Everyone has that “Why I Left” story. It’s almost mandatory these days, with varieties of reasons for being here. For me, it was leaving that comfort zone known for too long and having a look back at it. Life once seemed part of a plan, with hope for the future seeming dim at best. A dark cloud shouting, “you’re stuck!” hanging over each day. The money and opportunities were good enough but something seemed absent, missing.
This Why I Travel To Look Back
出る杭は打たれる. The stake that sticks out gets hammered down. – Japanese Proverb
I felt like a part of something and was headed in the same direction as many other people. We were together and walking in the same line towards the same goal until one wanted out along the way. That person was eventually me who wanted to break the chain and escape, and this is Why I Travel to Look Back. But it took time, and it started with a friendly nudge. Life seems right even when routines rule the day. Weekends spent watching games and weeknight drinks with friends. It was hard to get away from that crowd and lifestyle but then, until whispers emerged from afar. Just as my life station seemed in place, I hear “Come to Korea. Life here is easy.”
I respond with the excuses like “I can’t. No money saved.”
And that wise voice responds with “save? Don’t need to do that. Get over here and the money will come in no time.”
Getting out required things to fall in place, but the spark was there and would never leave. More time passed and life continued on. The job grew into something more meaningful but still packed with stress. Working on Christmas seemed right. Mandatory overtime? Okay! More money. Who cares about time? Things didn’t get worse. They just never changed. Wholesome friends always found a way in and great times still bounce around inside my head. Something just… lacked.
Nothing in the area challenged my comfort zone. Friday Night sushi dates were the best part of the week but the hangover following the after-drinks ruined the weekend. Poor habits didn’t help with the smoking, drinking, and no exercise comprising a routine harkening back to college. Something had to change and I didn’t know what yet. The desire to do something different poked at my growing belly everyday. After some talk about living abroad, we decided to get out. My wife came home following a particularly soul crushing workday and said, “My degree came in the mail. Let’s get out of this place.”
That was the final piece and we really could leave now. Tears of joy were shared and then it started. The journey was off the ground within a month, after the necessary documents were ready to go and an overseas recruiter secured a job in no time. Fast-forward another month and we took to the road while saying “goodbye” to various family and friends along the way, racking up miles and trying to enjoy home as much as possible. Life was soon turning into a dream. We saw new places and another thing happened. The poor habits eventually disappeared and succumbed to a healthier existence, though those occasional junk food binges help the homesickness at times. Don’t judge.
But it all seems blurred together now. What would have happened if we’d never left? Would we be happy? How would I look back? Having friends and family so far away brings tears as close as they’ll get to my eyes. Guilt and remorse for leaving resurface on occasion. We’ve returned home once and those friends are still there, waiting to pick up right where the last conversation left off. When we leave, I wonder if they miss us. Hopefully. We’ll be back but for now, still breaking away. Searching for ways off the beaten path. At the end of the day, our journey is part of another big line like before. Following the crowd but this time, traveling. Finding a purpose and getting as much out of life as it offers. Something I couldn’t do before.
Our story is not special because everyone (including YOU) can do this. Sometimes it just takes a little push or a whisper in your ear to get moving. I travel and have pulled myself out of a life that wouldn’t relinquish control. Today, I feel free and know that my life is not special, but fulfilling. Sometimes life in a different culture becomes a headache but there are more happy days than sad ones. Who would’ve thought that it took a push to go in this direction?
To that very wise friend who started all of this, thank you. You started the spark. Those friends whose memories occupy my mind to help through the rough times, thank you for everything. You’re always cheering us on and I’m cheering back at you. We keep staying positive that we’ll meet again and I know that won’t always be the case. We still remember you and thanks to all of you, we keep moving. Life might not be so easy on that fateful return home but these few years spent abroad have truly changed things. And you’ve been there all along the way. You’re why this is easier. This is why I travel to look back, with love towards those memories and familiar faces.