Musings on International Travel

I am on a plane heading back to Utah after a 3 week trip to visit my son and his family in Seoul, Korea. He is an army helicopter pilot and took 2 of our grandkids along with him last year. Then his wife added a son to the family earlier this year. So we had to go squeeze, tickle and hug those grandkids.

When we planned this trip several months ago we asked ourselves if we wanted to be out of the country during most of September. There had been a lot of chatter about things happening in September. We felt that things would be ok so we bought tickets and left for Korea early September.

One of the emotional struggles, we preppers have, is that we want to control our future as much as possible. That is why we prepare so that we are not dependent on others or allow ourselves to be in dangerous situations. When we travel, we give up most control over our lives. We are cooped up in a plane, ride public transportation, travel in areas we are not familiar with, have no means of self-defense except our hands (fight) or feet (flight). And we have no supply of food/water. The local market is our lifeline.

Seoul is a HUGE city. The Seoul area has about 24.5 million people which I read is the second largest city in the world, behind Tokyo. It has an extensive, and easy to use, public transport system. We felt comfortable traveling anywhere anytime. It took us two hours to get to the temple for a session. Luckily we had a ride to church on Sunday so it didn’t take as long.

Michael and Debbie at Palace

We found the Korean people, warm, friendly and helpful. They are obedient to laws. There is little theft. My son leaves his strollers and children toys in his carport. He never locks his car. There are surveillance cameras everywhere.

Anglo children are a novelty, especially babies. Often we were traveling with little children. Many Koreans smile at and greet the kids. Many touch the baby – ugh. It is fun to bring joy to others lives just by escorting small children. Yesterday as I pushed two granddaughters to a park in the stroller, a number of people stopped us and spoke to the children. After several stops, the 4 year old said, “I don’t want to say hello to any more people.”

One day we went to a large market, Dongdaemun. It is a six story building and has thousands of small shops. This is a fabric market. There were so many types of fabric, along with assorted buttons, baubles, and accessories. It is a paradise for those interested in quilting, sewing, etc. I escorted three women and one baby. The women were focused on shopping and I paid attention to where we were. At one point, when it was time to get something to eat, one of the women asked how do we get out of here, where is a stair case. They had zero situational awareness. I told them to go down two aisles and turn to the right.

I share that story to demonstrate that even though we didn’t have much control, at least I could get us out of the building quickly if needed.

We had another interesting experience in this building. In many places there is public Wi-Fi. I didn’t sign up for a phone plan while in Korea so I was dependent on Wi-Fi at my son’s apartment and any public Wi-Fi to message, email or browse the web. During the morning I checked if there was public Wi-Fi and found an unsecured connection that I was able to use. Thus I thought there was public Wi-Fi throughout the market. I was mistaken. When two of our group needed to go find a place to feed the baby, I told them my DW and I would continue to look around and would connect with them via text message. So we separated. After a while, my DW and I decided to reconnect and go get something to eat. There was no public Wi-Fi. Oh no! Well my DW was tired, so I had her sit and stay in one location then I wandered around the market trying to find a Wi-Fi spot that I could use. After a few minutes, I found one, then realized I didn’t have my daughter in law’s Korean phone number. Oh no again! I did, however, have my son’s tel number, so I texted him and asked him to have his wife text me so I would have her number. He did and she did. I found out what floor she was one and she said she was by the stairwell. I told her to stay there and we would come to them. I then went and picked my wife, several floors down, and made our way to the stairwell which we used when we came in the store. The others weren’t there and there was no Wi-Fi there either. Oh my!

Next step – find the other ladies. I had my DW, who was getting tired by now, sit and wait while I tried to find the others or find a hot spot to connect to the internet. After searching for about 15 minutes, unsuccessfully I returned to my wife. With her now were the two other women. They had waited by the stairwell, just like I had told them, but it wasn’t the one we had come up on earlier. The floors were so big that there were multiple stairways throughout the building. (I could say something about women and directions here, but I will refrain.) Anyway, all’s well that ends well. We were tired, hungry, and ready to head home on the nearest subway.

This whole situation would have been avoided if I had followed a prompting I had when we first entered the building.  The prompting was to give directions to all that if we got separated we would meet again right here where we entered the building. I didn’t follow that prompting and thus went through unnecessary stress and waste of time. How many times do I need to learn the lesson of following promptings?

Another thing I share is that things don’t always go as planned in traveling or in life. If one stresses about broken up plans, it sucks up energy that could be used in productive ways. Some things we have control over and can change. Most things work independent from our influence. Thus it is important to remember the 9th beatitude – “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.”

When considering future travel, there will always be chatter about an impending disaster. We should not be immobilized by fear, but must be wise and judicious. The most important consideration is to do what the Spirit directs. This was a wonderful trip for us even though the world continues on its crazy downward spiral.


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