The first time I left on a major trip was when I left the US for Korea in 2010. Sure, I had been to Canada before, but never before had I gotten on a plane for an international destination; much less one that would become my home. My best friend from university left in August 2009 for Yeosu, South Korea and in the weeks preceding his departure, I fought him tooth-and-nail; I believe I uttered the words “war torn” more than once. I was a total asshole.
During our first Skype call, when I was able to see that he was not living in poverty or a commune, he was able to sense my defenses were down and said: “I think you should consider coming here, you hate your job. I think you’d really like it.” Bug planted. Somewhere around the time of that first call, he shared a video some of his friends had made. It was to the tune of a popular K-pop song, but rewritten to reflect life in Yeosu. Mind you, this is back in 2009, when Youtube wasn’t nearly as popular, and there wasn’t the same travel-video saturation we see in today. However, watching this cute clip was the push I needed to start pulling my documents together.
Foreign places always seemed so… hypothetical to me prior to seeing this video and our Skype calls. Of course I knew Korea existed, but it didn’t feel like a real place with real people until that point. I was inspired to start researching on my own; inspired in a way that I had never been before. Something about this brief, funny video kick-started my curiosity in a way that no image, book, or movie had been able to do in the past. The Lion King is set in the Sahara, Mulan in China, The Color of Friendship in South Africa, and Mary Poppins in England. I grew up seeing foreign places– both real and animated; but it never quite sunk in until I knew someone living in one. Not only living, but thriving.
I can’t say that any mainstream media piece would have been able to inspire me to travel; I’m far too much of a realist. Beautiful pictures in a magazine are just that. Movies set in foreign locations, until recently, have been about people living their (Western) lives… just somewhere other than their home nation. Seeing this silly-but-awesome 3 minute and 37 second video of people integrating into a foreign society…. now that is inspiring.
In the last few days before I needed to make a real decision about whether or not I was going to take the offer in Yeosu, I probably watched that video- and a cool 30 minute PBS special I stumbled upon- maybe 5 or 6 times… each. If I hadn’t had those resources to help keep me focused, I might no have had the guts to commit. And though they might have been able to give me the courage to sign my papers, I might not have actually had it in me to leave if the real person, my real person, who had lived to tell the “I moved to Asia and I’m fine” tale, hadn’t said: “You’ve asked me to trust you so many times, trust me on this one.”
No matter how fancy the movie, or inspiring the novel; my real inspiration is drawn from real people. That’s what started me along my wanderlutsy path, and that’s what I want to be for you: a little bit of realistic inspiration.
- Where do you draw travel inspiration from?
- What pushed you to take your first big trip?
- What inspires you more: the fantasy or the reality?