Journal - Cogito ergo sum
At the end of last year, I made a list of new year’s resolutions. For one of my goals, I wrote, “Grabbing opportunities when they come.” My habit is to overplan my life, and be resistant to changes in plans. Though I couldn’t articulate what kind of opportunities I was anticipating, I knew if something would come up, I would hesitate to grab that.
“Can you go to Japan with me?” my little sister Hayoung asked a couple weeks ago. She is majoring in Architecture for her undergraduate degree, and has been preparing this trip literally for months, writing down even small details on her notebook ever since her professor recommended in a class that they should visit Japan during vacation. Even our parents agreed that the trip would be worth it. “What happened to your friend?” I replied by way of another question, referring to her schoolmate in the architecture program with whom Hayoung had planned to travel. “She can’t go. She decided the financial burden was too heavy.” I could tell that Hayoung was deeply disappointed, but I didn’t really want to go. I didn’t want to lose any time that was allocated to my study, especially since the test day for GMAT was approaching. Also, my insecure financial state was a serious issue to consider. On the other hand, I wanted to support my sister by helping her fulfill her dream to go to Japan. She obviously didn’t want to travel alone, and it seemed almost impossible to find someone else soon enough. Just as I predicted when I was designing my resolutions for the new year, I hesitated to say yes to this opportunity. As you can assume from the title of this entry, though, I took my chance. I made it happen.
After the fact, I am glad I went to Japan with my sister. We visited castles and temples, as well as famous gardens designed by world-renowned Japanese architects. Japanese food was very nice, though a bit pricey--simple, but delicate and savory. The time together with my sister led to many conversations, allowed me to understand her better, and strengthened the bond between us. The legacy of family businesses was everywhere in the country, and provided a welcome counterpoint to Korea, where chains and franchises are driving out the old family businesses. Old ladies in shops and restaurants were almost overly kind.
I must admit, however, that this trip wasn’t all bright. Excessive walking and transferring on all kinds of public transportation exhausted me. The weather was windy and cold, making it harder to explore cheerfully. So many shops or restaurants refused to accept credit cards, and since everything was so expensive there compared with that of Korea, we found our cash reserves dwindling quickly. Most people we met in Japan spoke little English, and sometimes all directions and information were written only in Japanese. Although we didn’t have any “big” troubles thanks to Hayoung’s thorough preparation, the backpacking was certainly tough, and I had to ask myself why I liked traveling so much.
Traveling often involves long flights, overburdened walking, struggling with a language barrier and cultural differences, as well as consuming a significant amount of time and money. In other words, you spend a thousand dollars and a precious one-week-vacation to get some place, just to leave feeling exhausted and frustrated. Nevertheless, people who have traveled before tend to travel again, while people who don’t have this experience tend to wait for “right time.” One thing about traveling is that you gain experiences, which have an invisible and inexplicable nature. The opportunity cost seems rather high, for you can see all the beautiful, breathtaking views of other countries through the Internet, TV, movies, pictures, and books, taste exotic food in restaurants, and buy almost everything you want at international stores. Therefore, one needs to recognize the intangible values of traveling, such as sincere introspection by detaching yourself from the daily life, appreciation of what you have, and better understanding of different cultures and countries, in order to actually travel.
I wouldn’t say the backpacking in Japan wasn’t exhausting or costly. I would say it was the right decision, though. I am richer in spirit, experience, and perspective from taking this trip. I will sieze such opportunities again and again as long as I am active and capable.
Trying to study for GMAT in a train.
In front of the Himeji Castle
My lovely sister
At the Ryoanji Temple
It was the simplest, but one of the best Japanese Udons I've ever had.