A few weeks ago, I met a young British woman in a hostel in Seoul. She was from Essex. She apparently loved my accent. We instantly connected, bonding over colonialism, life philosophies and tattoos. She had just ended a year’s teaching contract in Japan. Adventuring, travelling. “My friends all live vicariously through me”, she said. “They’re jealous that I’ve been to Vietnam and Japan, while they’re at home with gardens and babies. But it’s funny because sometimes that’s all I want.” And that’s the secret, the thing that we adventurers don’t tell anyone, is that sometimes, we’d give it all up for that. For gardens and pets and the simple comforts of familiarity. What they don’t tell you is how lonely this life can be.
It’s not that you don’t make friends or connect with amazing people, because you do, but this lifestyle is so impermanent, days so transient and no-one ever stays. People orbit in and out of each other’s’ lives and the best you can hope for is a lasting Facebook relationship. So it comes down to the experiences. It’s about what these fleeting relationships offer you; it’s about how standing on that shore, overlooking the East Sea makes you feel. These are the only things we can keep. And sometimes, you long for something more tangible. Do I sound homesick? I am. I’m retching with feels. It feels terminal, but I’m 86.2% sure I’ll live. A friend suggested working in 3’s. Get through three weeks, then three months. I don’t want to “get through” it though. I want to enjoy it, live it, experience it (which might be a jingle for a sports drink).
I’ve been here for about 7 weeks. Feels like longer.
Let’s talk feelings.
Lately, my feelings have turned taken on a gloomy hue, somewhere between a dim grey #696969 and a cadet blue #5F9EA0 on the colour chart, as I countdown the days before I leave.
I alternate between desperately wanting to spend every second with every person I love and wanting to be shut off from the world, so I can think inside thoughts and lament my impending departure while lying under my duvet, listening to Radiohead and Elliot Smith. It’s a high-school type melancholy, except this is not the night before my final science exam, and I’m not watching my best friend do a maniacal interpretive dance to System Of A Down while I should be studying. Though the analogy remains the same – I feel like I’m going through a sort of puberty (thankfully this time the hair growth is minimal). Maybe it’s a quarter life thing or a moving countries thing or a combination of both… thing.
You’d think the second time would be easier. After all, I‘ve done this before. Not Korea specifically, but the leaving and goodbye saying. The ugly airport-tears and my Barney-purple suitcases, heavy with stuff and things. Old life to new life. I know what it feels like to sit in a too-narrow airplane seat for 20 hours, talking to the Australian-Iranian woman next to me just because she reminds me a little of my grandmother. I know the joy of touching down in a foreign place after seeing two sunsets through a thick glass window and having to train my brain to erase every horror movie image I’ve ever seen as I spend the first night alone in a new apartment (that stupid little boy from The Grudge stops being funny at about 3am when you’re alone and everything’s creaking).
I remember all of this and I’m already exhausted and homesick. But this is a new adventure, I have to remind myself. New destination, new stuff in (same) suitcases. New people on plane – hopefully less chatty and more incorporeal so that I can stretch out. New everything, same me.
And I may be jumping the gun here. I’m still home, still in my bed, still annoyed by squabbling sisters, still ignored by my emotionally withholding cat. And everything is the same. Except not quite, because I’m acutely aware of the fact that this is the last time I’ll be here, like this, maybe ever.
And that’s bittersweet.
So those are my feelings. Gross. I’m sorry. But there’re there and they’re holding on.