This year, Christmas is going to be weird. Not because I’m spending it in a flat near the outskirts of Pohang or in a Korean beach-side pension with many of my dear friends. Not even because I’m spending it on a beach in Thailand belting Johnny Cash tunes out across the waves. No, this year is weird because I’m going to be home.
I’ve missed the past three Christmases, and it hasn’t been easy. This year, there are many things I’m looking forward to: eggnog, my mom’s delicious Christmas baking, hot buttered rum, seeing the Christmas lights in Leavenworth, having a Christmas tree, and so on. But perhaps the thing I’m looking forward to the most is being with my family.
I remember seeing a picture of my dad’s relatives all gathered for Easter this last year. My dad is from a huge family who, quite honestly, multiply like rabbits. Out of all the youngest generation, I’m the oldest. Looking at this picture, I was stunned by how much my cousins had grown. I could tell, just by looking, that I would no longer be looking down on them the next time we met. Perhaps the hardest thing was realizing I barely recognized some of them. Four years is a long time when kids are growing.
I’ve got a lot to be thankful for from this past year. My second year in Korea was a wonderful one. I had a job I loved and got to spend some quality time with some wonderful friends; I even had my two best friends, Brandon and Cody, travel to Korea to visit me. Even more awesomely, my little sister decided to follow me across the Pacific and start teaching in Korea as well! Having the opportunity to experience some new spots in Korea with Alisha–who is every bit as addicted to travel as I am–was definitely one of the highlights of my year.
Korea wasn’t the whole of my 2014, though. I spent a week and a half exploring Japan in May, highlighted by hiking part of the ancient Nakasendo with Brandon. After my second contract in Korea ended, I headed for Kyrgyzstan, hoping to start a motorcycle journey through Central Asia. Though I failed in that adventure, I still made it to Tajikistan in story-worthy fashion, nearly giving my poor parents a heart attack in the process. Uzbekistan was next, highlighted by the ancient Silk Road city of Bukhara. After finishing in Central Asia, I spent some time floating along the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul before heading to Iran on an organized tour. Iran was a wonderful experience, doing the one thing every good trip should do: shattering misconceptions. I’ll never forget my time there. Before heading home, I made a final stop in Sweden and got to visit some friends from my previous trip in the process. Thanks for a great time in Stockholm Ellinor and Mikaela!
Now, after so many amazing experiences, I’m home. It’s surreal, because it almost feels like I was never away. Not even a month after coming home and it seems like I can barely recall my favorite memories of Korea: playing ‘Lonely Boy’ and ‘I Will Survive’ with the Seonhwa Band, snuggling into my favorite chair in Cafe 1944, cooking dinner with my friends in Auraji, ukulele lessons with my coworkers… I can barely remember missing my life back home (in the USA)–the one that is currently making me antsy and restless.
To all my family and friends in the States, I’ve missed you so much and can’t wait to see some of you in just a few days! Kif, I wish you could be here this year, but it was awesome hanging out with you over the past month! Safe voyage, bro. Sissy, keep living it up in Korea, hopefully our paths cross sometime in 2015. To my friends in Korea, I miss you guys like crazy. I’m hoping to make it back to Pohang in September for Dan and Seonhwa’s wedding… hope to see you all then! And to everyone else whom I have met on the road, thanks for making my journeys all the more memorable. With each new friendship, I find myself more and more enamored with the world as a whole. You are the cookies in my ice cream 🙂 And that, my friends, is high praise indeed.