In fact, I’m not really perfect.

A long time ago, I bragged about how I was born to travel. Those five facts are still alive, holding me up every single day on the road. After posting the article, many people told me (and you can see it from the comments) that I was very lucky. I don’t doubt, I am very grateful for my health and many other things I have. That’s just because I’m a glass half full kind of person (I wonder what idiom people used in the old days when before glass was invented), not because I really am perfect. I had my difficulties and challenges that I’m still dealing with to this day.

Me, traveling China with a huge blister on my lip
Me, traveling China with a huge blister on my lip

I’m almost blind without my contact lenses/glasses

My first glasses was a very typical silver colour, round shape. I got it when I was in third grade. And sadly, the tradition has been continued to this day. I first tried soft lens when I was in middle school, because I was tired of glasses and it made my eyes look very small (because I wore very thick glasses). It was scary at first, but very liberating. In college, I wanted to try hard contact lens. It was three times more expensive than the soft ones, but supposedly it last long and more comfortable to the eyes. It dramatically failed. One morning, I couldn’t see anything because my eyes were super swollen. The lens scratched my eyeballs. I had to go to the eye doctor for a week, and then never wore contact lens for next six months or so. But, I’m over it now. I can’t do anything without my contact lens.

Me wearing glasses
Me wearing glasses

My eyesight is -8.00 and -6.00, if the number means anything to you. It is quite bad. My glasses is very thick, even though I use a high quality ones. If I don’t wear anything, I can only see silhouettes but not the details.

I can’t swim without a swim goggle. The tiniest dirt, sand or the smallest salt water drop can make me cry like a baby. If I lost one of my contact lens on the sink, I need someone else’s help to locate them because, obviously, I can’t see. I need to hike with a bottle of saline solution and a glasses case, because I can’t sleep with my lens on. I love going in sauna room, but the heat sucks all the moisture out of my contacts, and I can’t wear glasses to sauna because the heat will ruin the frame. The contact lens make eyes tired more easily, but I can’t wear sunglasses without them. If you are asking, ‘why don’t you get a prescription sunglasses?’, I will answer this in next paragraph.

Wearing glasses/ contact lens is not only very inconvenient, but also it costs a lot. Because my eyesight is bad, I can’t use ‘normal’ lens for my glasses. It will be too heavy and thick. Each pair (glasses and contact lens) cost me $100+ every time. A bottle of saline solution is about $7, and it is double the price in Europe (it’s just damn hard to find in Europe).

I need a regular health checkup

Don’t get me wrong; I am very healthy. I’ve never been ill. I’m very grateful for the healthy figure I have. But, I have to keep checking up on a few issues that I got inherited. Some things are out of my control. No matter how careful I am at keeping myself healthy, I still need to keep an extra eye on. (Of course I recommend everyone to check up once in a while even if they are young.) Health issues are directly connected to money. The insurance is useless for a ‘check up’. They only want to be responsible at (at least) if something happen to the customers, and not when they want to find out if they are okay. The check up with expensive medical machines are inevitably expensive. But what can I do? It’s just a small sacrifice I have to make to live long and healthy. Investment for future, I would say.

I was born in Korea

It’s amazing to see how Europeans and Americans are open minded about traveling. They could go on a high school trip to neighboring countries, and they didn’t even need a passport. Americans gave me the similar impressions with their Canada and Mexico trip stories. International travel with a car still feels surreal to me.

Because of the geographic feature, Korea never has been open to traveling. There was a period of time several hundreds years ago, that the King actually set a law not to accept any foreign influence. Traveling to the closest neighboring countries: Japan and China, (not North Korea) still is a big deal. Budget airlines connecting those countries appeared not too long ago. Driving and flying are two very different methods of traveling. There’s no countries that Koreans can go with their car. Korea is a small, and isolated country.

Ahyeon Station Subway Line 2
Seoul Metro

I wasn’t born in the family who are specially fond of traveling. My parents took us to mountains and beaches when we were growing up, but for older generation Koreans, traveling is only for when you are young or when you have a family with young kids. Leisurely travel for yourself wasn’t really acceptable or common back then. There was no money to spend on traveling and flight tickets. And, that mindset of my parent hasn’t changed. Traveling the world is as equally bad as, I don’t know, committing a crime or something. I’m the ugly duckling who didn’t grow up to be swan yet in my family. This friction between family is a big setback in my life. It really bothers me, but I’m trying to keep in balanced. But it’s not so easy as well.

My first language is Korean

It took me many painful years to get to this level of English. I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not too bad. Because of the reason I mentioned just above, foreign language wasn’t too powerful in Korean peninsula, except Chinese characters. I didn’t need it. English always has existed near me, but I didn’t see that I needed to master other languages. Just because I had no occasion to use it.

The very first time I got interested in English was 2004. I panicked more than enough times when I first went to an English speaking country. A conversation with Irish girl made me sweating on my back, and I missed a few meetups because I couldn’t figure out what ‘quarter of 8pm’ meant (is it 8:15pm or 7:45pm?). But English slowly got me, and I got to know the joy of learning it as a foreign language. But I do really love using English. It opened up a huge world for me. I’m still learning, and picking up customs whenever I’m in English speaking countries. I had a few (a lot) awkward encounters with some random people, but I think I’m doing okay.

