Ten years. Looking ahead, it seems like such a long time, but looking back it’s amazing to see how the time has flown. It seems like such a short time ago that I was planning my first trip overseas. But then, when I think back to what I’ve done in that time, the span of time seems much more vast. Time is a strange thing.
When I turned 20, I was in my final year of university. I was in a relationship, studying international business, and eagerly applying for corporate jobs to start once I finished my studies. As part of my degree, I had to either take two quarters of a foreign language OR study abroad. I didn’t even consider the language option. After narrowing my options by doing a ton of research, I made my decision. I would travel to Siena, a medieval town in the middle of Tuscany, and study art history and Italian for a month. Little did I know that the chain of events set in motion by that decision would completely alter the course of my life.
I didn’t start this blog until three years later in 2011, the year I first left home to live in South Korea, but it’s still a useful tool to see just how much I’ve changed. Looking back through old posts and stories, sometimes I can barely feel a connection to who I was when I wrote them. All it took was ten years.
I wanted to do something special for this birthday. After all, it is the big 3-0. Since my life revolves around the trips that I take, and since I’m a bit of a nerd for statistics, I figured I’d look back at my trips and see just how far I’ve come.
This chart is fun. I calculated how many days I’ve spent in each country since my 20th birthday, then omitted the numbers for any country I’ve actually lived in — South Korea, New Zealand, and the USA. What’s left shows the amount of time I’ve spent in various countries around the world. Hover over the country to see a count of how many days I spent there.
|Italy Trip 2008||19,221||km|
|Time in USA 2008-2011||19,700||km|
|1st Korea Trip 2011-2013||38,438||km|
|2nd Korea Trip 2013-2014||35,590||km|
|USA Interlude 2014-2015||3,080||km|
|New Zealand Trip 2015-2016||70,114||km|
|3rd Korea Trip 2017||12,566||km|
|Total KMs Flown:||198,709||km|
It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve had some epic adventures. But the last couple weeks, I’ve really realized how lucky I am to have the relationships I do. I have a family who supports me and welcomes me back no matter how long it’s been since I left. I have friends who go way out of their way to do special things for me, to make time even when my efforts don’t come close to being adequate. And I’ve got some pretty cool kids that I teach as well.
I’ll let this Facebook post on my birthday explain that last one:
One of my classes nearly made me cry today.
It’s been a busy last couple weeks and pretty stressful with all that’s going on. I work a long day today, so honestly, I was just hoping I could get through the day as quickly as possible and make it to the weekend.
I walked into my first class, and a nine-year-old girl named Zia ran at me screaming, “Close your eyes! Close your eyes!” She waited until I did, then took me by the hand and led me into the classroom.
“Teacher, wait three minutes!” another student, Dana, commanded. I played along, waiting until the other students showed up.
Then the lights went out.
“Three, two, one… HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU…” I opened my eyes as the whole class burst into song. All the kids crowded around me, pushing candies and snacks in my direction. Dana had gone one step further and LITERALLY sculpted a miniature of me, which she pressed into my hands.
The crazy thing about it is, their Korean teacher didn’t know anything about the surprise… The whole thing was entirely their doing. We’d talked about birthdays last week, and they’d remembered and planned for mine.
Thanks, ya little monsters ❤️ I have a new favorite teaching memory.
The road over the next decade will be just as windy as the last if I have my way. I’m headed to the Caucuses region next, to explore Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey. After that, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll finally make it to Africa or South America. Maybe I’ll go back to Europe, or back to Korea (AGAIN).
But no matter where I go, I’ll count myself as lucky because of the wonderful people I’ve crossed paths with. Thank you for every kind word, every thing given, every experience shared. I love you all.
Here’s to our paths crossing again somewhere along the open road…