Taking Pictures of People Taking Pictures – Around the World Day 1

It is summertime and for a teacher that means taking a much needed break. For an international teacher that means reconnecting with loved ones, and taking in a little bit of the world in the process. This year, we have gotten really ambitious by taking a trip around the world. It is more exotic than it sounds because in reality I am only stopping at a couple of places, namely Spain, Portugal, Colorado, Oregon, and then back to Seoul for another school year. And even though there are not a lot of stops along the way, it is still literally a trip around the world. We will constantly be traveling west until we reach our original destination.

Of course these means starting some place, and experiencing the wonders of air travel. It is always a weird experience, and there is always something that makes these trips unusual for us. Every day presents us with new stories that we will tell over the years, and those stories came quick this time.

It all started with trying to leave. There is always the fun of making sure that we have cleared out the fridge for the six week trip and that all the appliances are turned off as well as making sure that everything is locked up. This year that job was left up to me because my wife had one more day left before we left. I was to take the car to campus so we could leave it there until school started up again, and then we would grab a cab to the airport bus to our new adventure. Right before I was supposed to leave a moving company came in and parked right in front of our car. It seemed as if fate did not want us to leave, but I had worked hard and I earned this vacation. I went out to the movers and after a strange conversation in broken English/Korean, I was able to get my car out and make my way to the airport.

I thought that this would have been the most exciting part of my day, but little did I know that the airport had another mini-adventure in store for us. We got to the airport in a reasonable time, and we had some time to kill, so we went to America’s favorite place, Starbucks, for some coffee. We got in line waiting for our turn to order when things started to get weird.

It started off with one camera, then two, and soon everybody in the airport had stopped to take our picture for some reason. I thought of being nice by waving to people. Christine told me to put my hand down because they weren’t taking pictures of me. We ordered our coffee, and more people gathered around to take pictures. I didn’t know what they were taking pictures of, so while I took pictures of them taking pictures, Christine asked the person at the counter what was making people so excited. The lady got really flustered because the person who they were taking pictures of was actually standing right behind us.

We were in the presence of somebody famous, but I found the crowd more interesting. Some of them thought I was absolutely crazy for missing the opportunity that was right there next to me. But honestly I do not know enough about Kpop stars to care, and I started to realize the truth about celebrity status. It is only important if the people who are around care. If this celebrity showed up in the States she would be anonymous and she would be able to carry on with her life as any of us. But because of her location, she was hounded by the masses. It would have been like if Dave Matthews showed up in Seoul. Nobody would know who he was because Koreans do not listen to Dave Matthews. Celebrity status is the product of the society, not the other way around.

We eventually got our coffee and moved on, asking people if they knew who it was that was getting her picture taken. The foreigners in the back of the crowd had no idea but they stood by to make sure that they got a picture of the event. As we were making our way to our gate, a nice lady stopped by to tell us that we were in the presence of the Kpop group called Twice. I still do not know who that is, but it was fun to experience what it is like to be a celebrity if only it was second hand, and it was an exciting start to our adventure around the world. I hope that the rest of the trip is as much fun and I can’t wait to see what other stories will come out of it.

If you are interested to follow these stories make sure you to return to this blog over the next six weeks to see what will happen next.

It’s Now About the Destination

Yes, we have all heard it before, the comedian standing up on the stage complaining about how horrible airports are. We have even experienced the moment. There are mixed emotions that we go through every time we are forced to make our way to the airport. On one hand, we are going some place great to enjoy a wonderful vacation, but on the other hand, you have to deal with an airport and airplane travel.

Yes, these places are awful. You get packed into places with large groups of people so they can shuffle you off from one place to another. They just become nameless faces among thousands. You get to sit on hard seats. You get to have the seat in front of you lean back so they can crush your knees. You get to smell really bad airline food because there is no way that you would ever want to eat it. And you get stuck in terminals during layovers because if you leave, it would mean that you would have to stand in line all over again to back to the place you never wanted to be in the first place.

Even though the mere thought of it makes my back shrivel up in dread, it wasn’t until today that I really understood why I truly hate airplane travel. It is not all the uncomfortable positions I get placed in because if I am driving across America, I get those same pains from being stuck in a car all day. It isn’t from the bad food because if we are being honest, the fast food that you find off of any highway in America is just as bad. No, I think the real reason I hate it so bad is because it takes away from me one of my fundamental beliefs.

Life is not about the destination. It is the all about the journey. It is about the things that you get to experience along the way. Don’t get me wrong; the destination is awesome when you are going on vacation, but so is the journey. Some of my favorite stories come from traveling on a train, or hanging with my new friends on a bus, or some of the crazy things I have seen from being on the road. But traveling by plane is all about how fast you can get from one place to another. There is a little hole you feel within your existence because you no longer get to talk about the stories that you would have collected along the way.

Now, a lot of airports will have great pieces of artwork up that reflects the nature of the little corner of the world where they find themselves in, but most of the time they are remakes of some original that could only be found outside of the airport. They are still neat to look at, but you still didn’t have to make the trek to go and see it. Instead it is right there off of the airplane for you to admire.

Most airports try to fill in the void that you experience from not having the journey with shopping. It is crazy the kinds of things you can find for sale at airports too. Incheon International Airport is probably one of the worst. They expect you to spend your money on Tiffany’s jewelry, or Gucci bags. They do not even have a place where you can pick up a small snack to enjoy on the plane, or a book or magazine to read to make the flight go by quicker. And even worse, they have Duty Free shops to fill in that void even more. If buying expensive things doesn’t make you feel better, than get yourself some cheap booze and cigarettes to pass away the time. The sad thing is you will only wake up from that with a bigger void you wish to fill.

In fact the only time you feel like you have completed anything that feels like a journey is when you first arrive at the place where you will stay. This is the first time that what you will see that looks like it has the adventure that we crave as human beings. The only problem is that it is found at the destination, the place that was meant to be our reward for going through the adventures in the first place. Think about every great epic story that you know. It is not about them being at the place, but instead it is about the adventure they have to get there. And I long for the same thing in my life.

The only problem is that after all the exhaustion that is experienced on the voyage to get to your destination, the only thing you look forward to is the bed so you can rest up to take on the next day. Yes, the next day will be filled with adventure, and it will be worth the long travel to get there, but you are still missing out on something because of the airplane travel. Now don’t get me wrong. In this busy world that we live in, I will still take that flight so I can enjoy places like Laos on the spur of the moment, but there is still a part of me that wishes that I could experience it the old way where I would take the long, slow route, so I have something to talk about when I get there.

This way the drink and company I share when I arrive will even be more enjoyable.