By: Michael Geer
Sometimes it just hits you. It hits you like a slap in the face, a ton of bricks, or a bolt of lightning in a clear sky. Just all of a sudden...
"I'm living in South Korea!" This realization has hit me a number of times since moving overseas, occasionally I even say it audibly when this epiphany appears. It's happened on my way to school when I look around to see my town surrounded by mountains instead of cornfields. I've been hit by it while hopping onto the subway in Seoul, and while strolling down the beach in Busan. I can't help it when it comes, like waves warmly washing over me. It shoves aside all the stress and banalities of my everyday experience. It lifts me up and opens my eyes, really opens them, and when it hits me I laugh. Sure as the sun rises, I laugh! Every time!
I laugh. It doesn't matter where I am, or what I'm doing. It bubbles up from deep in my belly and I laugh out loud. I've caught odd looks from a number of locals by strolling down the street giggling at apparently nothing. My fellow "wagookins" (foreigners) sometimes give me surprised glances when I start laughing at this epiphany. They leer at me warily and wonder if I am laughing at some inside joke I haven't shared. Though the thought may seem obvious, I look at them with wonder gleaming in my eyes and a smile on my lips. I tell them why I laugh and I find my enthusiasm for being abroad is contagious!
It's in this childish enthusiasm that I feel I have found something important about travel that has changed my life dramatically. I've rediscovered a sense of wonder, a lust for adventure, and a giddy sense of play often held by boys less than half my age! I recall a few months ago I was on the rocky shores of the Korean island Ulleung-do. While visiting I could often be seen clambering along cliff faces and hopping off rocks, a smile stretched across my face. I confess, my jungle gym like behavior was fueled by an overwhelming sense of glee bubbling up from a forgotten part of my soul. That little light that shines in our young eyes. It shines brightly and lets us sees the world, not with rose tinted glasses, but with joyful wonder. It's that part of our souls that tells us this world is beautiful, marvelous, and mysterious. Yet, we tend to lose that light, I certainly did for a time. Years in school, menial jobs, and fruitlessly struggling to figure out what I wanted in life left me sullen, scared, and uncertain.
I can't say that traveling has cured me of my insecurities when it comes to my future, but it has given me back my wonder.
Wonder for this world that we live in, wonder for the amazing people who populate it, and excitement for what happens to be over the horizon. It's hard to believe that a simple online TEFL course with ITA is all that I needed to get the means to find work overseas, to explore, and feel like a child again. When I was young, my backyard was as wide as the world. Now that I've grown, the world seems as wide as my backyard....
I can't wait to go play!
Michael Geer is 23 years old and hails from a small town just west of Indianapolis, Indiana USA. Having acquired a BA in History and Religious Studies, he went in search of meaningful work. After six months of earnest applications and dead ends everywhere he came across the opportunity to teach in South Korea. Snagging a TEFL certification, he landed a job with EPIK, and has been working in Gangwon-do, South Korea since last August.