Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chasing Shangri-La

Good news (especially for Mom and Dad)! Well, big news at that...me and my sweater are returning to the United States this June!

We came back from New Zealand over a month ago and my coworker Steven jumped right into editing. I was sitting through debriefing meetings and doing what most producers do, occasionally peering over Steven's shoulder in the editing room to see what awesome footage we managed to capture over the course of a month. I can say now that most of it looks awesome, and the final product should be something that's ridiculously fun to watch. I can't wait for people to enjoy it, and I'm hoping to share some of the last pics from New Zealand in the coming days and weeks. Sneak peek below:
Me on the left. Steven on the right. Awesome helicopter sitting on a glacier in the back.
Looking back at New Zealand and the past 7 months of working on this project has been a humbling experience for me. I was doing the job of a 34 year old with the maturity of a 24 year old, and while I celebrated some key victories along the way I definitely had my fair share of stumbling and falling flat on my face. I lost alot of sleep, grew alot of grey hair, gained 10 pounds, and resorted to letting my girlfriend make all my fashion choices. I struggled to manage the ego I never knew I had, balancing self-confidence and a firm stance with arrogance. I was fortunate, as I had friends like Steven who kept me in line and seeing the bigger picture...and it's a big picture. One that's much more expansive and detailed than I had originally thought. The good days mixed with the bad created a lifestyle that, although insanely rewarding and interesting, was not where I wanted to be for an extended period of time.

I was chasing Shangri-La. It's pretty common for expats and those doing extended traveling. Before you leave home, the world is so big. Frightening at times, but never boring. Once you start traveling, the size of the world doesn't change...just your access to it. Having a passport and living light makes you mobile, and far away places don't seem that far away anymore. They are only a plane ride and a passport stamp away. You have an infinite amount of directions you can go, all leading to spectacular places and wonderful experiences. I still think they are spectacular, but I've taken off the rose-colored glasses that you wear in the 'honeymoon' phase of traveling. It's now a lifestyle.

A while back I was reading Reddit (in all its cat-idolizing wisdom) and I stumbled on a post about this old vagabond living in Central America talking to a younger fellow traveler. To quote, he said:
The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking for a place that's not perfect, but for a place that's "just right for you." But the curse is that the odds of finding "just right" gets smaller, not larger, the more you experience. You keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see.
He goes on to talk about how rich a traveler's life is, but that it's always complimented with a tinge of loneliness and sadness...especially when you start to cast roots and settling down somewhere. Those relationships and people, the ones you have at home, don't know what you've been through or what you've seen. They haven't shared the experiences you've had. It's hard to reintegrate back home...to be a member of a group of friends or feel like you belong. In you heart, you'll always long for the friends and people you've met abroad. And, because of that, you'll never be whole.

I don't necessarily agree with this old vagabond, but his words carry weight as I prepare to come back home. There's still so much left to see and do, but I fear that one day I'll be the old man sitting in a bar in South America telling young travelers about my experience and warning them of the same. At the same time, I fear staying in one place long enough to feel bound by my social obligations. Korea was an in-between for me. I've been here long enough to have roots here, yet this place can never be home. What I want to accomplish in my life cannot be fully realized here as I am a foreigner. I'm a Waygook, an Expat...never Korean. It's not just a Korean thing, either. My roots are in the USA. I am an American, and I'm always going to gravitate home.
10 years from now, we'll be laughing at how slow this is

It's been a good 2 years, and I will miss Korea dearly. I'm seriously wondering what I'll do without Kimchi and Rice in my diet, or how I'll be able to live without their internet. I'm going to miss my Korean family and friends, and I hope that they know that I'm only a $1500 plane ride away. We'll promise to see each other again, even if we don't. And that's ok...it's all a part of this lifestyle. We cross paths, maybe destined to never meet again. That doesn't mean you don't have an impact on my life. It makes the time I spent with you that much more precious.

As for the advice of the old vagabond? Well, I'll be combating the remorse and loneliness by keeping busy...like I always do. Might go digging for some long lost images to edit. I have a new demo reel to edit and some scripts to attend to. I have friends new and old to reconnect with again. And, like always, I have this place to write and chronicle my journey. Between here, my pictures, videos, and journal keeping a living record of the amazing places I've seen and people I've met....well, let's just say my Shangri-La has been sitting in front of me all along. I've been shaping and crafting it for nearly 11 years.

Here's to many more posts and pictures on this grand adventure!

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