My trip started the same way it always does. A trip to the airport, beers in the waiting area, then hurried prayers to whatever deity may be listening to make sure that the plane doesn’t crash or blow up into smithereens. Then it was a one hour ride on a bus to get to a hotel where I would share a room with not one, not two, but three roommates. I’ll admit, after I dropped my bags I wasn’t in the greatest of moods but that all changed when I got a chance to step outside.
Welcome to Jeju.
The flight was only an hour but when it’s spent completely in turbulence (which is horrible) with the annoying chatter of children who were having about as much fun as they could on a roller-coaster miles up in the air. I spent two days in meetings, group sessions, and training for… God in heaven I have no idea what they were telling me for two days. It was kind of like drowning with periodic trips to the beach during which I’d come up for air. It was during those breaths that I was able to take a look around the resort and go for walks that took me to areas that I could scarcely believe were connected (the walk between the top photo and the bottom photo is about 7 minutes).
It wasn’t until later that I remembered one of my coworkers was actually from the island. She had been born here and gone to school here. It wasn’t until she was in her twenties that she moved to Seoul and eventually got a job in the company.
It was strange to think that anyone would leave this place for… anything. Half the time, it seemed like I needed to tear myself away from the sighs to take a picture or head back to the group.
I’ve been to Jeju before, the last trip was two years ago with my girlfriend. We took a tour bus that was filled with old people and were driven from stop to stop with short breaks in between. It was interesting and we got to see a large portion of what the island had to offer but it was exhausting. But I could never imagine living in a place like this. I don’t think I could ever imagine leaving either.
During the long and dull bus rides I would take sideways glances at her. I wondered what it would be like to take a tour of the place where you grew up. To visit all the places that you were already familiar with but this time surrounded by people who were just staring with their eyes wide. Was she bored? Impressed? Happy to be home?
The trip ended after a grueling three days with a full course meal at a sushi restaurant overlooking a cove. After we eaten (and drunk) our fill, we filed back onto the buses and headed back to the airport to get on planes that would wobble their way back home.
But before that someone finally got up the nerve to ask her what the trip had been like for her.
She laughed a bit and said that it’d been a fun trip. She hadn’t visited every thing on the island and she had seen some of the places we’d been to but when she was much younger. The conversation carried for a bit and then dwindled when someone asked her whether she’d settle down with someone from the island or from the peninsula. But before we got to the airport to head home I finally asked her whether she preferred the island or the big city. After three days of exploring with a culminating tour of the island, I wasn’t surprised at her answer.
“In a perfect world, I would have never left.”