February 2012, I left the United States for the first time. My family and friends tried to stop me. “You’re not ready for this” they said. “Your plan sucks” “You will come back before six months”. Five years later, I’m still traveling and thriving as best I can. The people that said those things are still in home town. Few have grown while others are still doing the SAME thing.
I won’t lie, there were moments I believed what they said. There was even a time I was going to go home but God said “not yet”. My first time in Korea strengthen me mentally, spiritually, and physically. I stayed because I had a lot to prove to myself.
Had I not traveled, I would have been just like the negative Nancys at home. People like them are the ones you see in marches over things they can control.
Traveling revealed 14 truths about me that made me a better man.
#1: No one cares about your issues
Boxer Ed Latimore has a book coming out on this and other issues. I realized this after my breakdown in September 2013. For three hours, I was praying, pacing in my room, and talking to a confidant at the time about how I felt about whatever it was.
The next day, it was business as usual. My griping solved nothing.
Life goes on. If I wanted to survive in this world, I would have to care about me. Not everyone care about me the way I do. Other people are fighting their own battles, too.
Korean society does NOT nor will they care about your troubles. They do NOT care about the injustices of your people. I’m very glad Black Lives Matters FAILED in Korea or Japan. Both countries had a rally but that’s it. People from both countries said, “Okay, you got your say now leave.”
#2: There’s strength in solidarity
Korean society is all about working together. When one of their own are wronged, EVERYONE joins in the fight. They don’t just march, they take care of business.
That saying in the west “Diversity Is Our Strength” is gobbledygook in Asia.
Their unity helped me realize how important family is at home. My dad always says that “We’re a team” and it made a lot of sense after witnessing it.
Solidarity works when done right. The solidarity I show in my documentary “The Crucible Of Necessity” was hidden. History books talks about one person (Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.) but it took a TEAM to work out those issues.
#3: Being a minimalist works
I saw the movie Fight Club in 2014. Tyler Durden explained minimalism to the main character.
I learned the term “minimalist” through Victor Pride. I used to live my life thinking I needed EVERYTHING in the world. Then I remembered I was a man and I don’t need a lot to live. Just food, water, clothes, books, and a nice place to sleep.
The art of minimalism is simple and effective. You think you need to buy that thing? Ask yourself that question three times. If you have a note pad, write down five ways the thing you want will benefit you. I practiced this and saved myself thousands of dollars over the last six months.
On that note…
#4: I don’t need the things I want
My uncle has a saying: people spend money on what they want; they beg for what they need.
I have a Playstation 4 sitting in my suitcase right now. I don’t need it but I use it for live streaming. I don’t need to live stream but I want to have an extra source of income.
It’s funny how people’ll say “screw capitalism” yet ignore the irony of tweeting it from their iphone. Westerners are funny.
#5: Cooking your own food can save you money
My parents didn’t raise a fool. Human society has this belief that men should never cook. That’s garbage. If we don’t cook, we don’t live. Plain and simple.
My mom taught me the art of grocery shopping. Both of my parents taught me how to cook different dishes. I look on Imgur for new recipes.
On the flipside, it’s cheaper to eat out in Korea and Japan than it is in the United States. Regardless, i’ve found myself saving a lot of money by cooking many meals for the week. I just had to learn the ways.
Korea values the power of togetherness so much, it’s very difficult to eat out alone. Most (though not all) restaurants will deny you if you’re eating by yourself. The social stigma of eating alone bothers Koreans. But i’m not Korean and I don’t care what others think of me.
#6: There’s nothing wrong with me
Before traveling, I legit thought there was something with me. Even in my first year in Korea, I thought I had an issue. I later found out it was all in my mind.
It used to bother me that people liked me.
I was so used to being labeled in a negative light, positivity BOTHERED me.
“You’re too awkward.”
“You’re socially retarded.”
Americans love to label. Later saw those that labeled me were miserable. They slave away at a 9-5. Some started a family too early.
Low self-esteem was a real thing with me.
Leaving my comfort zone strengthen me. It took a while for it to develop but I got where I needed to be when I needed to be.
I don’t let my ego get to my head (any more) and I strive to improve every day.
On that note…
#7: Everyone has a story to tell
I used to interview people at events. Not once did I listen to their story. I was too concerned about making myself look good. Plus, what they said wasn’t all that interesting to me.
Maybe I was a butthole, who knows.
Talking to people from other countries changed my mindset. Their stories were far more interesting than mines and everyone else’s at home.
Then it hit me.
