The Weirdest Part of Travel

I recently wrote a post called “The Hardest Part of Travel,” and now I want to look at a different superlative:

The weirdest part of travel.

This came up because of the whole North Korea-South Korea will-they-or-won’t-they go to war thing. I’ve had a few people ask what I think about it, and how I imagine the people in South Korea are reacting, and aren’t I glad I got out when I did?

And my reaction, typically, is this:

Why are you asking me? …Oh yeah, I lived in Korea for two years. Sorry, forgot about that.

Yeongwol, Korea
Waiting at the Yeongwol train station, about to leave Korea for the last time.

This is part of a disturbing trend when it comes to me and travel. When I leave a place, no matter how long I was there, it sort of…vanishes from my memory. All of the details, the richness, the reality – they all disappear, leaving vague, inadequate statements in their wake.

Which means conversations like this:

Friend: So, how was Korea? That’s crazy that you were there for so long!

Me: I know! It was (awkward extended pause) really interesting. (scramble for a better word) Different.

Or like this:

Friend: What was South America like? I bet it was amaaaa-zing!

Me: It was! So amazing! The…uh…Galapagos! Yes! And Macchu Picchu! Amazing. South America. It’s amazing.

After we left Korea, I did continue to bow for several weeks; the last lingering traces of our life there. And when we left South America, I found myself carrying my own toilet paper and being pleasantly surprised to find it already in the bathroom. But once the tissues gradually stopped appearing in my bag, so did my intense memories of the continent.

Pisaq, Peru
Who forgets this? I guess I do.

One week back in the US, and it almost felt like I’d been there all along. Now I’ve been back in Australia for nearly a month, and it’s like we never left.

What the heck?

Why do I love travel so much if, apparently, I barely remember it when it’s over? It’s weird, right?

When I really think about it, I can recall the details of our life in Korea. Our months backpacking through South America. My year in New Zealand. That first solo trip to Ireland. And what I come away with is fascination.

I did that? Really?

The weirdest thing about travel is how it sort of becomes a part of you. How you envelop your experiences, fold them into who you are, and keep moving forward with your daily reality. And then, miracle of miracles, you realize that you haven’t forgotten at all. You’ve just absorbed the memories.

It’s really…interesting. Different. And kind of amazing.

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  1. Oh my God, I’m totally the same. People will ask me things about Australia like where I lived or the names of places and I’ll literally have nothing to tell them – mind completely blank!

    1. And do you feel some sort of obligation to know these things? I always scramble for recommendations on restaurants, places to visit, etc, and feel bad when I can’t come up with anything. It makes us look suspicious. As if we were never there at all…

  2. You hit the nail on the head. I am the same too. My classic response to ‘How was South America’ is ‘So amazing!’ and then I’m stumped for what to say next. I might ramble on about the Galapagos or Rio Carnaval for a bit, but it doesn’t do it justice. I think maybe it’s just impossible to think about it all in one go or to sum it up to someone who hasn’t experienced it. That’s why they should all read our blogs… 🙂

    1. I do the rambling, too. And then after several minutes, realize I haven’t said anything substantial at all and am forced to stop talking. And nobody is any better off. Maybe I should get business cards with my blog URL and just hand them out. Oh god, maybe I have lost the ability to communicate in person and can only do so digitally! That’s a scary thought.

  3. This happens to me too-I never remember the names of places/towns that I was in. When people ask me questions and dig for specifics, I start to get paranoid that they think I’m lying and I never went to the actual place, because I get so sketchy about it.

    Also, something worse that I do, is visit a popular place and avoid going to the #1 most visited place there. Didn’t go to the Grand Palace in BKK and I lived 10 minutes away. Didn’t ever go to Robben Island and I lived in Cape Town for 5 weeks. Didn’t see Ho Chi Minh’s tomb. In Ho Chi Minh.

    I guess my point is, don’t feel bad because I’m clearly worse.

    1. Maybe it runs in the family. Sometimes I even pretend to myself that I haven’t gone to some places, like Faro, Portugal, because I literally remember nothing about what I did or what we saw. And I can kind of understand skipping the #1 tourist attraction, but seeing Uncle Ho’s embalmed body was pretty worth it/creepy. Next time, maybe.

  4. Glad you are out of S.Korea. Not the best place to be these days.

    Yes! And Macchu Picchu! Amazing. South America. It’s amazing. LOL

    Answering your questions “Who forgets this?” I wouldn’t forget that girl 😉

    1. I have to say, I don’t think the Koreans are freaking out that much! I remember when Kim Jong-il died and everybody kind of shrugged their shoulders and went about their business – the people we’d expect to panic the most don’t seem bothered at all!

      But in saying that, YES I am pretty glad that we’re now back in Australia!

    2. South Korea is a fine place to be right now, and was a okay in April as well (noticed i’m a bit late on this reply). Seriously the media likes to blow things up.

      As for the blog, I find myself doing these things all too often. After spending a month in Malaysia last winter people asked what my favorite part was, what did I remember, etc. and all I could really say was “yeah, it was really cool, fun, beautiful” uhh was I half asleep? I like the idea of directing them to our blogs – I can’t seem to shut up there!

      1. I’ve noticed that Korea has virtually vanished from the media and, of course, nothing ever happened! The blog is my answer to those questions too – otherwise people will have to make do with ‘it was great.’

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