A Long Time Coming

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Tonight, Sujin and I packed up a picnic of grapes, almonds, tomatoes, and a bottle of white wine and wandered down to the park of her apartment complex. We spent the evening there, watching the sun fall below the mountain ranges that embrace the edges of Seoul’s cityscape. We reminisced our college days, laughing at our memories and wondering what had happened to our old acquaintances. Then, as the night grew later and the wine disappeared, we began talking about what the future held for us and when life would bring us together again.

There’s so much that’s up in the air when you travel: where you’ll end up sleeping at night, what you’ll find to eat, who you’ll meet and share your experiences with. But there’s a certain sense of security in that; the knowledge that everything flows, that every day is what you make of it, and that you don’t have to carry expectations. Everything is new and if you don’t like something, you can just leave it, whether it’s a person or a place. But that comfort doesn’t exist at home when you’re with your family and friends. At home, you have commitments to others, the responsibility to care about them, and in turn, care about yourself.

As Sujin and I talked, I began to realize that I had spent the better part of two years on the opposite side of the world from America because I didn’t want to face these commitments. And even more so, that I was scared I wouldn’t live up to people’s expectations or my own. So I set off to do the impossible, to do things nobody else I knew had done, as both a challenge and a safeguard.

And here I was, about to return to America, to my friends and family, and I finally felt ready to be part of it all. I was nervous, sure, about getting a job and what would happen over the next few months, but it just didn’t hold the same weight over me anymore. I was no longer afraid of the future, of not living up to American standards of success. And I knew that this knowledge had come through my independence, from the constant uncertainties of traveling for so long. After living for so long with such a devil-may-care attitude, nothing felt quite so serious anymore.

I was finally comfortable with myself, confident with my ability to make decisions and know what I wanted. I was ready to give back to the people that had supported me and let me go off on my crazy adventure.

And it was in this moment, a moment that every traveler encounters at some point, no matter how restless his soul, that I knew I was ready to go home. Not because I needed it, but because I genuinely wanted it.