[FOUNTAIN]Traveling Near and Far

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[FOUNTAIN]Traveling Near and Far

Is anything more pleasurable than traveling? Escaping from everyday duties and routines that leave us feeling like a hamster on a wheel is such fun. There are many ways to travel: wandering like the poet of the Choson dynasty who followed the clouds, or tearing from place to place on a tight schedule.

When visiting places with the kind of beautiful scenery that ordinarily belongs in books and films, and tasting the exotic local fare with local wine, everyone feels like a king. Even the misfortune of encountering a pickpocket cannot take away the joy. Just as great writers receive artistic inspiration from travel, ordinary people replenish their energy for living.

Everyone seems to enjoy traveling, and Germans seem to enjoy it most. Statistics indicate that 63 million Germans out of a total national population of 81 million travel every year. Among these 63 million, just 30 percent, travel within Germany. The others - 45 million - go abroad. During the winter, hungry for sunlight, these trekking Germans visit Mediterranean countries, such as Spain, Turkey and Italy - places full of sunshine.

In addition to these journeys during formal vacation time, Germans regularly venture from home on the weekend. On Friday afternoon, the freeways are jammed with cars heading away from the cities and back to nature. Germans seem to have a travel bug that makes shivering with cold in a tent in the middle of a forest preferable to staying at home.

In 1895 in Berlin, Herman Hoffmann founded Wandervogel, the "movement of migratory birds." It aimed to instill in the young a love for walking, travel and camping, leaving city life behind. The spirit of the movement has been passed on through generations.

As Koreans' incomes rise and we can afford to travel, excursions have become an annual event. Now is the time when people begin planning their summer vacations. Many students will go backpacking abroad.

But these days, backpacking has a different meaning. Unlike the experience of Wandervogel, where young people traveled on foot and experienced nature with few luxuries, backpacking today has become a package tour to famous tourist sites. Of course, these kinds of trips for young people are still beneficial.

But if I were in my 20s, I would visit the tiny rural towns of Korea. Every so often, I would help out a farmer during the day so he could treat me with the usual snack he eats in the field. And the dinner would taste pretty good, too. With the dusk falling, I would not mind listening to him boasting about his children after a couple of drinks.

The writer is Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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