Lessons Learned On The Road

So, in my sudden inspiration to keep updating this blog as originally promised, I have decided that I will share with you, dear readers, what I have learnt in my year and a half away from home. I am certainly not the same man I was when I left back in the summer of 2013. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I will enjoy writing it.

“If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want” 


So, before coming here to Korea, I was a fairly uninteresting guy. I had given up on most of my hobbies years ago (I’m looking at you Scouts, swimming and football). The main reason for me not trying was I was terrified of failing and not being any good. Which is a, frankly, ridiculous way to view things. No one is any good when they first start off. There is a reason that people spend hours and hours practicing and honing their craft. I can happily say that, since I moved to Korea, I have actually taken up new hobbies (and attempted to take up some old). This year, I started Salmun Ori (Traditional Korean Drumming) and it is was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, as you will see, I got a little to excited and took up a number of other hobbies and thus, have given up drumming (for now). The second activity I have started is an art class (with much pressure from my girlfriend). And this is actually one of the hobbies I enjoy most. Now, I had no previous artistic experience but our (very patient) teacher has been great at helping me understand things. Below is my latest effort (a portrait of James Dean).

My attempt at James Dean
My attempt at James Dean

Apart from the above hobbies, I have taken up a few more. My friends and I have set-up/joined a creative writing club and I am increasingly more productive. We are now onto our fifth(?) meeting and working on a story for a villain character we have completely developed. Now, we can move onto my “unofficial” hobbies. I recently purchased a new camera and have been getting increasingly into photography. I haven’t been out properly for a few weeks, partly due to a busy schedule and partly due to the ever decreasing temperatures. I am going to start carrying my camera around again and try to capture some Korean street scenes. Finally, I am teaching myself French. This seems to be going well enough, though I haven’t practiced for about a week. I guess the thing I am trying to say with this is I am not great at any of these hobbies. By a long shot, I am actually pretty bad. But I have learnt to stick with them, because I am seeing improvement all the time.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” 

Mark Twain

The above quote from Mark Twain is understandably extremely famous but I feel it applies to not one but two lessons I have learnt whilst travelling. The first lesson is to take risks when chasing your dreams. Now, those that knew me before this trip would know I wasn’t really a risk taker. I liked to play it safe, and I remember some of the more shocked reactions I got when I told people of my plan to go abroad and teach English. I got many a chorus about how brave I was, or how people wished they had the courage to do what I did. To anyone reading this, and thinking about doing something similar, I would say do it. I haven’t had the easiest of years here, by a long shot, but I have enjoyed every minute of it. There is something exhilarating about leaving behind everything you have ever known to go on an adventure into uncharted territory. It awoke something in me that can be put better by Tolkien than myself – “Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”  The urge to travel more and more has been awoken inside of me once more.

So, what is this second lesson, I hear you ask. Well, wait and I shall tell you. The second lesson I have learnt is that you need to chase your dreams. I still don’t know what I want to do exactly, but I know I want to travel and write. The writing is, in part, taken care of by my creative writing club and partly by this blog. The travelling – well, I am trying to travel more within Korea itself and in February I am going to Vietnam and Cambodia for my vacation. Whatever your dream, no matter how improbable, it should be chased. As long as you do something that makes you happy, you have led a successful life.

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot in one’s own country as a foreign land”

G.K. Chesterton

The final lesson that I have learnt is summed up quite well by the above quote. I now consider Korea to be my home (and hope it remains so for at least the next year). I don’t plan to return home after I finish here and want to go and do some amazing trips all over the world. By the time I finally set foot back in the UK, I will be a completely different person. I would have been shaped by my travels in the way that the elements shape rock. I have already changed so much from the person who set off into the unknown a year and a half ago. And no doubt in another year and a half, I will be different from the man writing these words today. Embrace the change that will inevitably happen to you as you travel. If you return home and don’t feel strange, or out of place, or like things have changed, then I would argue that you did not really travel.

Well, this marks the end of my “wisdom”. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. Let me know with a comment.


2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned On The Road

  1. So true. You outgrow past selves like old clothes, and nothing makes it more obvious what doesn’t fit anymore than coming back from a long voyage.

    Also one of my favourite travel quotes: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

    1. I completely agree. I have changed a lot in the past few months, let alone the past year or so. I think if you come back from travel unchanged, then you’ve done something wrong.

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