July 2011: This is a blog page that I try to keep updated about my jaunts and research projects that I perform all over the peninsula. Originally it was my personal thoughts from when I was walking long distance over the Korean ridges in search of nothing in particular apart from some new social experiences, free food, lodging, and dizzy alcohol induced nights on starlit mountain tops with just me, my bivouac, and a small camp fire to let the satellites know where I am.
Those were great days of reckless freedom and saunter. Every day was a new one filled with unsuredness and adventure. Sometimes the days were panged with loneliness and doubt…a kind of duel between the morality of being responsible and returning to society or by just chancing it and to keep living without aim in the mountains, and see how long it lasts before I end up under a bridge with the rest of the world’s losers. I learnt that there was a great sense of Self by being unburdened to outside materialism and only attached to your tormenting inner self. The sensation of it was primitive but lively, perhaps a feeling of ancientness when men on a mission simply walked everywhere. Some of those men were traders, explorers, monks, scholars, mercenaries, poets, bandits, holy men, homeless men…the misfits of society, but back then some of them were revered for the knowledge they would attain through saunter.
These days the modern world sees such acts as irresponsible, strange, bum-like, loser, pointless, and without purpose, maybe even close to mental disorder. However, the complete opposite was revealed to me. It seemed that they were the fools. They were the ones trapped in a world they were born to follow. They were the ones that had their childlike imaginations brought back down to earth by a desire to have what everyone else has, because this is seen as the best way to live. I talk about highly paid jobs, beautiful wives, pristine houses, super cars, super jet skis, gold watches etc, all of this fueled by capital, people living beyond their needs, borrowing money, stealing money. Banks lending money with lifetime sentences for over-priced homes, essentially restricting you to a fixed abode, a patriot of your government, a slave to their survival, your countries survival, fixed and set like a post. But some of us like me wanted to wander, to be free, to be un-set, to be the broken post…the gap in the fence so to speak, and go out there and bring to the world its own sense of worth through others I meet in travel and saunter.
Many a man in the front of his work truck, gave me a thumbs up for my choice. However, which was right, where was the balance, was balance poofy? Were those that lived on either side of the extreme, the modernists or the misfits at least living their purpose, were they the real ones, should I decide what is suitable, or try and live both. After a good 2500kms of wander on Korean mountains, sometimes coming pleasurably close to joyous-foolish unattached enlightenment I decided I wanted to go for both, but with integrity. I was a foreigner in a foreign land – and unlike the saunterer of the past that could pass from one culture to the other without visa and with only a river or a ridge marking a change in language and custom – I needed permission to stay here.
In December 2010, I formed my own business here in Korea called Hike Korea. Its mission is to discover Korean identity through mountain. I know that this statement will extend beyond mountain, but I guess it is my pledge to make an anthropomorphic living from travel and research. So now I sit back in that gap in the fence I made, making a living from my business that offers me the opportunity to travel around Korea. It’s a strange existence. I should feel privileged and I do, but in the end it is work and I must deliver for the people whom contract me to do so. This is the responsible burden that I am obliged to follow. However, I try to do this in a way similar to how I traveled as a wanderer. I try to keep that lens open and report things how I see it with some thought on what my client also needs a subtle mixture so to speak.
Like my walks, my missions are always long and new, so as to provide stimulation. My new projects for 2011-12 I believe are reflections of this and you can see what they are at my business website. In the meantime I have decided to reinvigorate my personal blog as a means of keeping my sanity, the one that may look like insanity to others, the one that makes me feel free, like a saunterer on a ridge in a new land. It is the other side to Hike Korea, the real one that fuels my purpose, the sensible one that sees over the crowd, into the hills, and beyond.