Travel : Korea : Jeju

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I promised a few words about Jeju Island, and a few words have been sitting here since. It took me awhile to put them up not because there wasn’t much to say, but because lately I’ve been feeling conflicted over the idea of travel. I suspect this is a side effect of homesickness. But before we go completely off topic, I have to get Jeju off my chest. Even if the load is light.

Have you been to Jeju? Did you fly? Flying is a good idea. Five hour ferry rides are particularly grueling when piggybacked with overnight bus rides. Once we saw palm trees, though, it didn’t matter. I think they call this selective memory?

It was Chuseok weekend, Korea’s harvest holiday. We had a few extra days off, and on the day of Chuseok, nothing but McDonald’s was open. We were pretty excited about it. Especially when we discovered the kiddie park out back. The park was closed, and we took this very, very seriously.

Sandcastles were made. Sandcastles were destroyed.

We spent most of our time at the beach, but don’t be fooled. That water was COLD.

We took a short boat ride to a neighboring island for a lunch that lasted two hours. We ate sashimi, radish, and garlic wrapped in sesame leaves and dotted with wasabi. At the end of the meal, we had bowls of soup made from the bones of the fish we’d just finished. And after that, a fisherman working nearby gave me a pumice stone for my feet, which is now resting comfortably next to the soap in my shower. I think about that lunch (and him) every time I wash my hair.

One of the best effects of travel, to me, is when strangers become friends in record time. The trade-offs for living thousands of miles from family and friends, are big. We miss birthdays, holidays, weddings, and funerals, and everyday interactions that roll on without us. We trade it for more opportunity to travel, for more freedom, for a chance to broaden our outlook or to gain perspective. We trade it for long weekends away like this one. And hopefully, we live in a way that leaves no room for regrets.

William Hazlitt put it perfectly when he said, “I should like to spend the whole of my in life traveling abroad, if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend afterwards at home.”