Over the past couple of years, our blog has meant many things. There were times when the blog meant everything to me. I’d spend hours writing posts, getting likes, chasing followers, participating in challenges, and leaving random comments on the blogosphere. The highs and lows weren’t always easy to deal with. I was destined for blogger burnout and even contemplated giving up blogging. And there were times when the blog didn’t mean anything to me. It helped me write for myself and forget who I was writing for. And that can be truly liberating for any writer. Chances are: that’s when you will find your true voice.

For as long as I can remember, people have tried to find a cure for my introversion — never truly understanding what a joy it is to ruminate in solitude. But, how do two introverts communicate if they’re prone to keeping quiet? Sometimes, we take a leap of faith, and take the first step to start a dialogue. I know how hard it can be, so here’s a shout-out to Linda (Some Photoblog), for reaching out to me. You remind me why I started this blog, and that two people — living on different sides of the globe — can connect through words.

Linda has a few questions for me and some of you may already know the answers to these. I’ll try to be as honest as I can and hope you get to know me better. This post will be cathartic and extremely long to read. I will understand if this isn’t your cup of tea/coffee, and although I encourage a difference of opinion, I’d urge you to concentrate your energies elsewhere — should you choose to abandon empathy and the voice of reason.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I’ve been a science geek for as long as I can remember. I was never the cool kid. I was a curious child and many would complain that I asked too many questions. They still do. I remember gazing at the night sky and counting stars — wondering how incredible it would be to travel to distant galaxies. Where did we come from? And where do we go? How did it all it all start? Questions like these made me specialize in Astrophysics. However, these days, I’m more interested in history, anthropology, gender studies, and sociology.

What was your favourite music artist or band in your teenage years?

I grew up listening to western classical music, English pop & rock, Hindi movie songs, and Konkini folk songs. Dad used to play the violin and had a penchant for western classical music. Mum loved Hindi songs. Both of them loved dancing to Konkini folk songs. My brother blasted English rock and western classical music — that’s when I knew he’d come back home from college. And my sister liked English and Hindi songs.

I love music and during those volatile teenage years — rock was the answer to most of my troubles. U2 was my favourite band and their lyrics guided me towards the light. I know how hard these present times are and everyone wants to find a way out. I can’t help thinking about one of my favourite U2 songs: Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of. Here’s the last stanza and I hope it helps some of you to get through these difficult days.

And if, and if the night runs over

And if the day won’t last

And if your way should falter

Along the stony pass 

It’s just a moment, this time will pass

Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul Hewson

Which movie can you never get tired of, no matter how many times you watch it?

I attended a 2-week crash course on world cinema in ad school and that changed the way I watched movies. We had a discourse on sociology of film with topics that touched upon perceptions, stereotypes, race, class, and gender. Subtitles became a norm for me and I travelled the world (virtually) through movies. This was way before we had the money to travel.

My life has been peppered with moments of absolute precision and moments of chaos. I’ve been a star on some days and an absolute failure on others. That’s why I can relate to the protagonist from the Japanese movie, Departures. Do we work for money, love, or happiness? I’ve never found the correct answer to that question.

When I’m really glum and know that I can’t travel, I watch my favourite travel movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s got those gorgeous nostalgia-inducing Icelandic visuals and music that gives me goosebumps. I’m willing to ignore some of the obvious stereotypes because I feel so good after watching the classic story of the underdog triumph.

What is your favourite hot drink?

I can’t drink coffee because it gives a headache and I feel groggy. It’s green tea for me. It helps me calm my nerves when I’m anxious and goes perfectly with calming Tibetan chants. I like Indian chai to counter cold Korean winters. It’s my comfort drink for ‘homesickness’.

If you could wake up tomorrow being fluent in one language, which language would you choose?

I was raised multilingual. English was the primary medium of instruction in my all-girls catholic school. Marathi and Hindi were the second and third languages. At home, mum and dad spoke (Mangalorean) Konkini and that’s how I picked it up. I never formally learned the written script. I learned French for 2 years in high school and tried German for 2 months — before giving it up.

