When Travel Sneaks Up On You


I thought I had it all together in terms of our upcoming trips to Japan and South America. All I had to do was tick a few more things off the to-do list, then sit back and anticipate the excitement.

Small things started happening that told me that wasn’t the case.

First, my motor skills deserted me.

It took three tries to pick up a stray almond from a bowl of nuts. I tried to pour water into my glass at a restaurant and spilled it all over the table. When turning the corner, I’d misjudge the distance and body-check the wall.

Goindol, Yeongwol
Seconds before I sloshed water everywhere, twice.


Then I got really restless, all the time.

I couldn’t sleep. Not because I had something on my mind, but because I was just so damn restless.

Yesterday, my mind failed.

I was responsible for organizing the icebreaker activity for the summer English camp –  a mass scavenger hunt. I’ve done this before, so I had a foolproof system for distributing the clues for five teams.

Or so I thought. Several minutes into the scavenger hunt, it was clear that I’d screwed up. Due to a few misplaced clues, the whole thing turned into a wild goose chase on one of the hottest days of the year.

The kids were sweating and confused, crying for ice cream that we didn’t have. The teachers were the same.

Hardly the camp kickoff we’d hoped for.

Caution sign
I laughed at this, but then somberly realized that accidents happen, and these days they’re likely to happen to me.


 So what’s going on with me?

“You’ve probably got a lot going on behind the scenes,” a friend and fellow English teacher told me. “There are some big changes coming up.”

Slowly, I accepted that she’s right. I’m leaving my job of two years. I’ll probably never return to this little town in Korea. Jared and I are about to backpack through South America until Christmas, after which we have no concrete plans.

Oh, and we’re flying to Japan on Sunday.

These kinds of transitions don’t happen without a little anxiety, even if it’s below the surface. You can prepare all you like, but when change comes it still delivers an unexpected ddong chim.

I thought that I knew the drill, and I do.

Bunker at Bongraesan
To say I’m always prepared would be a lie, but I’m good at pretending.


But I forgot that there are some things you can’t prepare for. I have to shift from a steady paycheck to no paycheck. From living with a roof over my head to carrying my belongings on my back. Logistically, I can organize this. Emotionally, it takes time to steel your nerves, even when you think you know what’s coming.

And I forgot something else.

This feeling is part of why I live this way: traveling the world, taking different jobs, changing locations – because each time I do it, I discover new opportunities. The way I think changes. My creativity revs up. There are underlying nerves, sure, but they come from the buzz of possibility and the knowledge that I’m always moving forward.

I’m reassured by knowing that I’m living life as I want to live it. Even if I go a little mental sometimes, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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    1. Thank you! I am excited more than anything, but these last few weeks before the big change are kicking my butt. I know once we’re in Argentina, I’ll be thrilled. And hopefully regain my motor skills.

  1. Oh I can absolutely relate to this! It didn’t happen when I left my actual job at home and went to Australia (with nothing planned; no job or anything) but when it came to leaving Australia after 2 years to go to New Zealand I was a mess inside.

    I was excited, I had everything planned out but when we arrived I couldn’t sleep, I was basically a mess!

    1. It is taking me so long to recover! I was exhausted for the first week in Japan, and I consider it a hangover from Korea. Even when you think you’re fine, there’s stuff going on behind the scenes!

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