This is my 200th published post on 80couches.com! When I started this blog five years ago prior to my move to Korea, I had no idea where my random brain-droppings would take me, or where I would take myself.
Since then, I’ve moved physically: living in Korea, Germany, and now Finland. Each country was challenging and rewarding in its own ways. Beautiful people, places, and ideas can be found in all, as can ugliness. In Korea, I saw the effects of a newly wealthy nation striving to join the other regional and international economic powerhouses. In Germany, I saw a nation still trying to overcome its sins of yesterday, while simultaneously dealing with a new identity crisis. And Finland? It’s only been a week, so I’ll list it as “We’ll see.”
I’ve also been fortunate to travel to a great deal of places for pleasure and experience. I’ve seen abject poverty and bodies burning on the shore of the Ganges River in India. I’ve learned the supernatural joy of scuba diving in the Philippines. I’ve been heartbroken by the sight of disappearing glaciers in Argentina and Iceland. I’ve learned the concept, if not the pronunciation of hygge in Denmark.
And through most of these travels, I’ve learned to love, and learned the joy of seeing the world through a different set of eyes. When I travel with Christine, we see completely different things. At times, it seems like we’ve taken two different trips, but our trips are always enriched by the others’ perspective.
I’ve moved philosophically: changing or refining my views on a wide range of topics. Standing on melting glaciers changed me. Seeing polluted skies and environmental destruction in China, India, and Peru changed me. Being able to walk the streets of Korea and Germany without fear of being shot changed me. Seeing the positive effects that parental leave and increased time off changed me. Being able to go into a doctor’s office without breaking the bank changed me. And being afforded the opportunity to study and better myself for free changed me.
In short, environmental protection, gun control, workers rights, healthcare, and education have become very important issues since moving away from the U.S.
I’ve seen the benefit of doing things a little differently. I’ve seen democracies function better than mine, with safer, happier, more financially stable citizens. It breaks my heart, because America should be better than it is, but rarely acts the part. From abroad, I’ve seen the gulf between red and blue America widen continually, with the rhetoric becoming evermore hateful and extreme.
I’ll be happy to watch the 2016 election from abroad, as I don’t think I could stomach the process up close and personally.
I’ve moved professionally. When, in the summer of 2010, I threw up my hands, admitted defeat, and moved back to Asia to teach, I saw it as an “honorable retreat.” My plans for any semblance of a professional career crumbled along with the economy in the fall of 2008. I went back to what I knew and enjoyed: teaching ESL in Asia. From the beginning, I knew this wasn’t what I wanted long-term, but I knew I needed a way out of my current cycle of barely getting by with dead-end part-time and temporary jobs.
Slowly, the thought occurred that I could go back to school with the aim of doing some good for the world. I followed my passion: the environment. And that brings me to my current home in Eastern Finland, to study Environmental Policy and Law.
Writing, of course, is also a passion. I’ve been lucky to be able to share my views with the world on 80 Couches. And I’ve been lucky to be able to write professionally, for The Liverpool Offside.
It’s been a long road, but a rewarding one. I’d like to think that in five more years, and another 200-ish posts, I will have grown just as much as I have in the last five.
The world is changing faster than ever before, and we have to continue to change with it. The only way to do that is through new experiences, and trying new things. As soon as we get stuck in our own way of doing things, the world will surely pass us by. I hope to keep evolving as I grow, to become better than before, and to share those experiences along the way.
To all of you who have supported 80 Couches over the years, thank you so much.