If I wake up tomorrow being fluent in one language, it would have to be Korean. I don’t mind trading all those other languages in exchange. We’ve been learning Korean for a year now and we’re just elementary students. My head explodes with language swirls and there are days when I feel tongue-tied. During the early days of the pandemic (when it wasn’t declared a pandemic), in the month of January, I remember panicking at every Korean message that I’d receive on my phone — before I could translate it. It’s hard when there are few ways to placate your fear because of the paucity of comprehensible information.

What stupid question or comment are you tired of hearing from people?

I’m genuinely amazed by the internet. There’s so much information but very few real voices of reason. I guess it’s easier to base opinions and questions on our own prejudice. I’m not saying I’m immune to it. And that’s why as a traveller and expat — I wait for people to tell me their stories — before I’m tempted to write my own versions of them. Being an introvert makes me a good listener, and I’ve realised: people like to talk once you treat them as equals and humans. That’s one way to escape the pervasive gaze of stereotype.

Here are my own examples, first with language:

India: Do you speak Hindi?

Korea: Do you speak Korean?

ROW: Do you speak English?

Now, replace ‘language’ with ‘food’

India: Do Koreans eat dogs?

Korea: Do you eat ‘Korrey’ (curry) every day?

ROW: Do you eat meat? Are you allowed to eat meat?

The same dialogue can be had with religion, education, gender, the works; you get the drift. When people get to know me better, questions become more direct/intrusive, and I become a subject to be observed and studied. Clearly, I’m an anomaly of what they’d expected me to be. From honour killings, rapes, patriarchy, songs in Bollywood movies, to bobling heads; I suddenly become an expert/interpreter on topics that I have no expertise on.

I understand that stereotypes are based on certain irrefutable truths. And there’s no denying that. However, the problem arises when those truths become the ‘only truth’ for a person’s identity. There’s always room for multiple truths to exist. Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sums it eloquently in her TED talk, The danger of a single story.

Have you ever felt like you could never forgive someone? (Reveal as much as you are comfortable with).

I was a shy and quiet child. It was easy for people to hurt me and I’d forgive them very easily. I know that’s the definition of pushover. I was bullied whenever I was the odd one. My father was/is worried about me and wondered, “How would I survive in this world?”. My sensitivity was my weakness until I learned how to control it and use it to understand people’s insecurity. I’ve changed a lot since childhood. Forgiveness, for me, is letting go of the baggage of hate. It liberates me from holding on to someone else’s insecurity or stupidity. That said, I’m no saint either. In some cases, I know that it’s better not to care about getting closure through forgiveness.

My experiences in Korea have been a mixed bag. Our neighbours, in our locality, are very friendly and treat us like family. Whenever we travel in Korea — locals have always helped us. I’ve been touched by their kindness. However, at local cultural centres — that are supposed to foster cultural integration — I’ve always faced discrimination. And I accepted it for a very long time because I didn’t want to be ‘that person’ who creates trouble. It’s not uncommon to hear stories on discrimination based on race, nationality, or just because you’re a foreigner. When my hanji teacher informed me that I wouldn’t get my certificate for the second level of the course, I decided it wasn’t worth it, and I should have stood up for myself earlier. People should accept you for who you are, and not because of where you were born or how you look. I don’t think I can forgive my teacher for undermining my work — even if the problem could have arisen because of a communication gap.

What is the one really unpopular opinion you have?

I understand the need to define one’s identity on the roots of culture and language. I also understand why some people feel safe within the lines they draw around themselves. But, I also feel that we should be be able to accept people for who they are. We should be able to accept people who live between blurred lines. We should be able to accept anomalies, like myself, just as easily as we accept the stereotypes — we like to question.

The objective of most of our travels is to find similarities between people, cultures, and races. To prove that we’re all human beneath our differences. You might wonder: why do I raise this topic now? We’re living in times of fear and reason is miles away. Fear preys on our insecurities and prejudices. It’s easier to blame people from certain communities or races — because that might make you feel safe. In reality, we’re all in this together and we’re more alike than different. The only way to get through this time is to work together.

