8 06 2009

Last November, I sold the condo I’d owned and lived in for 5 years, and either sold, packed up or gave away most of my remaining possessions. I condensed my life into 2 suitcases, which were transported to Seoul, South Korea by my parents, 2 months before I arrived. At the time, I had this urge to be rootless and unencumbered by the world of form. The process of packing up boxes and actually delving into all of the STUFF I had accumulated, only underscored my desire for this. I could not believe the number of things I had that I didn’t need or use. I just had them to have them.

After leaving Toronto, I travelled to Seoul, Vietnam, Cambodia, back to Seoul, then onwards to China, Laos and Thailand, before finally returning to Seoul. Those 3 months of traveling condensed life even further, as all of my possessions were forced into a 48 litre backpack. I literally became the turtle carrying it’s home on it’s back. I was unencumbered by work, a home, mortgage payments, possessions and deadlines of any sort. In fact, I couldn’t even use credit cards for most of my travels, (and I had come to realize that credit cards tie you down in the most devious of ways!)

Life was lived moment to moment. At least for a time.

We settled into Seoul at the end of February and began the process of setting down a few roots. We tried to do this in a more conscious way, purchasing only what we would really need, rather than what we thought we might need. We have much less stuff, but it’s a much cleaner and simpler existence, free of unnecessary excess.

I wasn’t sure why I started this journey…and of course, there were multiple logical reasons for taking it on. The real estate market was crashing and I had to get out, I wanted to travel, I wanted to go back to my motherland and discover my roots etc….etc….etc. Looking back now, with the gift of hindsight, it is clear to me that this journey was really about letting go, creating a void and learning how to live in a cleaner, simpler and more conscious way.

It seems to me that we are all involved in this evolutionary process, and that this economic collapse is actually the impetus for governments, corporations and ultimately every human being to undergo the process of living in a way that is more elegant, less wasteful and more harmonious.


Part-Time Job

4 06 2009

Last night, we were sitting outside on Friend Jane’s step chatting, when the landlady’s son returned¬†home. He’s around 18 years old, lanky and wears his glasses, jeans and t-shirts in the careless way that teenage boys do. I think his name is Hong-Il, but for some reason, his name just doesn’t stick in my mind. It was around 10 PM, and as he entered he called up and apologized to Jane for arriving home so late. Apparently, he had offered to help her take out her copious (from the move) amounts of garbage and recycling.

He speaks a little bit of English, so we started talking, and learned that he was just arriving home from work. The conversation went something like this:

Us: Were you at work? or school?

Hong-Il: I was at work. At my part-time job.

Us: Oh, how many hours do you work?

Hong-Il: Monday to Friday, 7 hours every day.

Us: PART-TIME job!!

Hong-Il (matter of factly): Yes. And on weekends, I work on Itaewon, selling clothes.

Suffice it to say, that we were pretty impressed. 

I had read in a study a few months ago that Koreans were the longest working people on earth, and Hong-Il’s words confirmed the fact. If 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, is part time, what’s full time?

Asking around, I discovered that most Koreans only get 1 week of vacation per year, no matter how senior they get, and that they work 5 days a week, from 8 AM until 8 PM. They also work for a few hours on Saturdays. My North American sensibility thinks this is pretty crazy. But then again, I’ve been living the passive income lifestyle for over a year now. I’m not too into sitting at a desk, working.

I think though, that the thing that impressed me most about Hong-Il, was the absolute sense of presence he had at the tender age of 18. There was no hint of victimhood in his tone or being when he told us about the hours he worked…only a sense of peaceful acceptance.

What a beautiful thing.