Sunday, May 13, 2012

Home is Where I Hang My Orange Sweater

I recently just wrapped up an entire year in Korea, and with my departure came a flurry of goodbyes that I was just not ready for. A year doesn't seem that long. To tell you the truth, I'm wondering where the time went. It is long enough, however, to carve out a place you can call home. The hardest part about making a home for yourself is when you have to leave and, in your heart, you just aren't sure if you're coming back.

However, as humans, we have the ability to alter our view on reality. We are in control of the lens and we can redefine and perceive things as we see fit. This whole process of saying goodbye has really forced me to redefine the definition of 'home'. It isn't out of any kind of artistic purpose or to reveal some truth about the world. No...this one is for me. This is to help me to cope with the possibility of never seeing my friends in Korea ever again.

I propose that a 'home' isn't a place, but the love that you receive from the people that you meet.

It came from a conversation I had with my mother at the place I have always called 'home'. I have been here for a week, and that physical exhaustion of traveling had just been replaced by the foreboding beast that is reverse culture shock. The best way I can describe reverse culture shock is being caught between two worlds. You come to a place that is so familiar. A place where you know the individual trees lining the streets or where you could blindly navigate and know you'll always get to your destination. This place, for most of your life, has been your 'home'...yet you just don't feel that attachment anymore. It doesn't feel right or safe. In fact, it feels claustrophobic. Anxiety kicks in, and you can't really relate to anyone or anything. You feel alone.

I was telling her how I didn't feel like I was home anymore. I felt awkward in my own skin. My friends were gone and moving on. I have no car, no room of my own. There is nothing that is tying me here. I can literally go anywhere I want and do anything I want to do, bound by nothing but fear.

Now imagine telling this to your mother who, for the past year, has been a trooper. She hasn't seen her son in over a year and, for some reason, still can't navigate Facebook. Through all that, she has always been supportive. Of course she's going to be upset. She knows in her heart that her son is going to go away again. She spent her energy into bringing me home, only to have her son tell her that he doesn't feel right being here anymore. Yea...I get the 'Worst Son of the Year' award. You don't have to tell me.

The one thing that I didn't tell her, mostly because I couldn't find the words to tell her, is that my happiness and what I valued most in life had changed dramatically in the past year. My material possessions weren't that important anymore, and so I spent the week tossing most of my stuff in the trash or donating them to goodwill (I can literally fit my life into half a closet). My career as a filmmaker isn't driving my life decisions anymore. I'm not making those sacrifices for the chance of 'making it'. If it happens, it'll come from my hard work...not from the moments of happiness I give up along the way.

No, my purpose now came from the people in my life and the experiences I share with them. That's it. I love to share my life with people. That's why I have this blog. That's why I take pictures and make films. That's why I travel. I get to meet people, share experiences, and write a story that's worth reading. It's not my story: it's ours.

Once I lifted that burden off my shoulders and prioritized what I value the most, I realized that 'home' wasn't a place for me anymore. All those quotes like "Home is where the heart is" or "Home is where I put my hat" had meaning to me. Home is a feeling. Home is a love that comes from the people that had a hand in shaping the person that you are today. That's what 'home' means to me, and by redefining that I know that, no matter what, nothing can take my home away from me. That's what I didn't tell my mother, and I hope that when she reads this (still gotta teach her how to use the internet), she'll understand.

Now my future once again has been thrown up for grabs. I know that there will be some more traveling in my future (a lot more traveling, more than ever before).  There will be more relocations. New jobs, new people. Many more plane rides. Lightening the load was the wisest thing I've done in a long time, as I have to be mobile right now. Everything is uncertain and, by this point, I've grown accustomed and even fond of that feeling. It makes everything more exciting.

The best part of all is that, as this journey continues, I'll take this blog with me. We are blessed with technology to have places like this where we can share ourselves with the people we care about, no matter the distance. Adventures of the Orange Sweater started as a way for me to keep up on my writing skills after graduating college. It was a place for me to share my stories of travel with my friends. Over time, it became something much more. Adventures of the Orange Sweater is my home, and it's that way because of the love I get from people like you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Hey AOTOS readers! I recently moved back to the USA, and so for the next week or so I'll be settling back in at home. I'll have a slew of pictures and stories from Korea to share with you all, but for the next week or so I will be focused on my home life. Exciting stuff is coming this summer. I'll catch you up then!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

By the numbers...

402 days since I've been home
47,354 miles travelled
23 international flights
20 trips through customs
5 passport stamps
3 Visas
8 days sleeping in airports
1 bottle of emergency deodorant that still manages to get through airport security

2 broken backpacks
3 pairs of Chucks
8 pairs of headphones
2 suitcases
26 pairs of underwear
10 shirts
3 pairs of jeans
(*) pairs of nail clippers
3 pairs of glasses
1 very well travelled teddy bear

10,284 pictures taken (including video clips)
1.76TB of hard drive space used
1.1TB of unreleased images
5 projects, 3 of which are completed
3 awards
4,385 hits on Youtube
11,754 hits on Adventures of the Orange Sweater
127 journal entries
72 blog posts
457 released images

176 friends added on Facebook
627 students taught
76 lesson plans
1 new place I can call home

1 very tattered orange sweater