on my way to prepare my future.
I started RunawayJuno.com because I wanted to be heard. Travel stories are hard to share in a normal life. I loved being involved in a community, and most of them gave me a break at my terrible grammar. I enjoyed blogging for last three years, but most of all, I discovered my love of writing.
I always loved writing growing up. Even when I was studying engineering at university, I wrote travel journals, and enjoyed writing letters to friends (yes, I am a letter-writing generation). I was a good writer ‘for an engineering student’. A month backpacking trip in New Zealand in 2004 was fully documented. But English writing is different. Korean and English have two very different style, and the way of expression emotions. Of course, grammar was quite hard for me to get used to (and as you can see, I’m still not good), but I genuinely fell in love with writing in English. I wouldn’t have met any of you if I wasn’t started writing.
It led me to write a book. Yes, I am writing a book. I’ve been constantly writing (not as much as I supposed to) for last several months, and it is almost finished. It is mostly about what I’ve learned for last two years of, well, everything. Don’t worry, I have an editor to fix all the grammatical error, I promise! I can’t wait to deliver it to you all someday. Don’t miss out the grand publishing day of my new book, you will be the first one to know: you can subscribe my monthly newsletter right here (and you’ll get my photo ebook with my 25 favorite photos from around the world).
I got sick during the weekend, and I’m still not doing well. Because of the historical haze that has been covering Singapore and Malay peninsula, unfortunately a lot of people are suffering, and I’m one of them.
I will celebrate it with a glass of Arrack + coke tonight. I can’t believe it only has been two years. Feels like I’m ten years older.
My sincere gratitude to everyone who’s reading this post, and who has been visiting RunawayJuno.com on a regular basis. I couldn’t do it without your support, and affection, even there was none from my own family. Thank you all.