I have been travelling alone for the past 7 years without any emotional, financial support from anyone, not even my family. This is pretty unusual for an Asian girl, especially so for a Korean.
The educational environment in South Korea is cutthroat-it is a dog-eat-dog situation, especially in high school due to the SAT tests.
It’s hard to exaggerate the premium South Korea places on education. This is a society in which you have to get into the right kindergarten, so that you can get into the right elementary school, then into the right middle school and high school, and finally into the right college. Which, of course, gets you the right job and scores you the right spouse. – “In education-crazy South Korea, top teachers become multimillionaires“, The Washington Post
There are huge differences in wages depending on the type of job and the size of the company. Unless you work for an MNC such as Samsung or LG as a full-time employee, you can’t support yourself in Seoul short of giving up your leisure time. Oh, there are ways to survive, of course.
- Your family is rich
- Marry into a rich family
- Win the lottery,
The most important criteria in getting a decent job is having a degree from a few famous Universities. This is one of the reasons why Korean parents are obsessed with their children’s education and overprotect them so that their children are able to focus solely on studying.
So, Koreans around me keep saying; “You are so independent, I envy you!”, “I am sick of my parents.”, “I can’t imagine living like you.” Or, “You are an absolute nut.”
But I know the real reason why I started hitting the road. It is not that bright, inspiring or enjoyable. It is more like blue.
I have no place I can call home
I have no one who takes care of me as his/her daughter. I have no place to stay when I visit Korea and I use a warehouse service to store my stuff.
My dad is an artist and his life has been very dynamic including his relationships. There have been issues for many years between one of his partners and me. Well, we couldn’t get along for more than 10 years while living in the same house. My childhood, in my memory, has been endless pain. I had continuously got abused verbally and physically by her while my dad was away from home for a long time.
I felt that there was no one I could trust, there was no one who cares about me, and there was no one who would cry if I disappeared. After 10 years, I became a girl who barely ever cries, no matter how many cruel things she hears and sees. When I was 17, I was undergoing treatment by a psychiatrist, because too much stress caused a temporary loss of memory.
I didn’t go to my high school graduation ceremony. Because that day was the day I ran away from “home”. On my way to the high school in the morning, I realized my life would end in suicide. I went all the way back, packed my stuff into one small box, and walked away wearing my school uniform.
Luckily I got into University in China with a full scholarship, and I flew to China. That was the first time I traveled out of Korea. After college, I worked for a startup in San Francisco, a tech media company in Seoul, and hit the road again in February, 2014. After quitting a ‘decent full time job’, I traveled and worked as a freelancer writer/videographer for several media companies, and coordinated several international events. Currently I am travelling around Southeast Asia, while working remotely for a startup and have just informed them that I would like to quit to start my own project.
I am pretty sure I would not travel the world if I had an ordinary, lovely family and a comfortable peaceful home, instead of a battlefield. Because I know that I am not an exceptionally independent or special person. And I am not brave enough to leave my comfort zone as long as I have one. I didn’t challenge anything while filled with energy, dreams, hope and ambition.
What I did is run away. Because there was only one thing I was sure of; anywhere must be better than here. Also, I realized there is no place I can call home. There is no difference being in Korea and being “outside” Korea. As I said, I am just as ordinary as the people telling me “I am not brave like you.”
Once upon a time I felt isolated, abandoned and lost. Sometimes I spent an entire day in bed, in a strange city, cursing everything around me, and being jealous of people who have a happy family without having to worry about earning a living by themselves.
After 7 years, now I can say that,
“If there is no place I can call home, it means everywhere I go can be my home. If there is no one I can consider family, then I will make friends who can take care of each other. There is nothing holding me back and I will start my life again with awesome people.”
7 years ago, that was the day I truly became myself with no regrets and no looking back. If I didn’t step out of my comfort zone, all the miracles that have happened in my life for the last 7 years would not exist, and I would hardly ever experience any more miracles. Even though the start wasn’t easy, it made me hit the road, face new challenges, and meet amazing people who inspire me. I feel blessed with what I got and I am grateful for the opportunities I had. It took years for me to learn this lesson.
I would like to share all the miracles that have happened in my life, and what will happen in the future. There will be lots of things to talk about.