Traveler's Memories: Anneyeong, for now

Isabella Savage, Staff writer

The first time I left the country, I was 2-years-old. My parents and I drove to Vancouver, British Columbia for a basketball game. It was back when my dad worked in the NBA and we were playing a team in Canada. I don’t remember the trip except for my mom asking me, “Bella, can you say Vancouver, Canada?”

To which I replied, “No mommy, I can’t say Vancouver, Canada.”

I left the United States again when I was 10. My mom, grandma – or Noni – and I flew to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where some of my family has a timeshare. We spent a week there and I got to miss a whole school week of fifth grade. It was a magical trip and one I will remember forever, simply because I just had so much fun.

The first time I left the continent, if you don’t count Hawai’i, was when I was 12. To celebrate my mom’s 50th birthday, we went on her lifelong dream trip to Europe. We visited London and Paris and it was incredible. My mom and I still reminisce about London and how much we miss it and want to take my dad there. From watching the Royal Horseguards on duty, to getting lost in a historic alleyway in the rain, London was beautiful. I want us all to go back.

I returned to Europe last summer with both my parents. This time, we went to Italy and started in Rome and took a train down through Napoli and Pompeii to Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. From there, we went back up north, spending the next few days in Florence and Tuscany and the Chianti region. I count that we’ve been to Germany too, as we had a layover overnight there and left the airport.

And last Christmas, I flew by myself to Seoul, South Korea. That was the most eye-opening, freeing, grown-up experience. I learned how to be mature. I learned of freedom and independence and that life has so much to offer. I fell in love with Korea, a place so far away that I used to not imagine going. Seoul was the farthest I’ve ever been from home, and the longest I’ve been away, too. I’m about to break that record by going back to Korea, but for more than double the time I was there last time. In fact, by the time this is published, I will be there, probably in class at Korea University, or maybe at a convenience store eating ramen and sweet corn ice cream.

If you read my dad’s column from last week, you would know that I have been traveling my whole life. I spent my seventh night on this earth in a hotel dresser drawer. I guess I was prepared early for 14-plus hour flights in economy. 

Although they’re sad to see me go, my parents are happy that I’m living my dream, one that they instilled in me. I am forever grateful to my mom for teaching me about the world and broadening my horizons, instilling this desire to see the world in me from the youngest age. When I was little, we would drive around listening to a CD we had that was filled with songs about the world. It taught me what “hello” meant in probably at least 10 languages. Although I wasn’t fluent, I knew “ni hao” and “hola” and “bonjour” by the time I could put a sentence together in English.

My dad used to go to Japan for work for weeks on end when I was little. He brought us back souvenirs, including a kimono handmade for me by Japanese women in a traditional village. There are pictures of little me wearing that kimono. My dad said that his Japanese coworkers used to call me Isabella-chan. It was surreal visiting Japan for the first time myself during my study abroad last winter.

As a child, we also read books about cultures from around the world. I was able to go through them, with my parents again, as our basement recently flooded and we had to take all the books upstairs.

I had books such as Zen Shorts, which took place in China and taught about traditional Chinese culture. I had a book about Buddha. I had Madeline and Eloise from France and Knuffle Bunny’s second sequel, Knuffle Bunny Free, which takes place in Europe and is about a trip that the main character takes to visit family there. I also found a book called Goyangi means Cat, which is about a little girl from Korea. That’s probably my first introduction to the culture.

Now, I couldn’t be more excited to go back. I always thought that Asia was so far away. And it is. It is across the world and harder to get to than Europe for an American. And the culture is so incredibly different. But really, as people, we’re all not that different.

From the traditional Gyeongbokgung Palace to the famous Namsan Locks of Love to the iconic nightlife district of Hongdae, I can’t wait.

I know that my parents are happy to see me spread my wings and achieve my dream. It might be hard for them, but they know that this is what I’m supposed to do. What I’m meant to do. What I want my life to be. 

In fact, there is a picture that my mom took of me in Mexico this year. I’m standing on a beach at sunset and looking out at the water. My dad said that it always made him sad that I wanted to leave, but he’s accepted it. “This is what you need to do. This is your dream,” he said. He pointed at me in the picture. “This is you.” And then at the ocean. “And this is what you want to see.” The whole world. Every culture. Everything.

I’m going to miss them. A lot. But this is just the next chapter. And they know that. Luckily, my mom is coming to Korea to visit at the end of the program and I can’t wait to show her around.

As silly as it sounds, it reminds me of the song “How Far I’ll Go,” from the Disney Princess movie, Moana:

I’ve been staring at the edge of the water

Long as I can remember

Never really knowing why

I wish I could be the perfect daughter

But I come back to the water no matter how hard I try

Every turn I take, every trail I track

Every path I make, every road leads back

To the place I know where I cannot go

Where I long to be

See the line where the sky meets the sea?

It calls me

And no one knows how far it goes

If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me

One day I’ll know

If I go, there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

So as I embark on this next journey of discovery and achieving my dream in Korea, I suppose I’ll sign off and say bye for now, or perhaps, jigeum-eun annyeong (지금은 안녕).



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