WWOOFing in South Korea and "Why I travel"

by Worldschooler /
Worldschooler's picture
Mar 09, 2009 / 3 comments

I'm new to WanderingEducators.com but I've been writing about my travels in my monthly Stranger in a Strange Land Newsletter since 2002 when I started travelling at eighteen. Below is an excerpt from the December, 2005 newsletter I wrote while in South Korea about volunteering on a WWOOF farm in the Jirisan mountains and why I travel.


"WWOOF" stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms and is a volunteer run program that enables travellers to stay on farms with free room and board in exchange for a few hours of work per day. As often happens with travel, things didn't happen quite as planned and there was some trouble. As I say in the newsletter: "I was fired from volunteer work. The first time was upsetting; it was the second time that was really traumatizing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my mouth closed for this one in Jirisan."

Still, largely because of these difficulties I had some of the most valuable learning experiences of my life.

You can read about all the difficulties and lessons in the complete Stranger in a Strange Land Newsletters: December, 2005. But this excerpt below is one of my favorite parts from any of my newsletters where I talk about why I travel:


>>That brings me finally to some of the questions that you readers have given me. "Why Korea?" has been the simplest, most common, and most difficult! One person just asked me generally about why I travel, if I'm running away from something, "or desperately seeking something?" Yeah, we have some serious readers at the Stranger in a Strange Land Newsletter: they're not here to mess around. As it turns out, when I really question myself they're all the same question, so that makes things a little easier.

The truth is, on one level, I totally didn't have to come to Korea: it could have been any country with a language, alphabet, and/or culture that interested me. Languages truly fascinate me and I enjoy the process by which I learn them just by chilling in a country for awhile. I could write a lot about that, and it is happening here in Korea! I still don't know much but I can see myself learning more and more each day and I love it.

I spent most of today with people who spoke almost no English, doing simple, real work like picking napa cabbage and cleaning chestnuts and seeing old women actually making kimchee and, while trying not romanticize about it, I am still in awe about how cool it all was.

So there's the adventure: languages, culture, people, history, beautiful scenery, pretty girls, and all that good stuff! The landscaping season was over, most of my friends had gone to colleges far away, and I had fully recovered from Japan: why wouldn't I travel? But again it could have been a lot of places. Why Korea?

I don't want to wake up tomorrow, find myself an old man, and realize I haven't done anything. I don't mean haven't done anything, I mean basically haven't done anything. I'm not afraid of "selling-out," accomplishing nothing, or not living my life at all. I'm afraid of almost living my life. "There's a big difference between all dead and mostly dead," as "The Princess Bride" wisely tells us; the same goes for living. Another quote, this one from the song "The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams: "You find magic in your God and we find magic in everything."

I wanna find magic in everything: I heard there were shamans in Korea and shamans are the ones who find magic all over the place. And I figure if you can do that, and work with the Other World, you can actually do some good in this world. If I did that I'd feel like I did something. I'd get to the end and say, "Sweet. It's a done deal: I did what I could. And some of it was pretty good."

You ask and I'll answer, really. Alright, more specifically? Am I running away from something: I have with travel in the past but I honestly think I'm going where I need to go and seeing what comes next. Desperately seeking: I don't know if it's desperate but I told you I'm looking for something.<<


As far as I know, I didn't find a single shaman in Korea, though locals kept telling me they were there. Still, I found exactly what I was looking for which was really some sense of what I could offer the world. After some profound experiences, I realized, as strange as it might seem, somehow travelling around and sharing my experiences and learning is meaningful work I can contribute to the world.

At that time I only had my newsletter but since then I've been giving speeches and doing presentations at homeschooling/unschooling conferences around the U.S. and started leading Worldschool Travel Tours for people to have their own experiences in foreign countries. I lead one three week trip to Mexico in October, 2008 and was amazed and humbled by how much the young adults got out of the whole experience. I was going to lead one three week trip to Japan in November, 2009 with my Japanese step-mom, Tomoko, but because of all the interest people have shown we're now offering trips in both August and November this year.

Travelling taught me a lot of about myself and even showed me, to my satisfaction, what I'm meant to do right now which turns out to be more travel! But I think travel can help almost anybody understand themselves and the world better, whether they go on one of my trips, someone else's trips, or travel on their own. As far as I can tell, the world itself is the best school there is.

 

Eli Gerzon - Korea

Women making kimchee, spicy pickled cabbage, on a WWOOF farm in South Korea.

 

 

Eli Gerzon/Worldschooler is the Worldschool Editor for Wandering Educators. You can find him on the web at www.eligerzon.com.

 

 

Comments (3)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    15 years 2 months ago

    Eli - what a GREAT article. and yes, THAT is why we travel - to explore, and to understand. thank you!

     

    Jessie Voigt, PhD

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

  • zemoneko

    15 years 2 months ago

    Sorry to quote your article "

    I don't want to wake up tomorrow, find myself an old man, and realize I haven't done anything. I don't mean haven't done anything, I mean basically haven't done anything. I'm not afraid of "selling-out," accomplishing nothing, or not living my life at all. I'm afraid of almost living my life. "There's a big difference between all dead and mostly dead," as "The Princess Bride" wisely tells us; the same goes for living. Another quote, this one from the song "The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams: "You find magic in your God and we find magic in everything." "

    From where I came from; Malaysia - travelling has always been perceived as wasting money by my family. But I find that by travelling, mingle with locals and learn the language; the world has made me a better person and enriched my life to a higher degree.

  • Worldschooler

    14 years 10 months ago

    I can't believe it's taken me so many months to see your comment: I'm sorry. But I wanted to say it means a lot to read it now! And you can feel free to quote me anytime! ;)

    There definitely are people who think travel is a waste of time and money but if it "makes you a better person and enriches your life" (to quote you) then what could be a better thing to spend your money on? Then if you can share that richness with others you've done a great service to the world I think!

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