Commentary

Travel for the Random Meetings

Travel for the Random Meetings
Written by Carl Hedinger

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Travel for the Random Meetings

The drive started in Pohang near the Southeast Coast on Korea’s National Highway #7, towards point B in Goseong and the DMZ. We’re looking for a brief pitstop along the way to grill up some breakfast, which means finding a beach. Thankfully, Korea’s beautiful East coast offers a huge bank of opportunities but something else catches our eyes. It’s a traditional village and being a traditional holiday (Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving), Christina and I say Why not? Of course, this is a pretty big day for Koreans and instead of taking a left for the beach, we head right towards this beautiful-looking little town.

Ground Persimmon at Goesi Village

Holidays can become depressing when away from home. Understandably, Korea doesn’t celebrate our holidays and there’s always a thought back to that Christmas in Jinju when the streets were lined with.. nothing. Korea has lots of one-off holidays where public workers (and some private companies) can take a day and relax or catch up with family. Mostly, they do the latter because family is held up as a very important thing in Korea.

Doorway inside Goesi-ri Village

Arriving at the small and empty-looking village doesn’t look too promising, on second thought. That’s how it always happens in this country. Don’t expect greatness from a day and it will become one of the most heartwarming and enriching experiences one can find. But we don’t know yet. We walk down a quiet and seemingly empty path lined with walls that would take any visitor back to a time before the drama took place. This is just a small little town on the outskirts of nowhere.

Goesi Village Path

An older gentleman is walking towards his house’s gate and notices us approaching. Keeping to ourselves and noting this as a busy holiday, we expect the man to walk inside and get back to work. Probably got lots on his min… and he shouts “Come in!” Speaking English, he guides us into the family home. Korea has a huge percentage of people with the same names and reasons for this exist. The man informs us that everyone in this particular village held the Nam surname. Perhaps not blood related but maybe somewhere way back – kin.

Mr. Nam, pointing out his family name

The grandsons come in and cause a ruckus, much like kids tend to do on a holiday. There’s no school and definitely no academy afterwards because after all, they are all from Seoul and driving back tomorrow. Today is about family and these kids are making the most of their free time. The daughter-in-law brings out a bowl of fruit and hard-boiled eggs to give some much-needed energy to us and the kids. The kids likely don’t need it but grab some food anyways. They’re wired and so much fun to watch. One little guy makes a game out of cracking eggs on his forehead and handing them to someone before saying “Hey! Eat this!”

The Boys, One With Egg in Hand

After chatting for a while about our lives and travels, it’s time to go. But not before pictures. We need to keep these people inside so the memory of this day is never forgotten. How could one forget this stranger who offered us a place on his floor to sit with him, like equals? His wife and daughter-in-law gave us plentiful amounts of food that erased the need for finding a beach. The kids provided laughs and brief exchanges in English and Korean until they ran off to play and enjoy the holiday. These random meetings make travel more meaningful than staying at home. They give this time a reason to explain why we travel. I travel for the random meetings like this and hope they keep coming!

Books and Doorway at Goesi Village

Note: All of this took place at the Goesi-ri Traditional Folk Village, in Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province.

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Travel for the random meetings by Duke Stewart
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About the author

Carl Hedinger

I’m a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family’s travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

15 Comments

  • I love the random people I meet in my travels. I remember an older gentleman I met on my way to Long Shan Temple in Taiwan earlier this year. He told me (in good English) about his move from China to Taiwan some 65 years earlier; a story that captured my full attention for the few minutes we spoke. He then pointed me in the direction of the temple and bid me farewell. #goodtimes

  • Awesome story Carl! I’m right there with you. This is one of the best reasons for travel. People are just people!

  • Do you live in Pohang? I noticed you said the drive started here? I really enjoyed this story, its so nice when you meet kind strangers! LOVE your cover story photo. The red and orange leaves make me weak at the knees (hehe).

    • Hi Rafiqua, I don’t live in Pohang unfortunately. It seems there’s a lot of you on the East Coast. I live in Yeosu on the Southwest end so that trip up #7 took a bit of time to reach. You can thank my awesome wife for the photo. She’s got talent, eh? Thanks for the comment.

  • I can totally relate to this reason for traveling! I think it is less about the place, and more about the people you meet there. They really make traveling worthwhile. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great stuff! I felt like I was back in Korea for a few moments. People everywhere blow me away when I travel. It seems like any time I have need, any time I am in trouble, some random stranger does something so generous and kind it leaves me stunned. As you said, that’s why I travel. The world really is a wonderful place 🙂

  • that’s a lovely story! definitely one of the best parts of traveling is the kindness of strangers you meet along the way 🙂