I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t traveling. Ever since I was little Dani Tami, my parents constantly took us out of Agoura and onto either the open rode in a 15 seater van, or piled us into a plane to some country at the other corner of the globe. It is something I’ve always known. Spring and winter break never meant staying in town, and while looking back, these are trips that I am so grateful to my parents for. From a young age, they made me have to wander, whether I knew it then or not. So really, they shouldn’t be shocked at my current locale now should they? The answer is no. So Mama and Papa Schaeff, it’s all your fault!
This week’s travel theme is about “the moment”. The moment that you know your life is changed by travel either by a place, thing, time, person, whatever. I actually quite frequently get this feeling of absolute content whenever I’m traveling that’s much different from the feeling of the normal day-to-day. It’s one of those feelings that sparks so often, even in doing normal everyday things like taking a shower, that “real life” feels so far away in that second. Actually, since living in Korea, I’ve had so many of those moments. So many “I’m so happy I’m in Korea” moments, which helped me realize that moving here was the best decision I’ve ever made.
That being said, It’s kind of hard to pick just one moment that changed my life, so I’m going to pick two. The one that started it all, and a more recent one. Full circle that shit.
I can pinpoint that moment when I knew I needed to live abroad. I was in 4th grade, on a spring break trip with my family to Paris. I remember standing in a little street shop wanting to buy one of those collectors silver spoons that people used to collect like shot glasses. Maybe they still do, but I don’t. Either way, my dad gave me a few Francs to buy it, and then we made a mad dash out to the main street and into a random burst of hail. Across the street were the larger-than-life green and gold statues gleaming down at me in my yellow puffy jacket and red beret. The cars were driving haphazardly, yet somehow weaving in and out of each other in some fashion of chaotic order which I still to this day can’t place, even with my most likely ADD. We were trying to catch a Mercedes Benz taxi. A Mercedes Benz taxi! Wow, “Paris is rich!” I thought! That smell of the ice smashing on the pavement is one that I still catch random whiffs of in moments that are fleeting, and I am instantly transported back to Paris as the little girl in the jacket that could stop traffic. After that trip, while wearing our matching Sorbonne University sweatshirts, my sister and I both told our mom that we were going to go to college at Sorbonne and live in Paris.
That didn’t happen for either of us, but I still look at that certainty as the pivotal moment of when I just knew I wasn’t going to spend my whole life living in the States.
Flash forward to adult woman “mature” life and my first solo trip to the stunning, magnificent, lush Bali! I had found a guy named Gusti who offered to take me on a half day excursion on the back of his motorbike to see some temples and a Luwak coffee plantation. The plantation was actually something that I thought was going to be a scam and I’d be just nodding my head in a polite effort to get it over with. However, after about a minute of meeting Oher, and listening to him tell me about harvesting the different kinds of coffee beans, I was totally interested. I knew I wasn’t just asking random questions to appease him. Instead, I started to find him remarkably charming in a sweet old man kind of way. After teaching about all the different kinds of beans, showing me how to crack them open, introducing me to the pooping Luwak, and letting me smell all the various herbs, we sat down to taste some coffee and indulge in conversation.
Over 10 little cups of coffee and tea, Oher asked about the places I’ve traveled, explained how he’s studied English for 4 years just by talking with customers, told me about his 10 year old daughter, Wayan, who loves Hello Kitty, and how he has been raising her on his own since his wife of 25 years passed away 2 years ago, a subject that actually brought him to tears. As he teared up, it reminded me of why I am so in love with experiencing all the world has. I love meeting people on these journeys and getting a little glimpse into their world that’s so different from my own, but fundamentally so similar when you get down to the bare bones of being a human. Here I was sitting at a hand carved wooden table with a 45ish year old man who looked well into his 60s, who spoke remarkable English for being self-taught, some snakeskin fruit and 10 empty cups of coffee, enjoying one of the best moments I’ve had while on the move.
I actually happened to be wearing a Hello Kitty ring that I bought in Korea for 2,000won. I gave it to Oher as a gift for his daughter from an American girl. He was so shocked that I was just giving it to him. I said I could buy another, it was no problem. He said thank you about a million times and was so eternally grateful for that small plastic piece of jewelry that it just made me smile.
These are moments that remind me of why I’m so happy I’m staying in Korea another year. Another year of exploring this whack but stunning continent, and after that, who knows what the next moment will be 🙂
I decided to start writing some weekly travel theme pieces that other travel blogs will be changing up each week. So look out for some random variety 🙂