There’s also a growing perception that anyone who doesn’t fit the ‘stereotype’ doesn’t belong. But who gets to decide: who’s the outsider and who belongs? And if my argument doesn’t convince you, you might want to take a look at the ‘Map of Human Migration‘.

What are you most grateful for from the past 12 months?

The past 2 months have been surreal. I preferred not to talk or write about it because I felt it would become real. Escaping to beautiful places (virtually) has been therapeutic for me and helped me alleviate my anxiety. I know that we won’t be able to travel for the next couple of months or even visit home. I’m grateful for all travel in the past year, especially our dream trip to Uzbekistan, and for the opportunity to explore and open our minds to new people and cultures.

These days, I’m grateful for just being able to walk outdoors (whenever possible), visit the grocery store, and appreciate nature’s silver linings on cherry trees.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

40 replies on “Reflections of a Travel Blogger

  1. If I don’t write for the blog I tend not to write, though at the minute I’ve gone back to keeping a diary. How to keep track of these extraordinary times? Stay well, hon! 🙂 🙂

    1. I’m like you! If I don’t write I just keep thinking. 🙂 I have diaries with random thoughts. Thanks for your positive comment and lovely walks. You’re like a guiding light. Stay safe! ❤

  2. What a truly honest and inspiring post! I totally agree that we are all in this together and if we work together we will get through it. I too am a fairly solitary person, happy with my own company; I love travel, photography and the natural world. We are hoping to visit Korea one day as your posts are so inspiring, thank you.

    1. Thank you for such a wonderful comment. I’m sorry I took such a long time to approve it because I couldn’t find your blog. Korea is a wonderful place to explore and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with the places we’ve seen. Cheryl blossoms and autumn are the best times to visit. Summers and winters can be quite unpredictable and I think that might have something to do with global warming and climate change. I miss travelling too. Take care and stay safe! xo

  3. Be well and from an extroverted introvert I know what you describe . Blogging is a comfortable place to connect with other people and to express ourselves in a safe environment. Here’s to you

    1. I LOVE your blog! Really! It always cheers me up when I’m feeling low. I didn’t know you were an extroverted introvert. 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful comment. Stay safe! xoxo

  4. I love the way you shared more about yourself in this post, Cheryl. As an introvert sharing personal views isn’t always easy. It was a lovely read, and I love that you did a course in hanji – even if it didn’t end so well. Enjoy all those precious moments of being able to walk outside. Stay safe.

    1. I was wondering if it was too much information! Thankfully, my family doesn’t read our blog. 🙂 I do find it difficult to talk about myself. I think this whole home isolation thing is changing me. I can’t believe I want to meet people — other than Basil! haha..How are you holding up?

      1. Hahahah – it may well change you into a social introvert, Cheryl.
        I have been clinging to my sanity the last two days, as we are currently living in the belly of a duststorm. My antidote is to colour in and editing some video footage of our time on the land in Portugal. I now, more than ever long for the day we can shake off the dust of the desert and make our move to Portugal.

      2. Social introvert sounds nice. 🙂 My cousins in the UAE sent me some pics of duststorms. Looked quite scary. Sorry, I’ve taken so long to reply and things must have changed now. 🙂 I hope you’ll got through it.
        Portugal has always been on our list. Will you be uploading any videos? I’d love to travel virtually. Take care and stay sane! xo

      3. Ah, Portugal is a wonderful country, Cheryl. I think you and Basil will love it. I blog about our journey rebuilding a small ruin and putting things in place to eventually move there seperately. There are even some videos. At this point it is just about the land, but eventually when we move there it will hopefully include a travel section. Here is a link if you want to have a look: https://www.atasteoffreedom.pt/blog/

      4. I just found your comment. Sorry for the late reply. I’m really slow with this. 😦 Thank you for sharing your link. I will definitely check it out because we all need some armchair travel these days. 🙂

      5. No problem, Cheryl. I often miss replies. It will be fun if you could join us in Portugal – virtual or maybe even in the flesh one day for a visit. That would be so lovely.

