by Shelt Garner
A lot can happen in four years — I could get snatched off the street by ICE and die in a camp, for one — but in general, I think I’m going to begin thinking about returning to Asia on or about the 20th Anniversary of my original arrival in South Korea in 2004.
I would just like to visit the old haunts on last time before I drop dead. So, I would go to Incheon, Seoul, Busan, then fly down to Southeast Asia to see some of the countries I didn’t to get see the few times I was down there. The thing is, not only has Asia changed a great deal since I left, I have changed a lot, too. I’m just not the man I used to be.
I’m a lot wiser, a lot more grounded and a lot more careful.
That’s the great tragedy of getting older. Once you enter a new phase in your life, there’s no going back. The worst part about it, of course, is there’s no ritual to help you understand what’s going on. When you’re younger, you have a number of important milestones that help you know you’re in a new era in your life. You go 16, 18, 21, 25, 30….then things become a lot more vague.
Of course, with “normal” people what happens is they exchange their own personal milestones for the personal milestones of their children. That’s the way it’s supposed to happen, at least. So when you reach 40-ish, there’s no official ceremony that tells you, “Nope, can’t date a 24 year old anymore, big guy.”
So here I am.
The older you get, the more you realize no one owes you shit and things don’t “happen for a reason.” Things happen for no reason at all and either you figure out away to give them value by taking advantage of them, or you don’t. I know on an existential level, any return to Asia would be me struggling to relieve my lost youth.
The last time I was in Seoul, things were very, very boring. This was in no small part to the changes in immigration law that forced a lot of the more balls out crazy people to flee to Cambodia. Now, things are quite calm in South Korea and, as such, I’m not going to find some sort of Fountain of Youth. I’m still old and there’s no going back.
But I would like, one last time, to see some of the significant places I remember from Seoul.