Last but not least…

I’m a female traveler

We all know what that means, don’t you, ladies? Monthly crankiness is inevitable.

This is the point of view as a half glass empty kind of a person in me. These facts delayed my starting point, but I grew out of it. It never stopped me before, and it won’t be. Everyone has their challenges, no matter what their daily job is. There are much bigger realities in life than career. Health, finance, family, religion and so on. The important thing is what is in your priority list. ‘I wasn’t born with it’ cannot be the excuse for everything. We couldn’t choose which country to be born and the talents to be given. Maybe I wasn’t a born traveler, but I made it happen because I wanted to. I’ve heard so many, just like I used to, complaints about why they couldn’t do something because of the natural conditions they were born with. Why don’t we make the best out of things we already have? We can aim high and try to achieve. Happiness is a state of mind!

Now, let’s go out and explore!

36 thoughts on “Why I Wasn’t Born to Travel”

  1. I always complain about the hassle of traveling with contacts… I’m dying to get Lasik! But you seem to have it much harder than I do actually… so I’m going to stop whining now 🙂

    1. I thought about getting Lasik, but I can’t. I’m too chicken. Everything sounds so scary! I’m wearing my glasses more often than I used to, but still it’s quite heavy on my nose. 🙂

  2. Juno, I feel you! I also wear glasses/lens on a regular basis (though my eyesight is a lil bit better than you), I’m an Indonesian female whom first language also not English. And being Indonesian even means extra work for me to get through all the VISAs for most of the countries in the world! I absolutely love this post.

    1. I can see the visa issues are big thing for you. I’m okay in most of the countries, but had a hard time in the US once. Some Asian countries set up an odd rule, so I had to go visa run twice. But other than that. 🙂

  3. Hi Juno
    I really enjoy reading your blogs, tweets and FB messages.
    You shoot right from “the hip” with the ups and downs of your travelling life.
    At least you are a realist, with your feet firmly on terra firma.
    Just keep doing what your head / heart dictates to you, enjoy life (you only have one) and keep travelling
    Take care

  4. Couldn’t agree more! Once some bad little monkey in Bali stole my glasses, and I was practically blind! My parents had to hold my hands when I was walking, and eventually I had to buy a pair of contact lenses.

    1. What! That’s terrible! I always have two pairs of glasses (only when I’m at home). I don’t through out my old one just in case. It’s such a burden!

  5. Great article Juno.
    I’m also quite blind (5 and 5.75) but not as bad as you! I know it can make things tough when travelling, especially when you lose one of your lenses and don’t have a spare. (This has happened to me before – disaster!)
    However, I’m from Australia and we’re very open to travelling – it must’ve been tough for you coming from Korea.

    1. Yes I met a lot of Australian travelers, and they said pretty much same thing. I guess traveling is some what social convention in many countries. But I’m glad I found this world, thought it’s a bit later than others.

  6. It has been good to get to know you via Twitter and your blog, and much, much too infrequent meetings in person, but reading this makes me feel like I know you just a little better. Proud of all you have done on the internet and with your travels. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks Michael. I also am looking forward to spending more time talking with you in our next encounter! I still have a long way to go, but good to know there are people out there walking on the same path.

  7. Great list, but like you said, all reasons that you overcame! I’m also inspired by those who travel with English as their second language, us native speakers totally take it for granted that you can get by nearly anywhere with English.

    Also, Lasik changed my life! I got it 4 years ago, was sore for 4 hours, and have been so happy about my eyesight ever since! (I was -5.00 for most of my life). Do it!

    1. Thanks for your good words Alissa. I’ve heard good things about lasik, but I’m too chicken about the whole medical procedure. Have you ever had any problems ever since?

  8. Monthly crankiness is one of the worst parts of traveling as a female. Also, it’s just harder for girls to travel on their own. It can be scary sometimes!

  9. FINALLY, someone who understands!!! My sensitive, dry, blind eyes are my biggest hassle. I hate complaining, but they are the worst. Finally getting contacts into my eyes changed my life, but I’ve tried every kind under the sun, and even the most comfortable kind only stay in my eyes a few hours. It is a pain all around, plus my dry eyes have caused major problems on the road. BUT, nothing will stop us, right? The culture thing is huge. I come from a big travel family, but it is just now starting to become more common to travel in some parts of the US.

    1. My eyes never bothered me except the fact I’m almost blind. I’ve met quite a number of people who were suffering with the dried eyes.
      The culture is a huge thing, but I’m glad I had a chance to find out the bigger and better world than what I’ve given.

  10. A friend of mine got the Lasik done while we were in Taiwan. He is the cool headed one of the 2 of us, and I have never really seen him lose it or get too stressed. But this surgery really did him in. He was so nervous and worried, especially when he accidentally rubbed his pupil right after the surgery and displaced it. It all turned out OK now, as his eyes are as normal as can be. It’s true though, having to travel with glasses or contacts are a real pain.

  11. Wow you really are blind. When I lose or break my glasses it is an inconvenience but I can still see. I cannot imagine how you would copy without yours.