  5. I enjoyed every word of getting to know you better, Cheryl. I must say that I might have predicted some of those answers; I think all of our writing styles and topics alone say a lot about us! As is evident, my blog and I have had our ups and downs as well, but even the downs (the minimal posts) have connected me more and more to my most faithful readers, and that is what I have loved about blogging. Stay well in these unsettling times!

    1. ‘I think all of our writing styles and topics alone say a lot about us!’ This is so true! These are trying times and writing is a great way to get those emotions of your system,. I enjoy reading your posts and travelling virtually with you. 🙂 I wish I was more connected with our readers. I know what you mean though. It’s so nice to hear from people around the globe. Stay safe and well!

  6. Wow, as usual what at a beautifully and thoughtfully written post. Really love how you answer, Cheryl. It’s like giving me another thought for few things.
    Yes yes, what you write about blogging, why I ever felt the same stage. I don’t even remember neither bother to find how long I have been living this blog un-update.
    As for the song of U2, I can relate it ” Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” for few things in my life.
    Now I wonder whether I asked you those boring question when we first me. 😀 😀
    Uzbekistan sounds so luring.
    Really love reading this and thank you for sharing.
    Until we can meet again, stay safe and healthy, Cheryl.
    -Cheers-

    1. I enjoyed your visits to Seoul. I’m going to miss you this year. You’ve never asked me boring questions. You’re such a kind person. Won’t forget how you stayed in touch all through our Indonesia trip! Take care and stay safe! xoxo

  7. Hi my Seoul sister, I feel like I know you a little more through this.( although we are real life friends for 2 yrs lol, there seems more that I haven’t known yet❤️) Your sensitivity and honest words always connect me deeply. I enjoy reading this. Xoxo

    1. Really?? We’ve spent hours drinking tea and talking about our lives. Looks like we have so much more to discover. It’s been way too long since we’ve met. One week more hopefully. Take care Seoul sister! xoxo

  8. Oh Cheryl, I loved this post so much. Knew there was a reason we’re so connected. I share so many traits with you and know exactly what you mean about blogging. I’m glad you stuck at it. And we share the same favourite travel film too. Walter Mitty is such a fun feel good movie that never fails to lift my mood. So good to find out more about you my friend. I’d love to share a green tea and long conversation with you any day. Keep well and stay safe in these strange unsettling days. Big hugs and much love xxxx

    1. You’re such an inspiration, Miriam. Your posts helped me through a very difficult time, in 2016, when my mum wasn’t keeping well. You’re posts on mental health and anxiety have been truly inspirational. Your kindness touches me. Thank you for spreading positivity on the internet. I hope we get to share a cup of tea someday. Take care and stay safe my friend.

  9. Your post reveals so much about you, and I’m impressed by many things. But if I had one regret in life it is that I am not multilingual as you are, so you definitely make me jealous! I, too, love to travel, and this social distancing is messing with my mind and head. I long to see new places when I can afford to. So, maybe I’ll keep saving and get to places soon. Thanks for taking a look at our blog. Stay safe out there.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by. 🙂 These days I struggle with language. I’ve been mixing phrases from different languages and it takes me longer writing posts. 🙂 Korean grammar is very different from any language I know or attempted to learn. Although, I’m enjoying learning Korean these days. We love to travel too and I know what you mean about missing it. You too take care and stay safe!

  10. Am so glad I clicked that follow button and saw this post on my WordPress feed. [I don’t follow very many blogs 😦 But seeing the Korean angle wanted me to get to know you and your blog better]. What a beautiful post this turned out to be! I am an introvert as well and have never been able to figure out if it was an asset or liability. Now, all grown up and older, I just accept it as part of me. The pictures in this post are so perfect, weaving your narrative together with imagery. Take care and stay safe and healthy. Like I tell myself and my family all the time: This too shall pass. ❤

    1. Hi Rama! Thanks for the follow. 🙂 I’m so glad our blog (with offbeat places in South Korea) piqued your interest. Basil, my hubby, got transferred for a work assignment to Seoul in 2016. That’s the Korean link. 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful comment. It made my day. Your thoughts resonate with mine. I wish more people accept us (introverts) as we are. Hope you and your family are finding ways to get through these trying time. Staying positive definitely helps. Take care and stay safe! ❤

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