Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Be Open. You Never Know.

Written by Karen
Seoul, South Korea
When we let people know that our travel plans were changing at the last minute and that we were going to South Korea instead of Thailand, the most common response was, What? South Korea? Why? 
Adam and I had tried twice this year to go to Bangkok, Thailand and had to cancel our trips both times to circumstances beyond our control.

The first time was in April when Adam came down with a severe case of gout.  We have found out that gout is often an unfortunate consequence of having heart disease/open-heart surgery.  Adam was unable to even walk without extreme pain and we decided that he would be no match for dodging the tuk-tuks and postponed our trip. 
We cancelled our trip to Bangkok again in October of this year. The flooding in Thailand was the worst in fifty years and hundreds of people have lost their lives, with countless more being displaced.  This was not the time to drop into a country struggling to keep themselves from going under. It was clearly not in the cards that we would go and visit Bangkok this year.  
So why were we so determined to check out Bangkok?  We had identified this area as being a key contender for a longer visit next year.  There are blogs aplenty that shared experiences about the charms of visiting Thailand: the beauty; gracious people; good food; and, the relatively inexpensive cost of living.  
Busan, South Korea
Thailand was a place – sight unseen - that we wanted to stay awhile.  Put our feet up.  A place for us to blend in a little bit longer; learn a little of the Thai language; learn how to cook great Thai street food; hang out for a bit and get into the rhythm of Thai living.  We came to this conclusion that we would stay in Thailand for awhile through couple blogs, conversations with others, reading and researching the country through books and the internet.  During our expected visit to Bangkok in 2011, we would make arrangements to rent an apartment for awhile.   We would check it all out and make our plans. 
What’s that saying?  I think it was Woody Allen who said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” 
Seoul, South Korea
So looking back, it clearly wasn’t in the cards for us to visit Bangkok just yet.  But it turned out to be that it was in the cards for us to visit South Korea.  Sight unseen.  
Because we changed our travel plans the day before our flight departed from San Francisco, we had no time to research South Korea.  So, we had no expectations of what we might see, feel, hear, taste, smell or experience during our journey there.  And, perhaps because of that, we were in for a wonderful and serendipitous surprise.  
What we found in South Korea was beauty; gracious, kind and generous people; great food; modernity contrasted with ancient traditions; and, for a brief and wonderful 11-day moment, we fell into the rhythm of South Korean living.  This place that we found quite unexpectedly has gone from not even being on our travel radar to being at the top of our list of places that we want to stay awhile.  Put up our feet.  A place for us to blend in for a longer period of time; learn how to speak basic Korean; learn how to cook great Korean food; maybe start up a business or two; hang out for a bit and get into the rhythm of Korean living.
Seoul, South Korea
How is South Korea different from any other country or place that I’ve visited?  There is something that beats loudly – whether it is the charm of the karaoke dance off, the generosity of strangers helping another stranger, the feeling of optimism and opportunity that is both abundant and palpable, the laughter that rings out on a regular basis – that grabs you, captivates you, and makes you want to dance.  My first impressions of South Korea have piqued my interest and I want more.  
Hae Dong Yong Gung Temple
I’ve been thinking about the serendipitous nature of this experience.  How we might not have visited South Korea if not for those circumstances that happened outside of our control.  How sometimes life has its own ideas of what should happen or not happen. How we fit into that decision-making paradigm.  How funny life can be.
I’ve been thinking again about the need to control, to plan, to figure it all out before we venture into the unknown versus the idea of letting go, being open to experiences and possibilities that just happen, and trusting that we will be okay at the end of the day. There’s a balance in there somewhere that I haven’t found yet.  
Hae Dong Yong Gung Temple
We may – or may not – stay in Thailand for an extended period of time.  Who knows?  But, I think that there is a very strong possibility that we will stay in South Korea for an extended period of time.  Who knew?
Be open.  Possibilities are everywhere.  You never know what is just around the corner.  
Life is funny that way.

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