So, where did you go for your last holiday? What are the three things that you remember the most about your last holiday?
Reminiscing about my trips years – even decades later usually revolve around people, could be my own travel companion, local people, or even fellow travelers.
Traveling overseas is a challenge and the first time can be daunting for those who have never traveled internationally before: the anxious feeling of being in a foreign country where the culture and language might be entirely different.
Chronologically, my first ‘transformative’ solo trip happened a decade ago to South Korea and Japan. I flew to South Korea, spent two weeks and slowly made my way across the East Sea/Sea of Japan via ferry to Japan. The ferry connects Busan, South Korea and Fukuoka, Japan. On a tight budget, not only that it saves one night of accommodation, I also experienced local way of traveling.
Not knowing at that time, that first foray into the world of solo traveling defines the way I travel.
My treasured memories from that first solo trip are:
1) Meeting a group of South Korean schoolchildren in the ferry en route to Japan. The children were very curious as I was the first Malaysian that they have ever met. I felt like a celebrity as the kids swoon over me, and each and everyone one of them also requested for a picture taken with me, which I of course obliged.
2) The old Hahoe Folk Village (Korean: 안동하회마을). The village is located in Andong, Gyongsangbuk-do. Back then, it was probably more off-the-beaten-track. In 2010, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the category of “Historic Villages in Korea” and I see that more travelers have found their way here.
I vaguely remembered taking a train from Seoul to Andong, and meeting a local South Korean woman. She spoke no English, and we communicated via hand gestures. I then found out that she works at a tourist info office, and invited me to stop by for a cup of tea whilst waiting for my connecting bus to the village.
Hahoe was my first homestay, where my host family was an elderly woman who spoke no English.
3) Meeting Angel Pinada, another solo traveler trekking Miyajima hill, and we made our way up together. I wished for a can of Coke on the way up. Lo and behold, there was a Coke vending machine up the hill, and Angelbought me that can of Coke. Angel is now a friend on Facebook. (This is not a Coke endorsement, though I might charge a fee later on if my blog takes off *wink*)
4) Although English is not widely spoken in Japan, the people are so friendly, welcoming and helpful that it more than makes up for the cultural gap.
The list is definitely more than three, but I guess the point is made that these are about moments, about the journey; not about the destination. Those travel moments and experiences shaped the way I viewed myself, travel and my life.
“Remember that happiness is a way of travel – not a destination.” ~Roy M. Goodman.
And my take of that is definitely not about ticking off a list of famous landmarks, and definitely not about taking that obligatory photo.
If you like what you read so far, stay tuned …..