There’s a sense of discomfort – as though I am trying to breathe underwater – as I arrive in wintry, almost but not yet fully, Seoul. This is my first long trip after a year of hiatus. I promised myself I will travel less in 2016, fatigued by 2015’s burst of energies and memories of foreign places. November 2016 and here I am, in Incheon International Airport where there is no terminals, only (what seems to me to be) chaos.
From a blistering 30°C to wind-slapping 2°C, there is really little comfort for the body. The biggest discomfort though is that feeling of having donned another layer of skin – sticky, wet, uncomfortable and demanding. This is the constant in each escapade; in a new place you are a nobody and nobodies don’t matter. You are invisible. You can try your best to get noticed – allow the place to recognise and accept you. In turn, perhaps, you might gleam a secret or two from the place. She might allow you to get closer: baring her shoulders, revealing her stories and culture for your inquisitive side. Don’t get too optimistic though because usually, that’s a privilege reserved for the actual stayers. You, a passer by, is nothing more but a distraction to the floors you put your foot on and the sights you set your eyes to.
remain as a moment – unnecessary, passable and negligible.
But you are also changed. Not in the moment, no. Never in the moment. It is right after an escapade ends that the magic begins. You begin to shed your skin. The discomfort comes off. You outgrow and eventually wear a newer, better, skin. You are changed unequivocally. Whether she knew you or not, it doesn’t matter because you now know her in accordance to how you know things, places, people and most of all – you experienced her. And, the story-telling begins because on the day I arrived in Incheon was the day I begin to outgrow my existing skin.