Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas in Korea

Traveling is a worry sport. It’s a decathlon of planning, packing, tickets, transfers, layovers, flight times, train schedules, bus routes, and where’s my wallet? Didn’t I pack my passport in this pocket?! There’s plenty to be scared of: I have missed a flight and lost my sister’s camera, plenty of my friends have been pick-pocketed (mostly in Spain) and it’s only too easy to misplace your passport.

We know to be scared about all those things; we know to worry. But no one told me to watch out for the holidays. Boy do they sneak up on you too—no matter what country you’re in. But when you’re traveling, you get more than a momentary panic about getting presents bought in the next week.

Here in Korea you can see fear in our expat eyes when the upcoming holidays are mentioned. No one wants to be alone on Christmas. No one wants to have time to sit and think about decorated trees with presents getting tangled in the lower branches like children underfoot. No one wants to think about the hearth and the stockings and the wreaths and homey-ness of it all, because that’s exactly what we’ve given up to come here. We gave up familiarity for novelty.

You can travel the world, but you'll always think of home.
We like talking to crazy Koreans about fan death and their absolute refusal to jaywalk. We like meeting other expats who come from all around the globe and we like sharing stories. We love hiking in new mountains and eating weird food at restaurants. We love the new, the unexpected, the impromptu, and the freedom of it all. But there’s a price for all of that and the holidays are when we’re forced to remember that.

We’ve done it willingly and knowingly and I, personally, have no regrets. But in the decathlon of traveling: travelers be warned. The holidays are coming. It’s time to batten down the hatches and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel" because Christmas is coming...

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