EVERYONE HAS A STORY. Hearing their stories made me want to get out and have adventures.
A former confidant told me how he was homeless in South America and ball room dancing (along with being a gentleman overall) helped him get back on his feet.
Listening to his story made me want to do more with my life. What’s more interesting? The time I blacked out from hiking or the time I quit my TV production job?
#8: How to Negotiate
This is ironic. I say this because Koreans don’t negotiate. They haggle. Really, I learned negotiation in Japan. It was learned the hard way but I learned it regardless.
Negotiation is difficult in the states because there are not a lot of independent vendors. Well, there IS one near my parents house but I had to know a lot of Spanish to get things on the cheap. At that time, I wasn’t into doing so.
Shopping often in Yongsan (the electronic district of Seoul) showed me the power of haggling. I learned haggling from an episode of Gamecenter CX in Korea. The host always asked for the cheaper price and he usually got it!
I haggled with my main media seller and bought a $1k camera for over $650.
#9: I needed to grow up
Learned this living in west Texas. Working three jobs and being hungry always humbled me. It showed me that I couldn’t do the same things I did in the past.
Something had to change. My circumstances would change only when I did. I had to be out of my comfort zone AND struggle to learn.
I learned what I needed to learn at the right time.
To this day, i’m still growing. It never ends.
#10: My problems are small
Westerners joke about “first world problems” but I witnessed real problems outside of home. Seeing former Korean soldiers without legs on the street begging humbled me.
Working with Korean kids that get only five hours of sleep Monday through Friday humbled me.
Talking to women who were raped and/or molested humbled me.
Witnessing 60+ year old prostitutes humbled me.
To this day, I try my very hardest to NOT complain.
#11: My problems are not unique
I’m not some special snowflake.
I met other men with that dealt with similar issues I had.
Thanks to reading, I found others that are dealing with the same problems I dealt with. I cried reading Terry Crews book FOUR TIMES. His problems were the same as mines!
#12: The elders are not always right
I believed my parents and people their age and older were always right about everything.
Even after I turned 18, I was a slave to their words.
People that never left home were telling me things they knew NOTHING about. Everything was judged based on what they saw on television.
Many people were worried about me going to South Korea. After all, the pesky North Koreans were close.
That never bothered me.
The only time to worry about North Korea, I learned, is when South Koreans do. What other people around the world don’t know is North Koreans are trying to get out of their slump. China could collapse North Korea right now. They don’t because there’s money in keeping it the way it is.
A lot can be learned through reading books and watching documentaries. Those things can be UNDERSTOOD (which is more important) when having an experience.
I have love and respect for those older than me; they’ve been through a lot. They know a lot. They’ll know a lot more than me. They still are not always right. I’m not always right either. I speak only what I know through experience.
#13: I’m a lot stronger than I thought.
Everything is mental. EVERYTHING. IS. MENTAL.
I used to listen to people tell I couldn’t do something. I believed them.
One day, my dad and I were talking about my grandpa (his father-in-law). My grandpa survived Jim Crow. He was always productive. How did he do it?
“No one ever told him he couldn’t.” is what my dad said.
When I heard that, I made an effort in never letting anyone tell me I couldn’t. The best way I got out of that was by surrounding myself with people better than me.
Being surrounded by losers and no-getters made me a loser and a no-getter.
What did Ronda Rousey say? Don’t be a do nothing bitch.
I went to the gym with people stronger with me. I wasn’t sure if I could lift a certain weight. I did it.
I had issues with women. I learned from people better than me and went out on many dates.
Like I said earlier, there was nothing wrong with me. I just needed better support.
Speaking of weight lifting…
#14: Exercise is fun!
Waking up at 5 am to do 100 push ups and lifting weights is FUN! I get the energy needed for the day.
Running with hashers was fun. My endurance increases and I have more stamina.
Breathing right makes me think better.
Most men I know detest other men that exercise. Those same men are fat. They’re also weak mentally and physically. When you look mean, you have peace.
South Korea and Japan take fitness and exercise serious. I see grand parents (people 60 and up) EXERCISE every day. Being around foreigners that worked out their bodies and ate right saved my life.
When I took my body serious, my parents took theirs serious. My mom does P90X (the hard version), Zumba, and runs. My dad runs and does push ups every day now. They also cook better meals and keep active.
These are the foundations that helped shape me to the man I am right now. I am nowhere near perfect but i’m better today than I was yesterday.
If you traveled out of the country. Where did you go and what did you learn?
Leave a comment below!
Peace and love!