I spent the days leading up to my departure mostly in three states. The first was a sort of mad, though perhaps understandably so, obsession with my panniers and equipment. What goes in what bag? What's the optimal distribution for weight? How about for ease of access to the most important and frequently used things? How about for remembering where everything is? On the one hand, I think it's good to put some thought into this stuff, but on the other, I fully expect everything to change within the next few weeks as I finally let experience take over imagination and nerves. It'll all work itself out.
The second state was a sort of misery, or as others call it, “shopping”. I still needed a few odds and ends for the trip, but buying almost anything at all (other than food) throws me into a pretty dark place . Part of me wants to buy the best thing available, for example, a pair of shoes that will be comfortable, durable, water-proof, and odor-free for the duration of the trip. But my immediate counter-reaction is to think of the environmental costs of the products in particular and in our culture's addiction to early obsolescence and new purchases before their time. In fact, I already had two pairs of shoes - one set of Merrell mesh sneakers that have served me well for almost four years, though now the soles have slightly detached from the rest of the shoe and have been glued back in place, and one pair of imitation crocs with fantastic ventilation. The soft rubber bottoms have been chewed apart by my bike pedals, though, meaning that soon enough my foot will touch metal when I ride. Not ideal.
So, I always ask myself at what point it becomes acceptable to buy something new and throw out something old but usable. If I wait until I truly need new shoes, I may be in the middle of China with no source of nice new Merrell sandals. Then again, how much of my feeling of need is due to real need, and how much is attributable to advertisements, and how much is attributable to nerves? Paralyzing as they are, I would rather have these thoughts than not - I recently read a great post on my current second favorite blog, Mr. Money Moustache explaining his idea that these little agonizing voices, while frustrating at times, are actually to be thanks for pushing us towards better lifestyles - but it's interesting that rather than actually resolving anything, they simply give me enough hesitation and dread regarding shopping that I put it off way longer than others would. I have a feeling that, in the long run, this attitude keeps me buying less and thereby doing less harm to the environment. I don't think I've suffered too much for it so far. Indeed, I believe this kind of thinking is largely to thank for the financial freedom that's going to allow me to spend a year or more on my bike.
Long story short, I eventually caved and bought a fake wallet, some spare bike parts, new shoes, a pocket knife, a water bottle, some tupperware, bandaids, a water bottle, and other odds and ends.
The final state was one of overwhelming warmth during and after each of my twenty or so goodbye gatherings. Dinners with the Park family, the Lee family, the Jo family, and the other Lee family; lunch with the lady who runs the neighborhood art shop; drinks with the people who run the Council for Local Agenda 21, the environmental group behind the Daegu bike festival; a potluck with friends from the Green Consumers Network; conversation practice and karaoke with folks from the Free Korean Class; and of course trips to the beach and karaoke with my most recent , and closest, cohort of foreign friends. And that was just in Daegu! In Seoul I managed to meet one old friend and watch him play backup guitar at a modern dance exhibit; the next day I met an old coworker and had a giant lunch along with two varieties of wine, then met old Korean friends I knew from Sadhana for a nice dinner and another bowl of wine, this time spiked with ground pine needle powder. The next afternoon, it was lunch and dessert with another old friend, then a ride across town to bike shop where I would meet Mingyu the following day.
I don't know what to say about the goodbyes except that they were awesome. I hadn't quite realized how deeply involved I had become in Korean life, though I suppose that after six years of coming and going, maybe it's to be expected. I feel incredibly lucky to have so many friends here, from so many walks of life, all wishing me well and sending me off either with a gift, a full stomach, a full wallet, or just a hug. 한국 친구들아! 생각 자주자주 떠오를 거예요!