Phases and Mazes

25 Dec

My 3 months in Korea have finally lead me think long and hard about what we go through as long term travelers and expats. We all deal with long term travel/living in pretty much the same way we deal with most things in life, in phases.

First there is a level of wonder and excitement otherwise known as the “Honeymoon” phase. You want to try everything, nothing is above or beneath you. “6 people died last year eating live octopus! Really?! Well where is that slimy sucker I want to have a go!”. Or how about baring all in one of Korea’s Jimjilbang? P.S. women… you’re in for a surprise (or so I’m told). Even I’m not that ballsy yet. There is a level of intoxication you experience during those magical first 2 to 3 months in a country.

Second comes the “Rages” (or in my case the Way gook Rages), some call it culture shock but I think that’s a cop-out. I feel we should know what we’re getting into for the most part, it doesn’t mean we won’t still be in for a surprise or two. A little research does go a long way. In my case, coming to Korea I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to find my size in clothes or shoes. I also knew I couldn’t speak a lick of Korean so communication would be extremely difficult. However when you’re in the throes of ‘the Rages” the silliest most insignificant things will send you over the edge (ie the soon to be mentioned food issues or the fact peanut butter is almost $6)

Third comes the  “Adapting”, maybe your start hanging out with more foreigners or your decided you’re going to learn your new country’s language and avoid all foreigners. Whatever it is you decide to do, you end up pulling yourself out of your funk. You find yourself looking around and remembering why you decided to come all this way in the first place.

In the last phase you will fall into one of two categories:

“The Prodigal Son” phase  involves you come to terms with the fact living abroad isn’t for everyone, maybe not even for yourself, and find yourself returning home. You gave it a whirl and even after a few months of “adapting”, something is still missing. A wise person knows what makes them happy. If happiness is at home then GO HOME and don’t sit around at the clubs and bars bitching about how much you hate it here. Go home and tell your wild travel stories to your friends and family. 

However, you may “Go Native”. Pretty soon your conversing with the cashiers and even able to order food over the phone. You’ve got it made! Those language classes are finally paying off, you’ve lost 20 pound because you can only eat half of your food because it’s either too spicy or too frustrating. Then again, you could gain 20 pounds because you now have a new appreciation for adopted country’s menu. New imports will be coming to you for advice, which you should happily dole out, after all your the expert now.

Whatever phase you fall into now, there will be an end in sight.  When in doubt, chill out, you’re not the only one going through this, you will survive.

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