There is an antidote to homesicknessI recently read a highly articulate article in the Korea Herald concerning long-term expats’ nostalgia for their mother countries, or homesickness. And I started to worry.
You see, I don’t suffer from this, and the article made me think that maybe I’m somehow different from my contemporaries here in Korea.
Ever since graduation, I’ve always worked overseas. Including brief stints in governments’ service, I have been in the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia and finally here in Korea. To be honest, after 14 years in the Land of the Morning Calm, I consider this country to be my home as much as my native England.
Sure I go back to visit ― these days not as often as maybe I should ― but I find it somewhat boring. I spent 24 years of my life growing up and being educated in England, and appreciated every moment. But there is so much more in the world to experience.
With just one life, unless one is a devout believer in established or esoteric religions with a multiplicity of afterlives, I feel it is incumbent on all to enrich themselves and those they meet by traveling and exploring as much as possible.
Only by doing this can we come to understand the uniqueness of different cultures, while at the same time realizing that the more we think we are different, the more we actually have in common.
Maybe it’s a genetic thing. According to my father and mother, both frequent visitors to Korea, my widespread family is descended from Vikings who sailed from Scandinavia to the southern reaches of Ireland, then moved on to Wales before settling in England. And while some may scoff at this, I can avow firmly that I have relatives in both Australia and Canada, which is about as far apart as you can get.
There is the old saying “home is where the heart is,” and I have to agree with this. Whichever people I have lived with ― the congenial, Guinness-swigging Irish, the Dutch and their love of raw fish (it’s not just an Asian phenomenon), and the Bedouins in the desert, whose unquestioning hospitality shames the richest of nationalities ― all have made me feel at home.
To feel homesick poses the question of what it is exactly that you’re missing. Most of the people I grew up with have their own conventional lives; I have three brothers and a sister who are definitely living English a la mode. For myself, unconsciously, maybe in deference to my genetic makeup, I have chosen the way coined by Robert Frost in his famous poem “The Road Not Taken.” I’ve decided to take the road less traveled.
This is not to denigrate people who choose otherwise ― there are different strokes for different folks. Some people are born with the wanderlust and others are not. In my own family there has generally been just one person smitten with the desire for travel; in this generation it’s me.
This having been said, as the years go by I do feel the need to establish a home base, and what better place than Korea, a technologically advancing country with a unique dynamism all of its own?
Among my travels throughout the world I have yet to see a country where palpable and observable development has taken place in front of my eyes. From my arrival, back in 1991, I have seen a breathtaking transformation that continues to this day. Plus, my family has a history here ― an uncle on my father’s side fought as an aircraft carrier pilot during the Korean War, while another from my mother’s side was part of the United Nations Command while the United Kingdom was still part of its presence here.
I hope that there are fellow souls out there who, while acknowledging the land of their birth, don’t miss it that much. Be nostalgic if you must but do it with a brave heart that enables you to look forward to every new day with hope and the expectation of a new experience.
by Chris Price