  12. OMG I’ve met someone who is blinder than I AM! I’m -7.5 in both eyes so I totally feel your pain. I used to be a -8.0 but it changed recently. I get so sad when I’m underwater and can’t open my eyes.

  13. Wow I can’t believe with reading this post and the following comments how many blind travelers there are haha! I’m pretty blind too. I always take my glasses off when I take pictures, so when people meet me in person they are always shocked finding me wearing glasses. I have prescription sunglasses and diving mask. You’re such an inspiration! 🙂

  14. Wow, if I ever speak Spanish like you can speak English, I’d be pretty proud. Great philosophy Juno, the sky’s the limit if you have a positive attitude like you do!

  15. I made it through one long trip where I had to manage my contacts/glasses while living in a tent. I don’t think I could have done it again. I’d been nervous about lasik, but it was worth it just for never having to put in my contacts in an airplane bathroom again.

  16. And I thought my eyes were bad! I guess I won’t complain about my -3.0s anymore, although I’m still hoping to get Lasik some day. It will be so freeing to travel without the big bottle of contact solution!

  17. I just recently got sunglasses for my -6 eyes. I totally remember the really thick ones as a kid. Though I have been wearing glasses since I was a baby (yes apparently they do make them that small), I don’t really think of it as a hindrance to travel. I can’t read or really enjoy anything without them though. I had one freak out in Italy a number of years ago and destroyed my primary pair and had to head home wearing sunglasses (thankfully prescription ones).

    Not too many of us are really born to travel, it is a decision. Sometimes the decision is harder or easier given factors, but still a choice. A wonderful choice no matter the hassles.

  18. I know what you mean about being Korean and how that has shaped your travels and the way people perceive them in your country.

    I am European (Portuguese) and travel with my husband who is from India – there’s a world of difference between us both when it comes to travel prep! To begin with, I get visa on arrival to most places but we need to apply and pay for his visas… On the other hand, people from his country (and mine, up to a certain extent) do not understand the “appeal” of travelling for extended periods of time.. let’s just face it: most people think we’re bums.

    I always joke that “backpackers are always blonde!” because, as you say, people from Europe and USA have it easy when it comes to travel.. and that’s why most of the travelers one gets to meet on the road are from the west. But that’s why it’s unique for us readers to follow your blog and other blogs written by people who experience things differently, depending where they come from.. Please keep it up! 🙂

  19. Echoing some other sentiments here – I got LASIK (in Seoul, actually!) 2 years ago and it was/is amazing. Made travel so much easier, and I still can’t believe I can wake up and see. I totally understand the fear; I was freaked out, but it was all over in less than a minute. The surgeon was great, and the nurse held my hand and gave me a stuffed animal!

    1. Less than a minute? Ah, but I still can’t imagine getting a surgery on my eyeballs. You know the fear, when you couldn’t see well for more than a decade, so you think what if I could loose the ability completely?! But I hear a lot of good feedbacks on the procedure. So maybe…

  20. Inspiring post Juno Kim, love it. Is anyone ever born to be great at something or one exact thing? I don’t think so, I believe that is why we should all get out there and give everything a go. Yea sure we are lucky to travel but that doesn’t mean people should sit back and just accept that we are the lucky ones and their not. We are the ones that make it happen. We make the choices to put ourselves in that position whether we are “born to be there” or not. If some wants anything bad enough they will get it! If you want to buy a new pair of shoes you will save up and buy them, if you want to go travel and see the world bad enough you will work towards that goal and succeed. As they say “you can do whatever you want, as long as you put your mind to it” and you have Juno Kim, congrats. Keep living the dream

  21. Great post Juno. You seem to be doing well despite these limitations. It’s also very inspiring that you can travel solo, not many people can do it! Keep up the good work 😀

  22. Juno, do you write in Korean? I think a lot of Koreans would be inspired to follow in your footsteps and travel, too. It’s hard to change Korean culture and I know that it’s looked down upon as “not serious” when you don’t get a job or study for some upcoming test, but at the end of the day your culture is still made up of individual people. If you can change a few minds, then maybe a cultural shift will happen and you’ll be more appreciated when you visit home.

    But keep writing in English, too, for me. 🙂

  23. Just wait till you are old enough for cataracts! I was like you, terrible eyesight with astigmatism and glasses even before school. Then I found contacts and felt liberated, never went back to glasses. Then last year I was 66 and needed to have cataracts removed from my eyes. I paid the extra and the doctor replaced the cloudy lens with one for seeing distance in one eye and one for reading in the other and also corrected the astigmatism. For the first time in my life I see perfectly with no glasses and no contacts!!!!! (You have to have successfully used monocular vision (each eye corrected separately for distance and closeness) previously with contacts or glasses to be able to correct this way with implanted lenses.)

  24. Love it! I spent two months doing an internship in Busan a few years ago. It’s only after reading your post that I realized that Korea is indeed quite isolated geographically, and many people don’t have cars if they want to travel domestically. Thankfully the rise of budget airlines is indeed allowing Koreans to go abroad more. I loved it there though and would move back in a heartbeat!

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