"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place." -Miriam Adeney
I don't know why I'm so emotional as I write this. I think it's because I've just celebrated my 11 month anniversary here in Korea, meaning my time in this incredible country is slowly but surely coming to an end. But I don't know if it was more celebratory or mournful.
I have fallen absolutely, unequivocally, head over heels in love with this country. I have met some of the most amazing people imaginable and they have taught me more about myself than I could have ever dreamt possible.
This experience has taught me that I can be independent. I can live on my own, for the first time, in a completely foreign country. I can live away from friends and family. I can come to the realization that they mean the world to me. I can say to myself every day, it's okay.
I love travel, there's no denying that. But as the quote above states, it's difficult in a strange, inexplicable kind of way. Until you experience the lifestyle, make the friends and leave them behind, it's hard to understand the paradox.
I moved to Italy and met people that changed my life forever. I traveled through Europe and made friends that I will never lose touch with. I lived in Korea and had the most remarkable year of my life.
It's so hard to leave Korea behind. As ready as I am to travel and explore new places and ultimately return home, I'm not ready to say goodbye to Korea forever. I realize I could easily come back but I don't think that's in the cards for me. I don't want this as a career and I can't imagine leaving home for another year.
I don't want to blemish this memory. I don't want to try to recreate it or duplicate it. Because I don't think I could ever top it, nor do I want to attempt. My friends are irreplaceable, my memories are pristine and leaving seems damn near impossible. That's how I always want to remember this.
Most importantly, Korea taught me about myself. Not only what I'm capable of independently, but as a human being. I've learned that not only can I make friends from around the country but around the world. I've called people "friend" from all walks of life and that's the true beauty of travel. I have loved and cared for people on a human level, based only on their heart; not their race, skin color, background or heritage. I will never discriminate against someone and I will encourage others to do the same.
Throughout my travels I have become more open minded, but Korea has truly taught me the meaning of acceptance. Because this country has accepted me and it has made me feel at home. I'm going to have a very difficult time saying goodbye to friends that will remain here. They looked past my exterior just as I did with them and to me, that's the greatest gift I could ask for.
I will continue to travel. Truthfully, I don't think I'll ever stop. Had I not experienced this year and had the pleasure of meeting these extraordinary people, I would be nothing like I am today. I can never thank any one person, culture or collective society enough for the knowledge I have been granted. All I can do is continue to see the world and share that love with everyone I meet along the way.